A Better Rifle at Halloween

Striking Back
5th October 1914, Fort Harrison Montana

The explosion was huge, the truck packed with explosives and scrap iron, had been backed into a loading area at the back of the Hall being used for a dinner dance. Most of the stone-built building collapsed, hundreds were trapped in the rubble as the dinner dance turned into a bloodbath.
The plan
5th October 1914,

Luigi Galleani and two members of the Bresci Circle were sitting in a goods wagon heading west, they had jumped onto the train an hour ago. Once clear of Montana they would be able to make their way back east.

They had pulled it off, the greatest strike against the plutocrats and their lackies in the history of America. They had arrived by passenger train the previous week after an arduous journey from New York. The three men had travelled separately to Chicago, then travelled on to Butte via the same train but taking different seats and not interacting. They had taken every effort to avoid being followed by the NYPD or any other police agency.

The group had travelled to meet up with a disgruntled miner, he was a cousin of Muckie Macdonald, one of the men killed by the National Guard. The miner who despite being a mine foreman, was a staunch IWW member. He had read about the Bresci circle in an IWW newspaper and managed to get a message to them.

The first meeting of the men had been cautious with the three anarchists concerned that they might be walking into a trap, but they quickly warmed to the miner seeing him as a man who had been pushed into revolutionary violence by the death of his kinsman.

He raged at the National Guard for murdering his cousin and then brazenly just covering it up, the IWW men were a threat to the bourgeois as such no National Guardsman would weep for a miner. The Guard was on capitals side and would not hesitate to destroy any threat. His passionate denunciation worked on the three anarchists, they agreed to a plan to target the National Guard directly. With that the first meeting broke up, the two other anarchists then travelled to Helena, there they undertook careful reconnaissance of the National Guard facilities and gathered information.

They discovered two critical factors, firstly that there was to be a dinner dance on the Fifth of October at Fort Harrison, this was to be held by the local US Army detachment. It was an annual event that most of the officers of the National Guard would attend. Likewise, the state governor and many other senior politicians would also be there, along with much of the great and good of Montana society. Secondly the security at the base was lax, the two anarchists had spent several hours wandering around without being questioned as to their activities. They returned to Butte and proposed to the miner and Galleani that an attack on the dance be carried out.

A plan was quickly evolved, one of the anarchists would steal a truck from the Anaconda copper company, the truck having already been loaded with 800lbs of blasting explosives by the miner. The loss of the truck would be discovered but miners borrowed mine trucks regularly for a variety of tasks and so it would take a day or two for the missing truck to be identified. The magazine record keeping was even worse, the amounts of blasting explosive used and the absence of stocktakes would make tracing the explosives nearly impossible.

Once they had the truck and the explosives, they would then strip the company logo, replacing it with the logo for a local brewery. Whilst that was occurring the miner and Galleani repackaged the blasting explosive into iron cases and covered it with more scrap iron setting the fuses into the explosives. They would then drive it the 60 miles from Butte to Helena, the miner and Galleani in the truck with the other two anarchists following in a second car.

Once they got to Helena they would wait until 8pm by which time the party would be in full swing, they would back the truck up to the Hall before setting the fuse. The miner who had a lifetime of experience with explosives would set the fuses, having also spent time teaching Galleani and the other two, better ways to use explosives. The miner and Galleani would then get out of the truck and walk to the getaway car, the fuse lengths would give them 3 minutes. Long enough to escape but not long enough for the truck to be discovered or the hall evacuated.

The plan went off without a hitch, reaching the getaway car just as the truck bomb went off, the four men grinned at each other. They drove to the freight yard, where the three anarchists hopped onto the train. While the miner who had been very careful to not be seen in company with the anarchists, returned to Butte and to his work with the Anaconda Copper Company, a company which would now need a new truck as well as several new managers.
I am not sure how capable the BOI is in that day and age, how likely it is they will find the bombers. They never solved the Wall Street bombing after all.
Copper Concentrates
6th October 1914, Melbourne

