Prologue: How The South Was Won
"I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed, it might be done."
-John Brown, Abolitionist
Prologue: How The South Was Won
History diverges in subtle ways. Contrary to popular thought, the actions of a single man rarely alter history significantly. Victory in a single battle, the bravery of a certain soldier, or the loss of a crucial piece of intel are nothing individually. History is dictated by trends, not events. However, when compounded, events create trends.
As alternate historians, we tend to focus on a single point of divergence. In truth, this is frequently a healthy outlook. The assassination of a notable figure, awell-timed blow, or a policy decision can genuinely create an alien world. Sometimes, however, it’s not enough.
There are few individual moments which could save the self-proclaimed “Confederate States of America”. Some imagine that a certain battle being won or lost could have completely shifted the course of history. Dr. Turtledove imagines that the delivery of Lee’s Special Order 191 would have led to victory by virtue of pulling in Anglo-French support. I must respectfully disagree. While Turtledove’s chosen point-of-divergence serves its purpose dutifully, it overlooks the general difference in attitude required on the part of the European powers to lead to intervention. While Gladstone and many members of his regime sympathized with the so-called Confederacy, intervention would have been met with overwhelming scrutiny by the British, at this point against the practice of slavery on principle. Thus, Turtledove’s point-of-divergence does not hold up to scrutiny.
Turtledove likely did not intend for it to. There was no strong alternate history community at the time, and compared to the genuinely fanciful work of his predecessors, Turtledove is rather modest in his demand for the suspension of disbelief.
In writing this story, I came to realize that no single moment could have guaranteed a confederate victory. Instead of a Point-of-Divergence, an alternative trend would have to be devised.
Thus, the South of this world did not win its freedom through victory at Gettysburg, nor through the assistance of foreign powers, nor the brilliance of any individual. The South won primarily through luck, as well as a different approach to warfare.
The primary factor which wins the rebels their desired independence is a decision on their own part. That being, a primarily defensive strategy when it comes to their revolt. The South was a land with a much stronger military culture. This is one reason that the slaveholders’ rebellion is generally thought of as having better generals. With this military culture came a sense of chivalry, one which often led to an offensive strategy. This, along with smug aristocratic confidence led to the Southern leadership making costly attacks against the North.
Instead, this world’s South used their familiarity with the terrain to their advantage. They would wear down the yankees, making them tired of fighting. Using the land to their advantage, the men of Dixie used Muhammed Ali’s famed strategy of “let them hit you ‘til they’re tuckered out”. While this did bring on a certain degree of scrutiny by their own people (the same people whose communities were serving as the battlegrounds of the war), it did not waver the desire among the Southerners for their independence. The South struggled through this, and supplies ran low, but this alone did not guarantee their victory. In reality, a purely defensive strategy could not have won the South the war. The South had been on the defensive early-on OTL.
No, it was simply a lack of Northern morale that won the South their freedom ITTL. The North, on their end, had much less passion than they did in OTL. While radical republicans, progressives, and Northern blacks led the charge against the rebels, unrest consumed the Union. As in reality, riots and hate crimes occurred, with a divided populace. This unrest was far worse ITTL, and signaled to Northern leadership that the people did not care enough about continuing the union of the states to continue to fight for it. While areas of the CSA were captured, as well as states in a state of revolt but not actually confederated, did fall under Union control, there was fierce resistance in these areas, and many Northerners were utterly convinced the war was hopeless.
Cassius Marcellus Clay, the famed “Lion of White Hall”, also did not survive the 1843 attempt on his life as he did in our reality; Clay, whose would-be assassin felt the bite of the Lion in our world, was rather unlucky in this alternative reality. The assassin’s bullet was not deflected by the scabbard of Clay’s blade, and thus the lion fell prey to the hunter. Without Clay, the Union failed to curry Russia’s favor, and there was no counterbalance to the threat of European intervention on the side of the slaveholders. While the British and French empires still refused to intervene, the threat of such an intervention was more present in the mind of the North’s leadership, and reinforced the gusto with which the rebels fought. Without Clay, Lincoln also lacked the pressure to proclaim emancipation, and the document remained unspoken.
The North was tired of war. Lincoln failed to regain his Presidency, with General McClellan achieving the office. McClellan was more outwardly open to the possibility of peace with Dixie, cynically tapping-into the frustration of the Yankee populace. He had also seen the fervor with which the Southerners fought, and came to believe that the war was hopeless. President McClellan’s administration opened peace negotiations in September of 1865, and thus abandoned the hope of reunification.
The temporary fate of America was decided in the treaty of Little Rock, where Jefferson Davies’ and McClellan’s appointees determined the future. As in reality, areas of the Confederacy had been captured by the Union. In particular, much of Northern Arkansas and areas of Virginia. These areas had been under military occupation, but the occupation was largely unsuccessful, with many still resisting Union control. In the Peace treaty, the Union was permitted to keep these territories. As well, the South was forced to renounce its claims on these areas, as well as to any other Northern States. Similarly, claims on the Indian territories were renounced. Any black soldiers captured as slaves by the Confederates were to be returned as well. Both sides exchanged prisoners, and recognized the independence of their new neighbor.
Neither side was pleased with these terms, least of all the South. Yet, they were viewed as the only terms possible. The North feared drawing out the war, while the South feared that the Union would finally crack their shell. Neither side was happy, but the South felt that they had achieved their goals. Surely, the 20th century would be the age of Cotton, when Dixie stood ascendant, the colossus of the New World. Propagandists and patriots dreamed of a Southern Empire, which would encompass the Caribbean, Mexico, Cuba, hell, maybe even Africa! Surely, this was the winter of their content. The Union had brought the Jubilee, and it was insufficient. Jeff Davies did not hang from a rotten apple tree, and surely, John Brown’s soul had stopped marching on. “One Thousand Years of Dixie!” proclaimed the front page of The Whig.
Surely, this was the beginning of an age of Southern Victory…