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Friday, 16 January 2015

What If: The Confederacy won the Civil War?

One of the most favorite scenarios of Alternate History is if the Confederate States of America won the American Civil War. It is so popular that one of my favorite science-fiction authors, Harry Turtledove, has wrote two books, (one establishing a franchise), about a Southern victory. How though could the South win the war? In our timeline the North had better weaponry such as the Springfield rifle, better communication with more telegraph poles, better railroads which allowed troops to be better supplied and a more industrialized economy which put it at an advantage over the agricultural, mostly rural economy of the South. However there is one way the South could have won.
In this scenario the Battle of Antietam never takes place
  How the South wins- When writing his alternate history scenarios Harry Turtledove did a lot of research and his point of divergence in his novel How Few Remain is the most likely one. On September 9th, 1862 the leader of the Confederate Army Robert E. Lee drew up Special Order 191 which would detail the Confederacy's invasion of Maryland but these plans managed to get into the hands of the Union after they had been misplaced. General George McClellan received these plans and used it to intercept Lee and push the Confederacy back at the Battle of Antietam. Like in Turtledove's novel this would be the best point of divergence so the Confederacy in the scenario does not lose the plans. Robert Lee manages to push into Maryland and an unaware McClellan is forced the take the Army of Potomac into Pennsylvania. The unprepared Union army fights Lee at Philadelphia where the unprepared Army of Potomac is scattered and McClellan killed. During 1963 the Confederacy makes gains in the North with them winning the Battle of Gettysburg allowing Lee to invade New York state to hopefully occupy Manhattan. Throughout the Civil War the Union blockaded Southern ports so occupying a major coastal city like New York could alleviate some of the blockade by distracting the US Navy. However the blockade and poor railroads stops Lee from taking the state and city. Meanwhile Lincoln passes the Emancipation Proclamation in an effort to curry favor with European powers like Britain and France who were against slavery as well as incite slaves in the South to rise up against their masters. Lincoln encourages freedman fleeing North as well as Northern African-Americans to join the army as in the West he forms the Division of Kentucky under newly promoted Ulysses S. Grant to help combat the approaching Confederacy. However the last remnants of the Union army in the East are bolstered around Maryland to try and push back the Confederacy to stop them from taking Washington D.C. They only succeed through superior weaponry, poor supplies going to the Confederates and a surge of volunteers from Northern and Southern African-Americans. However things soon take a turn for the worse through these two nations...

Throughout the Civil War Napoleon III expressed interest in invading to aid the Confederates so he could have a free reign in Mexico but only wanted to intervene if the British did so. Britain in fact almost did declare war on the Union in 1861 during the Trent Affair when US Captain Charles Wilkes intercepted HMS Trent which was carrying Confederate diplomats. Only through the actions of Lincoln was war averted. With Confederate gains it would be easy for another set of diplomats to be intercepted en route by a Union ship and with Lincoln distracted by the Confederates on his doorstep Britain belatedly declares war on the Union. After the Emancipation Proclamation many in Britain thought the US was doing the right thing as Lincoln ensured that the war was about slavery so British abolitionists would be up in arms. Nevertheless Britain invades New England from Canada and Napoleon III quickly declares war on the Union. Under the tutelage of Britain and France the South's railroads and telegraph poles are improved allowing better communication and supply distribution. With the blockades destroyed by an Anglo-French navy bombardment and the Northern armies falling under the two European powers invading the North only sees victories under guerrilla style tactics from General Grant. In 1864 the Confederates enter Washington and Lincoln capitulates. The CSA then received official independence.
A new nation in the Americas
After the war- Following the war abolitionists in France and Britain cause the two powers to cut ties with the CSA. Kentucky secedes from the Union with it largely being a slave state but Missouri remains part of the Union with slavery making a much smaller part of the economy there and Grant's forces remaining on Missouri soil which stops any chance of it seceding. Oklahoma is also annexed by the CSA and in later years as Confederates move West any Native Americans in the nation are forced to move there in a large reservation where they quickly lose any rights that they once had. Lincoln becomes a hated man in the North for losing the war and with him losing Kentucky and Oklahoma he does not run for a second term. For the Republicans John C. Frémont runs as President with Charles Sumner as his Vice President and opposing him for the Democrats George H. Pendelton with Governor Thomas H. Seymour of Connecticut as his Vice President. Anti-South feelings would allow Frémont to become the next President as Pendelton's hatred to racial integration would make him be accused of Southern sympathy. Meanwhile in the South Jefferson Davis, (the CSA President), would be hailed as a hero for ensuring Southern sovereignty but he would have many problems to face. The Confederacy had massive inflation in the war for printing off so much money and although in this scenario this inflation would be marginally reduced thanks to input from the British and French it would still make the economy suffer. While trying someway to pay the many Confederate soldiers he would face another problem: slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation and disorientation from Union armies, especially along the border states, would cause massive slave rebellions which are only put down after Davis allows them to move North or are ruthlessly put down by more extreme generals such as the ruthless Nathan Bedford Forrest who formed the Ku Klux Klan in our timeline. Curiously Forrest would not form the KKK as it was formed to undermine Reconstruction; a policy that doesn't happen in this timeline.