W.M. Hughes, the Commonwealth Attorney General was working in his office. As part of his cabinet portfolio he was reviewing the latest reports on the base metals industry coming from the Minerals and Metals Board. Metals and Mining was a critical one for the Commonwealth and indeed the Empire at large, with Australia an important supplier of raw materials. Unfortunately for the war effort, almost the entire production of the base metal mines of Australia were sold to a cartel which dominated global production. One of the first acts undertaken on the outbreak of war by the Commonwealth Government had been the suspension of these contracts. However, the miners needed a market for their output, prices and hence production were dropping in response to the lack of customers. The British lacking the necessary processing facilities could not take the concentrate directly.
The reports of the British Government on the success of the various purchasing commissions had led the Labor Government, to undertake to establish similar bodies. The Minerals and Metals Board was thus formed, its representatives were drawn from the Union movement, the various mining companies and representatives of both the State and Commonwealth Governments.
One of their first actions had been to ensure that coal production was not disrupted, coal exports had been briefly held up by fears of the German Pacific Squadron. As soon as it became obvious that the Germans were heading towards South America and that the existing markets for Australian were at risk, coal exports resumed. Whilst coal was being held up the government had elected to purchase the growing stockpiles forming strategic reserves for unexpected eventualities. They issued credit notes to industrial users to do the same, this stabilised the markets at a perilous time. The board also served to bring the management of the mining industry into direct contact with the union leadership helping to defuse escalating industrial tension.
In its note on the base metals, board had noted the dominance of the American Copper Industry, American production dwarfed Australian production, with the USA producing 646,300 tons in the previous year as compared to Australian production of 40,500 tons. The USA was also the world’s largest user of Copper consuming 342,000 tons, whilst Germany consumed 257,000 tons, Britain had consumed 147,434 tons in 1913. Australia’s production was exported to either the USA or Germany for processing, given that one nation was a major competitor and the other an enemy, all members of the board were favourable of the idea of building facilities in Australia to process more of these vital metals. The issue was the cost, the war was already stretching the commonwealth governments finances badly and it lacked the funds to build the smelters and refineries needed. The board proposed seeking funds in London, the bond issues to be guaranteed by a British purchasing commitment for a defined number of years. Hughes looking at the published figures for global production and consumption and surprised by the Japanese enthusiasm for the war effort. An enthusiasm which was rapidly overcoming his previous hostility, wondered if the Japanese whose copper consumption was greater than their production might be interested in long term contracts as well. Satisfied with the boards proposal Hughes counter signed the report and sent a copy of it and a note outlining his support for the establishment of Australian processing facilities to the Prime Minister Andrew Fisher.
Wilson's Nightmare
6th October 1914, Washington

As the entered the room, the Secret Service Agent noted that the President was having another nightmare, thrashing in the bed and whimpering “no, no, spare my Ellen”, beside his bed was a small bottle containing a Patent Sleeping draught. Steeling himself the Agent spoke loudly saying, “President Wilson, wake up please, Sir please wake up” trying with limited success to rouse the President. Eventually Wilson woke and bleary eyed glared at the young man, saying “what is it, don’t you know the time, you young fool”. The agent replied levelly “Sir there has been a bombing in Montana, hundreds may be dead, Governor Stewart is among those known to be dead”.
With that Wilson sat bolt upright calling for his dressing gown.
Planning the next move
6th October 1914, Charleroi

