Union Blue and Dixie Red: A History of the Communist South

"We have allowed the Americans, North and South, to take hostage the whole world." -- Harold MacMillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, 1957

Excerpt from High In Cotton: The First Southern Republic, 1861-1908

"It is with a cursory investigation of the American South, its history, its trajectory and its peculiarities, that one can ascertain as to why it was the first republic to fall in the fiery crucible of proletarian revolution, and curiously, the reason has really very little to do with the traditionally Marxist understanding of the class as a urban, industrial phenomenon.

In fact, the lack of industrialization, at least relative to the rest of the Anglophone world, is perhaps what doomed the Confederacy to its eventual overthrow. When we track the course of history in the twentieth century, we see a common element of all nations that fall under the Marxist doctrine: they had all previously been primarily stratified agricultural economies. A criterion the South met with flying colors.

Perhaps one could trace this stubborn hyper-focus on tilling the land to the father of the South himself--- Thomas Jefferson ---who venerated the farmer as the ideal republican, a man of virtue and loyalty to his country, and assigned him an almost metaphysical importance to the lifeblood of democracy. The Southern states, more than any region to emerge out of the Thirteen Colonies, inherited this Jeffersonian mindset that framed the narrative within which the South regarded itself.

It is this ideology that the Planter class defended their existence with, and it is with this ideology that they agitated an entire people into the fires of one of the bloodiest wars to ever consume the North American continent. While the True Whigs and other elements of the Southern Republic post-Independence pushed for, and sometimes got, smaller levels of factory and railroad construction, and certainly the opening of mining facilities, the Planter class remained the dominant element of Confederate politics and their land-based system of slaves, and later, sharecroppers and tenant farmers, so perfectly imitated the kind of feudal oppression one would expect out of the Middle Ages.

It is with this in mind that we must look to the Revolution in the South; a revolution against a landed aristocracy, a revolution that in may respects mirrors more the serf overthrowing the noble, than the proletarian overthrowing the bourgeois, a historical irony for a country that developed out of perhaps the first and most prominent of all bourgeois republics."

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KENTUCKY SECEDES!

Kentucky had long been coveted by the nascent Confederate States for its strategic location and usability as a buffer between the armies of the North and the heartlands of the Confederacy. Situated in the northern extremity of the cultural region of the Upland South, Kentucky perhaps had, outside of the western region of Virginia, the lowest population of slaves of any southern state, and by way of the Ohio River, was becoming increasingly dependent on trade with the northeast and emerging Midwest. Its secession is often now treated as a historical inevitability, but "reluctantly gray" is the only definitive thing that can be said of the states contribution to the war effort once it had been drug into the trenches from its pretensions of neutrality that it had initially reached for with its early actions in the year of 1860 after Lincoln's election.

Though history has not been kind to the Davis administration, certainly not to the terms which he negotiated at the Treaty of Paris, his moment of caution and trepidation regarding the final southern state to willingly join the Confederacy can perhaps be viewed as one of his greatest successes. The state legislature had, after Lincoln's election, refused the Governor's request for a secession convention, fearing that the population of the state would vote in favor, but by the time hostilities had broken out Governor Magoffin, a Confederate sympathizer, refused to heed Lincoln's call for volunteers stating to the then President, "President Lincoln, Washington, D.C. I will send not a man nor a dollar for the wicked purpose of subduing my sister Southern states. B. Magoffin,"[1].

The special summer elections held in the state are the most fateful to ever be held in the storied history of Kentucky; to the enjoyment of Governor Magoffin, pro-secessionist candidates gained a majority in the state legislature, and suddenly, he no longer had his hands tied behind his back by an overwhelmingly pro-Union government. Many expected an immediate secession convention to be held but surprisingly, caution remained and hesitation still won the day out.

The frustration of the Confederate government and military was palpable, but Davis' wise consul of patience saw to it that the state was not violated and his firm belief that the Bluegrass "will join us in due time," perhaps came true only because of this consul. Lincoln, also a Kentuckian, held similar opinions of the state and its importance to the Union war effort; but on the ground, Fremont felt blinked at the results of the special election and the virulent protestations and proclamations of the state governor, ordering a military movement without Lincoln's knowledge into the town of Paducah, Kentucky, on September 6th, 1861.

What already had become a bad situation turned to worse when Fremont mirrored his Missouri proclamation with one of emancipation and martial law in Kentucky. One resident was said to have seen the mood shift "overnight," where once Kentucky wanted to "hold course to the trust and faith of the Union," it now "had seen and felt under her fold the most horrendous of oppressions."

