The year is 1901. Germany’s navy is the second largest in the world; their army, the most powerful. But with the exception of a small piece of Africa and a few minor islands in the Pacific, Germany is without an empire. Kaiser Wilhelm II demands that the United States surrender its newly acquired territories: Guam, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines. President McKinley indignantly refuses, so with the honor and economic future of the Reich at stake, the Kaiser launches an invasion of the United States, striking first on Long Island.
Now the Americans, with their army largely disbanded, must defend the homeland. When McKinley suffers a fatal heart attack, the new commander in chief, Theodore Roosevelt, rallies to the cause, along with Confederate general James Longstreet. From the burning of Manhattan to the climactic Battle of Danbury, American forces face Europe’s most potent war machine in a blazing contest of will against strength.
This cleverly conceived alternative history proposes that Kaiser Wilhelm II launches an invasion of the U.S in 1901 after President McKinley summarily rejects a demand that he surrender Cuba and the Philippines to the Germans. The long bloody struggle which follows after the enemy establishes a beachhead on Long Island and captures New York City precipitates depths of destruction never visited by a foreign power upon American soil. The German Command believes that the mere fact of the attack will be sufficient to make the Americans sue for peace and turn over the territories. They are dreadfully wrong, of course, and, after a stress-induced heart attack kills McKinley, the new president, Theodore Roosevelt, begins to put together a fighting force to oppose the supposedly unbeatable German war machine. Numerous historical figures are involved in the story, and Conroy, a college teacher and student of military history, depicts them clearly, if a bit broadly. Much of the action is seen through the eyes of a fictional officer, Major Patrick Mahan, who rises through the ranks to become brigadier general, and, in the ultimate confrontation, commands Mahan's Bastard Brigade (so named because of its regiments of German-American and African American troops). With much more emphasis on plot than on character, Conroy tells a solid what-if historical.