General Manoury Commander of the Sixth Army was meeting his commander General Joffre and General Lanzerac Commander of the Fifth Army. They were going over the final plans for the next phase of the counterattack that was to commence the following day. They had started the meeting with a review of progress and developments over the last week. The pace at which the war was moving had shocked all of the officers involved, the material demands and the destructive power of the guns had been under appreciated.
The past week had been spent in resupply and reconsolidation, with liaison officers working desperately to co-ordinate three separate national armies. The time had been well spent additional heavy guns had been sourced for 5th army, the French army taking a leaf from the Royal Navy and Royal Carines and making extemporaneous mounts for heavy guns stripped from obsolete battleships. This had given Lanzerac a grand battery which he was using to target the German heavy guns around Namur, as well as the key supply hubs feeding the Second Army. The effort was demanding much of the Aeronautique Militaire with 4 squadrons of Farman MF11 aircraft assigned to reconnaissance, and another 3 squadrons of Voisin III bombers allocated as well. This did not include the scout aircraft and artillery spotting aircraft.
Currently the artillery spotting units were using a variety of primitive communications methods to direct the guns, but there was a joint anglo-french project. Initiated pre-war by the RNAS, working on mounting a radio into the artillery spotting aircraft to establish at least a one way link between the observer in the air and the artillery battery on the ground. It was thought that a workable prototype was no more than a few weeks away.
In addition to the radios more and more effort was being put into arming the aircraft for air-to-air combat, the Entente and German Aviators had taken to shooting at each other with a variety of weapons. The British pilots taking up Lee Enfield and FH Rifles and when they could get the Lewis guns, a French Voison III piloted by Sergeant Joseph Frantz and with observer/gunner Corporal Louis Quénault managed to shoot down a German Aviatik B.1 using a Hotchiss Light Machine gun.
As yet the various rifles lacked proper mounts and so being fired unsupported were relatively ineffective, but this would change rapidly as the brutal calculus of war demanded innovation merely to survive.
The fortress at Maubeuge had been completely stripped of its infantry garrison, adding their numbers to 5th army, much of their forces had already been deployed by the time the counter attack occurred but it was still a useful addition. The artillery that could be moved was being deployed behind Charleroi and would be available to support the next attack. This artillery included 100 120mm and 40 155mm guns, as well as 25 howitzers. The 90mm guns were deployed forward but they were distributed with their crews to the French armies facing off against the German 4th and 5th Armies. Lacking a recuperator these guns had to be manually returned to their firing position and were best deployed defensively.
The plan that Generals Joffre, Lanzerac and Manoury had developed in conjunction with their allies was simple. The 5thArmy would commence heavy artillery preparation of the German lines near Namur, as if preparing for a counter attack, the fighting around Namur had largely tailed of over the last few weeks as the Germans attempted to recover their balance, local attacks and counter attacks had been continuing along with artillery duels but no attacks at greater than battalion strength had been conducted by either side. Despite that the heavy fighting during September had left the area devastated with most of the city flattened and the French and Belgian defenders holding on in the ruins.
5th Army would conduct limited attacks once the artillery had had 24 hours to prepare the German defences, the attacks would be small scale bite and hold attacks focused on the area around Namur, ostensibly the attacks would be focused on recapturing the Fortifications that had previously fallen. The actual aim of the attacks was to draw German attention to the location and force them to concentrate their reserves to prevent any breakthroughs particularly towards Liege. The Germans would be forced to further reinforce their 2nd Army taking troops from the 3rd Army to do so.
The British would continue the methodical advance they had been conducting. The German units had been engaged in a steady consolidation of their own lines, withdrawing when pushed back by the British but as their line contracted on Brussels their defence became more tenacious.
The British had penetrated the German lines between Ninove and Turbize on the 4th of October, capturing Leerbeek and Lennik, the Germans had responded by abandoning Ninove, Aalst, Turbize and Nivelles, pulling back to the line running Asse to Ternat across to Schepdal to Groenenberg to Halle and on to Nivelles. This had substantially shortened the German lines and left most of their positions anchored on built up areas which would impose a much greater cost on the British advance. The British casualties were heavier than those suffered by the Germans, with small rear guards contesting the advance but few opportunities for decisive battle.
The British attacks would continue to conduct small scale attacks using heavy artillery preparation to minimise casualties and to keep the Brussels Garrison focused on that threat axis.