Around the world and 1867- In Mexico meanwhile Napoleon III sends troops to put down the rebellion led by Benito Juarez and to prop up the French backed Mexican Empire under Maximilian I. Maximilian is properly restored to his restored throne, something which did not happen in our timeline when US President Andrew Johnson told the French to leave in 1865 and Juarez executed Maximilian. When Napoleon is overthrown in 1871 by the invading Germans Maximilian has no choice but to enact land reforms and make a constitutional monarchy that lasts today but Mexico's legacy of liberal and occasional socialist fighters that captured the hearts of many Western fans never comes into being thanks to this. Wanting extra money Maximilian also allows Confederates to fund the construction of a railroad but that will come later. In India famines cause marginally less damage as the British trading with the CSA stops Britain turning land in India into cotton farms so there would be slightly more land for crops. In 1867 Davis would step down from being President.In the CSA Presidents would serve for one term which would last for seven years. Robert Lee would be made the new CSA President with Alexander Stephens, Davis' Vice President, acting as Lee's Vice President. Lee would have almost won a land slide victory if not for one thing: a new party being formed. Fire-eaters, (Southern politicians vocally in favor of seceding from the Union), under Robert Rhett would run against Lee as Lee was surprisingly not in full favor of slavery. Lee joined the CSA not because he wanted to keep slavery but because of patriotism to his state, Virginia. This letter to his wife dated December 27th, 1856 expressed his views:
... In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.
From this Lee must have disagreed with slavery but was not for abolishing it; seeing it as a necessary evil. Nevertheless Lee's legacy of a war hero would allow him to rise to the position of President of the Confederate States of America.
 A Question on Slavery- In the North the Thirteenth Amendment which made slavery unconstitutional would be passed in 1866 by Frémont although just barely. Democrat opposition to the Thirteenth Amendment would hinder its passage but with them easily being denounced as Southern sympathizers and the need to win friends in Europe would prompt its passage. With slavery abolished in the border states the US government would pass more acts to protect the rights of the Freedmen. In the South Lee would also pass laws to slowly remove slavery; his battles against armed Freedmen could likely influence his idea to emancipate them slowly. Lee would try and pass acts allowing Southern African-Americans more rights but the Southern Congress and Supreme Court would block most. The way the CSA's constitution was made though allowed certain parts of an act to be passed so some minor benefits could come about. This may include allowing African-Americans to be illiterate, something illegal during the Civil War, but most likely it would have to be segregated education and then only for Freedmen. Quite possibly laws would be passed allowing Freedmen to buy family members freedom and removing a law which forbade the hiding of slaves who had escaped from their masters. When Lee dies of a stroke in 1870 Alexander Stephens becomes President. Stephens loyalty to Lee and his once friendship with Lincoln would ensure that the laws passed, (the Bobbie Owls Laws), would remain in place but he would not pass any further laws. Speaking of Lincoln after leaving office he would return to his old profession of being a lawyer and dying of a heart attack in anonymity in 1879.

1870s onward- During the 1870s the US would build a Trans-Continental Railroad stretching from New York, through Illinois, through Nevada and into California. The CSA combats this by making their own going from Richmond, (the CSA Capital), through Texas and after negotiations with Emperor Maximilian going through Chihuahua and Sonora. The US one becomes much more successful however with gold being found in California starting a Gold Rush and the US Gilded Era. Confederates try and emigrate to the US West but come into conflict with US, (or Yankee), workers. Riots would break out between the two groups as old conflicts rear their ugly head. As US federal troops are sent to put down Confederate, (or Dixie), rioters the CSA calls out against this. Eventually any Dixies in the West are forced into slums or have to return home. Civil rights grow in the North as slaves escape to the more industrialized areas where they slowly start to become more accepted into society although segregation and occasional race riots come though this which do not abate until the 1920s. The CSA economy falls though. There was an international ban of the overseas slave trade so the CSA had to resort to selling slaves born in its border, the South in the 1850s and 1860s also saw this problem. The rising cost in slaves makes cotton and tobacco farmers come into conflict with each other and the last of raw materials like iron make the agricultural South a less appealing trading partner compared to the North. Boll weevils take massive tolls on the Southern crops. Abolitionists in Europe also stops powers like Britain, France and Germany from trading with the CSA. When word travels South of movements like the Harlem Renaissance slaver uprisings put the fragile economy on edge and the CSA has to abandon the gold standard. The North however is still down some area. Reduced US influence stops the Alaska Purchase and Alaska remains a Russian colony in the Americas and Hawaii becomes a British protectorate, (similar to in our timeline during the 1840s).

The end of the CSA- In one futile attempt to remain in power the CSA in the 1890s goes to war against Spain after a Confederate ship is destroyed in Guantanamo. The Confederate-Spanish War reaches a stalemate and ends in 1895 with Cuba and Puerto Rico declaring independence under the watchful eye of Britain and the USA under McKinely. With a failing economy the CSA has not choice but to abandon slavery in 1896. This causes the rise of many white supremacist groups to ensure that the Freedmen are kept down. After McKinely's assassination President Theodore Roosevelt offers the CSA a chance to join the USA. After years of debate in 1905 a referendum is held and two years later the CSA joins the USA.

Aftermath- Great divisions appear in the USA with polarization between the economies and policies of the North and South which are greater than the ones seen today. The election of Southern Democrat Woodrow Wilson helps reduce some of this and the First World War helps bond together the new united nation. The unification of the USA causes an exodus of African-Americans North which causes widespread race riots and segregation while in the South Jim Crow Laws prop up. With civil rights leaders including Booker T. Washington and Ida B Wells born into slavery they cannot help progress the civil rights movement setting it back years and the NAACP is never formed. Lincoln is remembered as either a bumbler in the North or a despot in the South and his face is replaced on Mount Rushmore with another President such as Andrew Jackson while Roosevelt is seen as the man who reunited the nation. The USA would also be heavily more decentralized with people identifying themselves with their individual states instead of the government. Finally the Jim Crow Laws would remain well into the 1980s with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X being seen as the people who started the civil rights movement, (where William du Bois and Booker T. Washington are seen in this role on our timeline), instead of the ones who got civil rights and D.W.Griffiths The Birth of a Nation would not be a film glorifying the KKK but one glorifying the life of Jefferson Davis who would be still seen in the South as a hero.

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