The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove – My Review

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 Published on  September 22,1992, The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove is a great time travel novel that will sure capture your attention and will let your imagination run wild. So…. welcome again in the wonderful word of time  journeys:)

Synopsis pistoler

January 1864—General Robert E. Lee faces defeat. The Army of Northern Virginia is ragged and ill-equipped. Gettysburg has broken the back of the Confederacy and decimated its manpower.

Then, Andries Rhoodie, a strange man with a muttered accent, approaches Lee with an extraordinary offer. Rhoodie demonstrates an amazing rifle: its rate of fire is incredible, its lethal efficiency breathtaking—and Rhoodie guarantees unlimited quantities to the Confederates.


Although The Guns of the South is not the first novel to explore the consequences of a bunch of time travelers bringing future technology to the past, it holds a special place in Alternate History’s collective heart. Harry Turtledove’s singular novels are often far better than his multi-volume sets and The Guns of the South shows his talents before he became famous and stopped working for his pay.

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 The story

The basic plot of The Guns of the South covers the arrival of a mysterious bunch of men from Rivington (a fictional town in Virginia, USA) in General Lee’s camp in early 1864. The visitors, calling themselves America Will Break (AWB; think about it), offer Lee advanced technology, including AK-47s, to help him win the war. It rapidly becomes clear that the visitors are refugees from post-Apartheid South Africa, intent on creating a state that will assist South Africa in the 20th Century. Seen through the eyes of General Lee and a lowly soldier in the Army of Northern Virginia, the CSA is rapidly revitalised and goes on to capture Washington and secure their independence.

But the story doesn’t end there. Turtledove’s characters see what life in an independent CSA might have looked like, including a return to old and dangerous habits – and slavery, of course. The post-war discussions over reparations and who gets what piece of territory are fascinating. When Lee runs for President – and wins, apparently on an anti-slavery platform – AWB sets itself against the CSA, leading to a mini civil war in the CSA and the eventual defeat of the organisation and the end of slavery within the American South. There are even hints at greater changes, with weapon-making technology taking a step forward and a major clash developing between the UK and the North. The book is remarkably fascinating.

Turtledove is quite convincing when he discusses the limitations of the future knowledge and tech. The news that one side is going to do something will change history, rendering the newcomers as blind as any of the South’s generals. Their tech has limits – the capture of Washington is a very close-run thing – and even the best at their disposal is insufficient to save AWB from the CSA Army. Computers, present with the AWB men, are not a renewable resource – once they’re gone, they’re gone.

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The general atmosphere of the book is quite convincing in many ways. It’s easy to see Lee, Davis and his fellows operating as they do in the book. Lee changes with the times, while Nathan Forrest, the founder of the original KKK, remains a hard-line bastard. The more general details are right as well, some of them quite fascinating in their own right. One of the men of the CSA Army is actually a woman, who dressed up as a boy to see how the war was being fought.

It’s worth noting that there are some minor problems with the overall story. The first lies in the details – Turtledove ignores the presence of two additional bridges in Washington that Grant could use to bring troops into the capital and move to counter Lee’s bold stroke. The battle might still be winnable, but it wouldn’t be ‘easy’ – and Turtledove never portrays it as easy.

The second problem lies in the way that slavery was dealt with. The CSA never had a united war effort. Davis might have been President, but powerful state governors and vested interests always played silly buggers with the war effort. (See Dixie Betrayed orLook Away: A History of the Confederate States of America for details.) It is unlikely that the formation of a post-war CSA would be easy, or that there would be so little resistance to the end of slavery. Slavery was, like it or not, a very important part of the CSA’s economy and constitution. (It was actually protected by the constitution!) Simply doing away with it would be costly and troublesome. It is unclear if this would solve all the CSA’s problems overnight, even if Lee succeeded in banishing slavery. I’d bet good money that most of the costs of slavery would be repaid by taxes on the newly-freed blacks, who would be unable to pay them and end up sinking back into debt or becoming ‘free’ sharecroppers.

The premise of the story is not new, having been used before in Harry Harrison’s A Rebel in Time and Charles L. Harness’ “Quarks at Appomattox” and that is of colt navysomeone going back in time to give aid to the Confederacy. In this case,it is Afrikaaners from the year 2014 who have decided to smother that pernicious concept of racial equality before it ever reaches South African shores. To this end, they show up at Robert E. Lee’s encampment in January 1864 and offer to provide the entire Confederate army, both Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and elements elsewhere, with AK-47 automatic rifles. After a demonstration of that weapon’s capabilities, Lee readily accepts.

Back to our story

Marse Robert is, however, not without his suspicions. The strangers, who only state that they’re from Rivington, North Carolina, have other strangely new technology besides automatic weapons, and the cost at which they are selling the guns to the Confederacy is ridiculously low. Six weeks later, when the strangers demonstrate uncanny advance knowledge of Kilpatrick’s cavalry raid on Richmond (in our history an embarrassment to the Union; in this book a rout before it barely commenced), he puzzles out that they must be from the future. When he confronts their leader, Lee is told that they have come back to prevent the North’s vicious postwar subjugation of the South, implemented by Abe Lincoln and his successor, Thaddeus Stevens.

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This sounds well enough to Lee and he now happily accepts their aid in the soon-to-occur battle of the Wilderness, details about which they provide. When that battle begins May 4, it immediately becomes an overwhelming Confederate victory, and by the end of the month, rebel troops have occupied Washington, DC, captured Lincoln and forced the end of the war.