Within Brussels, terror ruled, with heavy patrols, a draconian curfew maintaining the peace but punctuated by occasional sniping. Any harm to German soldiers was met with savage reprisals, hostages had been taken and the death of any single German resulted in the shooting of at least 10 hostages. The Garrison was maintaining control but it was taking a lot of effort, with additional and larger patrols required in many areas. Worsening the situation was the Cardinal’s command that the Belgians offer no support to the German Army, it had precipitated a kind of General Strike with the Police and almost all other workers staying home.
The Antwerp Garrison had been largely static for the past week as it sought to make good the losses from the past months fighting. The morale of the Belgian troops was high, the recent successes coupled with their rage at the atrocities carried out had brought them to a fine boil. They would be the northern pincer that would cut off the Brussels Garrison, their attack would be timed with that of 6th Army. They would thrust southeast from Lueven towards Tienen before heading southwards as if to threaten the 2nd army before Namur. Speed would be of the essence and the once the German line had been broken the Belgian Cavalry, Bicycle troops and 8 RNAS armoured cars would lead the attack.
In the south the 6th Army, was waiting, they would attack either 24 or 48 hours after the commencement of operations by 5th Army, their attack would be along the line the Germans had withdrawn to between Nivelles and Sombreffe, none of the 6th Army had gone into the line at this stage and their artillery was positioned but unfired. The sector of the line through which the attack would be conducted was quiet, the French conducting little in the way of raiding or artillery preparation. Aerial Reconnaissance was general across the entire front but surreptitiously focused on the axis of attack.
The attack by 6th Army would begin with a brief but intense bombardment of the German frontline positions. The addition of the heavy guns from Mauberg would enable the shelling of targets beyond the range of the 75mm guns that dominated the batteries of the 6th. The attack would be on a narrow front of only 3 kilometres to the south of Villiers la Ville, aiming northeast to capture Bruyeres , before moving up the road to Mont Saint Guibert and Warve. If the French attack made it this far it would orient its next movements to co-ordinate with the Belgians attacking out out Leuven. The goal would be to rupture the German lines between the Second Army and the Brussels Garrison, the risk of envelopment would cause the Garrison to risk capture if they remained in Brussels and relied on their demoralised comrades to throw back attacks by two powerful Entente armies.
The French Generals and their liaison officer colleagues were satisfied with the plan. The Fifth Army Artillery preparations would commence at dawn on the 7th, with their first attacks to begin on the 8th. The Belgians and 6th Army would attack at dawn on the 9th or the 10th depending on the progress around Namur. The British would continue with their attacks pushing towards Brussels and making a show of their plan to fight in the city.
Posse Comitatus
6th October 1914, Washington
The President was at his desk in the Oval office, Major General Wotherspoon had travelled from Fort Myer to the White House. He was joined by the Attorney General Thomas Gregory and Secretary of War Lindley Garrison. Wotherspoon was listing the military and civilian casualties from the Montana bombing, Major Jesse Roote Adjutant of the Montana National Guard and Major Dan J Donohue Commander of the 2nd Montana Regiment were among the dead, as was Governor Stewart, his Attorney General D.M. Kelly and the Lieutenant Governor W. McDowell, the Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives was unconscious in hospitalised having lost a leg, his survival was in question.
In a single action the leadership of Montana had been decapitated, literally in several cases. The casualties were not as severe as initially thought, 108 dead 12 officers of the Montana National Guard, 11 NCO’s, 6 Enlisted men, 5 US Army Officers, 7 Government Officials, 48 other Guests as well as 19 cooks and other staff.
General Wotherspoon had proposed the deployment of US Army personnel to Montana but the nearest forces would take several days to deploy. This proposal caused a stir of anger from the other three men, none were angry with Wotherspoon for his proposal. Rather it was the legal limits that made this deployment impossible that raised their ire. The US Army was explicitly forbidden by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 from deploying troops for law enforcement actions within the United States, Wilson had sought the advice of the Attorney General as to the applicability of the Insurrection Act. Wilson had already deployed Federal Troops against the coal miners of Colorado in the aftermath of the Ludlow Massacre. He was worried that once again being seen to support another mining company owned by a Rockefeller would further harm his support among Northern Progressives.
The only option available was to send members of the Secret Service and Bureau of Investigation to investigate the attack and bring the as yet unknown perpetrators to justice. The other major political barrier was the Southern Democrats resentment against the Army being deployed against US citizens. This animus dated back to the Reconstruction era and many political leaders in the south had personal memories of US troops policing their home states. This was a long nourished and sacralised resentment.