Lincoln, furious and indignant, sent wild telegrams in hopes of ordering Fremont out of Kentucky and de-escalating the situation--- and though it might have been the right course of action it was far too late. By September 8th, a secession convention was held, and the state of Kentucky voted to leave the Union and admit itself as the 12th and final state of the Confederate States of America.


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Beriah Magoffin, 21st Governor of Kentucky

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State Seal of Kentucky, 1861


Almost immediately after the secession convention, Confederate forces entered the state to reinforce and construct defenses at strategic locations, particularly along the Tennessee River, and begin a mass recruitment drive. Kentucky would furnish around 70,000 soldiers for the Confederacy in its tenure during the war, the lowest of any Confederate state except Florida, but likewise furnish an impressive 35,000 Union troops under the folds of its pro-Union shadow government that split from Frankfort, meeting at a convention in Covington, Kentucky on September 30th with delegates representing nineteen counties, whereupon they formed the restored government of Kentucky and elected James Fisher Robinson, a true Kentucky moderate from Scott County who opposed both secession and Lincoln, into the office of 21st Governor of Kentucky.

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James F. Robinson, leader of pro-Union Covington government.

Though the Confederate government of Kentucky would prove itself to be the superior of the two in due course, the weeks after Kentucky's secession and the Covington Convention were reportedly chaotic, in pro-secessionist areas of the state known Unionists were often hunted down, tarred and feathered, beaten, whipped and even murdered, and similar events happened in nominally pro-Union areas, especially the northern half of the state that bordered the Ohio River. Robinson, writing to his wife at the time, who he had sent north to Chicago in fear of her safety, wrote; "I believe we shall now be fighting a war within a war."

The state of Kentucky would go on, along with Tennessee, to see some of the fiercest fighting of the Western Theater, but its sudden secession and Fremont's folly did wonders for the early Confederate war effort, putting the Union on the backfoot, and opening up a buffer that would drench itself in blood for the Planters' slavocracy.



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"That the Southerner regards himself now the inheritor and promulgator of 'proletarian freedom' is perhaps the starkest of all ironies, when his illegal secession, won only by foreign intervention, had wrought on its blood-stained banners; 'in defense of unfree labor!". Perhaps this is why we do not take his propaganda seriously, perhaps this is why his repeated attempts, his 'Radio Free America', his subtle approach to and attempted direction of the unions and labor parties north of the Mason-Dixon, all fail.

It is with a passionate heart we must meet the Rebel States, and show them that the eagle has not forgotten, and the eagle has not forgiven, and the eagle will not tolerate the Planter; whether he is draped in the Bonnie Blue or the crimson banner." - Opinion piece in small-town United States newspaper

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[1] Beriah Magoffin wrote this; its not an author invention for the sake of the story!

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Hey folks. I'd like to clear the air for a moment with a few authors comments. Principally, that this is my first attempt at writing a timeline so don't expect it to be anything particularly special, considering how far into the future I want to take this timeline it might be a tad bit ambitious for my current literary skill level and historical knowledge, but nonetheless, go big or go home right?

I've recently finished up (more or less, finals soon) a class on Reconstruction in the post-Civil War South and my area of focus historically is less military and more oriented towards politics, culture and art. I'm significantly more interested in the socio-political development of the independent South than I am in how the South got independent in the first place. Despite this timeline starting with reference to the secession of Kentucky, I'd caution you away if you're expecting any sort of significant dive into the military aspects of the Slaveholder's Rebellion. I couldn't write a convincing military timeline if you put a gun to my head. Hopefully, though, with what I have planned for this timeline, I'll get better and better at that aspect of this all.

You might be asking why the South goes communist? Well, you'll find out more of that later, but the opening excerpt is a good hint. Historically we saw most of the prominent socialist revolutions take place in cultures with elites tied heavily to the land, as opposed to the industrial centers of Western Europe and OTL United States. Russia, Cuba, China etc.

Lastly, I'd like to reiterate that I'm not a Lost Causer nor supporter of the Confederacy, and we'll get to see just how viciously oppressive and hilariously inept the independent South is pre-Revolution in this timeline. But it sort of chugs along and manages to make something of itself, in the end. My next post will probably cover a few more divergences in the Civil War and get to the end of the conflict as well. Hope you stick around!
 
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