A good read:)berdan sharps rifle

Sounds like quite a story, right? And to think that’s only the first 175 pages of a 500-page novel. What remains to be told is the history of the CSA over the next four years (particularly the settlement of the border between USA and CSA and the Confederate presidential election of 1867) and of their relationship with these men from “Rivington”. To tell the tale, Turtledove has essentially employed two main characters. One of course if Lee, and the other is a member of the 47th North Carolina, a sergeant named Nate Caudel (who actually existed, though Turtledove has presumably invented much of the detail about him). Following the war, Lee continues to serve the govt in various capacities, but Caudel is mustered out and returns to his home town, which lies near Rivington.

Finally, the book dragged a few times, as the attention to the details of everyday life for both main characters (Lee and Caudell) started to bog down the story, in spite of the fact that I realize this was just a way to “back door” more information about society back then. In a few cases, many readers would have preferred a little less education and a little more action. But this is only a minor point. The bottom line is strongly recommended.

So…that.s all for now:)

Go an relax in your comfy sofa with thw book and when you finish…just tell me your opinion:) Me…. i really liked it . I think is a good read:))

Nice to have you around again:))

==>for further reading and shopping click below<==


Cristina Boros
I have always been interested in time travel. From a very young age I was forever watching movies that would take me back in time.

I would love to hear from all of you who are also interested in this subject. Movies? Science? Book? Literature?

Whatever your interest is, I would love to meet you.


  1. simpiano

    Hi Cristina! I am glad I found your site and think it’s amazing what you have put together. I love your analysis of The Guns of the South, especially pointing out the weaknesses you found, while still recommending it as a good read. The topic sounds fascinating. Is there anything else by Turtledove that you would recommend over this book?

    1. Cristina Boros (Post author)

      yes 🙂 you can read The best time travel stories of the 20 th century by turledove 🙂 a great read:)) i am glad you like it 🙂 thanks for reading

  2. Ivo

    Hey, Xrissy Boros!
    I’m in love with history since my early childhood, but because I live in Europe, I have little to no knowledge of the history of the USA. I noticed in your review that you mentioned general Lee and 1864?

    I’ve heard of Charles Lee, the one who defected to Britain during the War for American Independence, is this one somehow related to him during the war of the North and the South?


    1. Cristina Boros (Post author)

      yes i think about him is the book :))) thanks for reading and i am glad you like it :))

  3. lifebeginswithyourhealth

    Thank You Christina

    Great article on a great sounding novel, I love to read and this sure sounds like one of the best reads I have heard about in a long time.

    Any novels focused on history interests me, it is educational and lets our imagination go wild. That is what books are suppose to do like this for us, shame the author once becoming famous did not put this kind of effort in his other books

    Sounds like a cant put down novel

    1. Cristina Boros (Post author)

      was a great book and i think and other book of tortledove are also good:)) give them a try

  4. Mijareze

    I have often thought about, “What if they were using today’s weapons, they’d win the war.” I think about it when I’m watching old movies.
    I didn’t know there was such a book. What a great Idea. I think the story line is good, especially when you add the part that the South won and Robert Kee became president.
    Edward Mijarez

    1. Cristina Boros (Post author)

      i am glad that you like it and yes you are right…if there was this possiblity to use today techology and weapons in the past… thing, history would be totally different.:))

  5. Tim

    Hi Cristina,

    Excellent Review.You have a way with words that make the viewer continue to read all the way through to the end of your review of “Guns of the South”.

    I love to read and this book is now on my most wanted bulletin. Thanks for taking the time to do a through and insightful review of Harry Turtledove’s book.

    Keep the reviews coming. I will surely check for additional great reads in the future.


    1. Cristina Boros (Post author)

      Thank you for your nice words time:)) i love these books and i like to write bout them :)) i will be back with more reviews 🙂 thanks

  6. SGT Walker

    Henry Turtledove is a mainstay writer that everyone must read at least once. Really awesome review that you’ve written covering his Guns of the South book. I was wondering if there are any other books by Turtledove that you would highly recommend? Does he have very many time travel books?

    1. Cristina Boros (Post author)

      hello there 🙂 i am happy that you enjoyed my review and of course there are more books of Turledove. i recommend you Crosstime traffic and Atlantis :)) tell me your opinion.

  7. CinemaDan

    I’m a huge time travel fan and I love this site you have put together. What a great review of “The Guns of the South” by Harry Turtledove. This is one I have not read and sounds quite intriguing. I like your overall review without giving too much away but providing enough of a synopsis to wet the appetite. I was wondering if you
    ever read any of the time travel books by Eric Flint like 1632? They follow the same theme of alternate history time travel.

    1. Cristina Boros (Post author)

      thanks for a great idea 🙂 i will read 1632 and i will tell you my opinion 🙂 i am glad that you enjoyed my article and i will be back soon with more reviews:))

  8. Jordan

    Nice review!

    These kinds of stories interest me. I’m especially interested in stories of alternate histories, like V for Vendetta. It’s speculative, but in such a realistic sense, with so much real life context, that it becomes terrifying.

    The concept of time travel in relation to the altering history is especially fascinating. Have you ever read the short story called The Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury?

    Pretty wild. And it definitely makes the reader think about the consequences of our actions.

    1. Cristina Boros (Post author)

      Thanks for this idea;) I will read it . it has to do with time travel?

      I am glad that you liked my review and if you like this stories you will find more here:) have a look .Thanks for visiting my site and i hope you will be back soon for more updates.I love time travel and history and something like this is Outlander series If you had seen them. Lovely.

      Have a nice day.



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