• Nick Colas

Alt History List: If the CSA Won

The Clarksvillian

Alternate history is a way of reimagining true events, and one of the most controversial subjects is the American Civil War. That conflict was the most important American war regarding the development of the modern world and since that war was fought around the legality and expansion of slavery, a lot of thought has gone into how slavery would continue or abate if the South won the war.

This list touches on five ways the United States of America (USA) and the Confederate States of America (CSA) would have developed were the Civil War to end following the Battle of Gettysburg. Much of this is supposition made from identifying the major events in culture, economics, and politics evolving from the late 19th-century through the 20th, and into the 21st.

Some of these ideas are based on the author’s own analysis of the American Civil War, as well as other historians who have studied the concept of alternate history where the conflict is concerned. If you have any thoughts about these items, please share them in the comments section to discuss how you think the world would be different had the Union lost the Civil War.

Two Separate Countries Or 48 Individual Nations

Immediately following the cessation of hostilities, the border would be declared a demilitarized zone, and it would be guarded. This would reduce the number of slaves moving north, and sympathizers from the Union would have trouble relocating to the South. The biggest change would be the quick and direct westward expansion to claim additional territory. California, Oregon, and Washington would likely remain/join the Union, as would the northern states along the Canadian border. The CSA would get all the states that seceded, as well as the western states, including Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona. Texas would either become its own independent nation, or it would remain with the CSA.

Because the economies of both countries would be in shambles, it’s possible that each State would ultimately secede from its respective Union or Confederacy. If this happened, the United States would no longer exist, the Constitution would be moot, and each State would become an independent country. They are like that today but are joined under a Federal Government—take that governing body away, and each governor becomes a President with their own military, government, and economy. If that happened, the national borders of the States would likely change over time as new conflicts arose.

No Democrats in the USA & No Republicans in The CSA

The United States is a two-party system, even though there are dozens of other “independent” parties active in modern politics. The same would likely be true in both the CSA and the USA following a southern victory, but one thing that would be different would be the makeup of those parties. During the Civil War, the Democratic party was overtly racist, while the Republicans of the 19th-century were seeking freedom and equality for slaves and (later) women. Some believe there was an ideological shift that occurred throughout the 20th-century with the parties switching positions, but, regardless, in a world where the South won, the Democrats would remain the dominant party in the CSA while the Republicans would either be the dominant party in the North, or it would disappear following the war.

Remember, Lincoln was a Republican, and they opposed slavery while supporting a smaller government and limited spending, but the Democrats were all about values related to their established way of life, which included slavery. As the parties continued to develop in their respective nations into the 20th and 21st-centuries, they would adapt and change, but both would likely remain the dominant parties where they were established. Smaller, less powerful parties would rise to challenge the establishment, but it’s unlikely they would take hold with any influence for decades into the 20th-century.

War II. The men who fought during that war became integral in the first World War, and since neither conflict would happen, nor would it include America, the politics of the USA would have developed differently across the 20th-century, especially where men like Theodore Roosevelt were concerned.

Lincoln Wouldn’t Have Been Assassinated, And Grant Would Be #18

John Wilkes Booth didn’t like how the war ended, and he took it out on the man he considered being responsible: Abraham Lincoln. If the South won the war, there wouldn’t have been any reason for him to assassinate the US President. Lincoln would never have been reelected for a second term in office. Think about it; what’s he campaigning on if he lost the war and half of the United States’ states? His political career would have been over, and new blood would have risen to take his spot.

Another ‘victim’ of the war’s loss would have been Union General Ulysses S. Grant. He would never have risen to prominence following the Battle of Gettysburg and wouldn’t have had a leg to stand in a campaign to become the 18th President of the United States. Because of these changes, the political makeup of the USA could have gone in any direction. The Republican Party might have been seen as a failed political ideology, and it could have dissolved, or it could have rebranded and returned strong. There’s really no way to know how the parties would have changed, but two things are certain: no reelection for Lincoln and no election for Grant.

International Trade Would Explode For The CSA

One of the biggest hindrances to the CSA during the war was a naval blockade that prohibited trade to and from the CSA. Once that blockade was lifted following a cessation of hostilities, trade with the Confederacy would explode. Not only would the USA need to establish trade with its southern neighbor, but the CSA would also begin trading with Europe en masse. Cotton and tobacco were huge exports from the South in the 19th-century, and with trade opening the economy of the South would grow exponentially.

There would be a rise in American competition across the borders with nations across both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as each country vied for more trade partners overseas. The North would continue to expand its manufacturing and industrial sectors, while the South’s agriculture would propel it into a viable and sustainable economy well into the 20th-century.

Neither nation would become as large a trade partner as the USA is today, but their combined economies would still render both nations prosperous.

The Geopolitical World Would Look Very Different Today

The 20th-century was shaped by the United States of America. Once the USA jumped into Europe in WWI, and then again in WWII with expansions into Asia, the US became a driving force in the growth of world economies, which continued well into the 21st-century. A world without the combined USA is a world that would look vastly different from today. If the October Revolution still happened, the Soviet Union would rise to become a dominating force on the world stage, and it would take the place the USA holds today.

This may cause an eastern expansion into Europe, and the second World War could have been fought between the Soviet Union and everybody else. If they won, Communism would be the dominant political ideology across the planet today. The CSA and the USA would be no match for the expanding Soviet Union, and the two nations might finally find a way to come back together should their mutual defense require it.

Interesting Fact: the flag shown here is the third official flag of the Confederate States (the “blood-stained banner”). The top corner is the battle flag (the most seen these days when talking about the CSA but only ever a battle flag). Their first official flag was called the “stars and bars” and comprised three red and white stripes with a circle of white stars on a blue background in the top corner. A second official flag (the “stainless banner”) was identical to the one pictured but lacked the red stripe on the edge. The stripe was later added to the third flag so that it didn’t appear to be a white flag denoting surrender when hanging limp against a flagpole.