With the worsening violence and the apparent inability of the state governments to manage it, something was going to have to give. Wilson and Gregory couldn’t work out how to build support to repeal or amend Posse Comitatus without things getting a lot worse.
Things get worse
6th October 1914, Montana
The Government of Montana was paralysed, lacking the constitutional authority to declare martial law. The hospital at Helena was overwhelmed with the wounded and dying, special trains had been dispatched to other cities to try to reduce the intolerable strain. The surviving Senior National Guard officer a Captain had issued orders to call up the guard and was seeking further orders prior to their deployment, likewise the various county sheriffs were calling in their deputies and deputising additional men to guard key locations.
The miners in Butte, enraged by the District Court decision that morning to replace the Mayor and the Sheriff, were adding fuel to the fire, a renewed strike had been called seeking to capitalise on the chaos. The Anaconda Mine manager and his deputy and the mine engineer were all among the dead and wounded. The mine manager was a guest, while the deputy and engineer were both Guard Officers, the deputy had been blinded and the engineer had lost his left hand. The Governor had previously ordered the guard withdrawn from Butte, to lower the political temperature in the town. This action had the unintended consequence of effectively leaving law enforcement to be divided between the now former sheriff and his deputies most of whom were linked with the miners and the security that had been hired by the Anaconda Company.
The senior surviving Anaconda Company managers anticipating court decision and spooked by bombing had closed their mines in Butte until law and order could be restored, this had further enraged miners who would not be paid until the mines reopened.
This was the final spark for the chaos that was to ensue as the miners attempted to storm the mine to seize their pay. In a renewal of the violence of early September, an angry mob of miners was fired on by the mine’s security guards at the gate, several men were killed or wounded. The sheriffs deputies, most of whom were kin to the miners and who were ostensibly there to keep the peace fired back, joined by several armed miners. The company guards were pushed back from the gate which was wrenched off its hinges by the mob, they surged into the mine compound, seeking the accounts building and the strong box containing their pay. As the violence spread one man took the opportunity to conduct a little judicious arson, soon everyone was fleeing the site, miner and company man alike as it was reported that the magazine and vehicle park were both on fire.
Well it is looking like the Americans would paralysed for a little while which ITTL amount to nothing for the Entente considering how far they are advancing right now.
With the amount of problems Wilson faced, is it likely for Wilson's health problems to be worsened enough that death is a possibility, and if that does not happen and he still run in 1916, definitely hading the presidency to the Republican candidate. That being said, whether it would change the 1914 midterms election enough for it to matter is still up in the air at this point.
Well it is looking like the Americans would paralysed for a little while which ITTL amount to nothing for the Entente considering how far they are advancing right now.
With the amount of problems Wilson faced, is it likely for Wilson's health problems to be worsened enough that death is a possibility, and if that does not happen and he still run in 1916, definitely hading the presidency to the Republican candidate. That being said, whether it would change the 1914 midterms election enough for it to matter is still up in the air at this point.
Not to mention they've just invaded Mexico, and will have Pancho Villa to deal with in 1916.

Well and they say things can’t get any worse and well they just did, I imagine Wilson in the privacy of his own mind maybe cursing the messed up political situation.
Not to mention they've just invaded Mexico, and will have Pancho Villa to deal with in 1916.

Well and they say things can’t get any worse and well they just did, I imagine Wilson in the privacy of his own mind maybe cursing the messed up political situation.
The situation is unfortunate. I was reading up on the Colorado coal wars, early US labor relations were brutal, the number of deaths was astonishing. Until I started this TL I was only vaguely aware. not sure who suffered more deaths during this period organised labor or the blacks in the south, I am surprised that they didn’t make more effective common cause with each other. They certainly had some of the same enemies.
The situation is unfortunate. I was reading up on the Colorado coal wars, early US labor relations were brutal, the number of deaths was astonishing. Until I started this TL I was only vaguely aware. not sure who suffered more deaths during this period organised labor or the blacks in the south, I am surprised that they didn’t make more effective common cause with each other. They certainly had some of the same enemies.
Pretty much heck coal and mining country in the USA in general are lousy with company towns those things in the majority are just plain awful with people being paid in company script not dollars and generally treated awfully.