BORING CLICHE DEPARTMENT: What Would Have Happened If The South Won The Civil War?

Republibot 3.0
Republibot 3.0's picture

Since I ran my "Logic goes out the window" piece on Alternate Histories two weeks ago, I've recieved a lot of emails asking me the following question: "Well, if you're so smart, then logically, what could have come from the South winning the civil war?"

Well, to be honest, they never had much of a chance, as Gone with the Wind makes sure. President Davis himself, on the eve of secession, commented, “If we are to win, it will take a decade of hard fighting. If we are to lose, any time less than that will do.” Around the same time, a woman came up to him at a party, gabbing about how your average Southern boy was easily the equal of three Yankee boys. “They’ll have to be far better than that,” Davis said. They were doomed from the outset, and a *lot* of them knew that.

SO the first thing you’ve got to deal with is *how* the South won the war, which isn’t to terribly likely.

Everyone obsesses on Gettysburg because, I guess, it was the turning point of the war, but realistically, if Lee had won there, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the war one iota: he was overextended, and the invasion was an already-desperate ploy. Victory there would simply have meant defeat at New Oxford or Weigelstown or York a week or so later. They were already doomed long before that point.

The South only had one shot, and that one is curiously ignored: First Bull Run, the first real battle of the war. They routed the Union Forces. Washington was completely undefended, the Confederates could have easily made it there on a forced march and captured the city before any Union forces arrived. War Over, congratulations, they win. They elected not to do so, and they *never* had a similar opportunity.

Now: if they’d won, what comes next? All too often, the South becomes a superpower, but how? No industry, no real navy, no science, little art, though a good bunch of writers already. Really, the Confederacy would have been - at best - another Canada in a world that already has too many of those.

At worst, and far more likely, the Confederacy would have immediately fallen apart in internal fighting. What did Virginia have in common with Louisiana? What did Louisiana have in common with Florida? What did Florida have in common with South Carolina? They just fought a war over states rights, so they couldn’t really claim they had some right to prevent their own states from leaving their own country, now could they? So Texas and Virginia would leave pretty quickly, and it’s anyone’s guess as to if Davis would have fought to keep ‘em.

Eventually, I have no doubt the rebel states would re-join the Union, though it might take a generation. By 1900, I think the CSA would have been more likely to have completely re-joined the USA than it would have been to keep going it alone.

Another likely outcome is that the CSA would need another war to hold itself together. Mexico is the most likely target, as it would have given the South access to the pacific. And Mexico was clearly no real threat in a war. Certainly if they didn’t start a Manifest Destiny analog, they’d have started falling apart almost instantly.

Assuming they didn’t, however, changes would have echoed outside of North America. Assume the South survived, against all odds: World War I would have still happened, but I think the outcome might have been different. The North - more Germanic - would have been more likely to support the Central Powers, and the South - more English - would have supported England, but without any real industry, this wouldn’t have done much good, which means Germany and Austria-Hungary would have won.

Tags: