Until Every Drop of Blood Is Paid: A More Radical American Civil War

Look at poor Red, look what you've done to him.


I believe every day should start with a bad joke, most of the time that joke is just waking up, but today feels special.
I think I need someone to explain this "bad joke" because I do not get it at all.

EDIT: Never mind, saw the above post. But I didn't think canned beans were pressurized?
I hit on an idea in another thread, I don't recall if it was considered here.

While we've in general come to the conclusion several times that equal access to westward expansion between whites and blacks is still not very likely, what is the likelihood of the Republicans allowing it to some extent? Radicals want former slaves to be free (at the very least, when arguing the case to their moderate colleages, free enough to vote as stalwart Republicans) and centrists want to not infuriate the southerners so much that restoring the Union becomes impossible. The western territories are considered important by white Americans to Manifest their Destinies, but I think it's not too unrealistic to imagine them willing to sacrifice up to 10% of a gargantuan amount of land in order to help solve many of their immediate problems.

Lincoln could surely make the case, if he wished, that coloured veterans, men of unquestioned valour and loyalty to the Union, deserve colonia for their families, as the veterans of Rome earned with their service 1800 years earlier. Should these be built on the land of southern yeomen, who we wish to accept back into the Union, or should they be out in the West? Small, specific subdivisions of the territories would not take up any significant amoung of land compared to the vastness of the West, but with railroad connections to the rest of the country they could relatively quickly become cities eligible to become states on their own. Hell, the government might even cluster towns to settle European immigrants around these territories, to buffer blacks and American whites with people who can be more expected to basically get along with both. It's really just a larger, more ambitious, and more consolidated version of the Freemen's towns of OTL, up to the level of granting some virtually guaranteed representation to blacks in the US Senate. Blacks are happy for receiving economic opportunity and strongly-protected representation in government, radical and moderate Republicans alike are happy to create districts that can be relied on to go for or coalition with Republicans, Northerners in the East that care more about burying the hatchett with the South than about lifting a finger to help former slaves are happy for not worrying about black people migrating to the North or the white South declaring a struggle for an Endseig, Northerners in the West are happy that they still get the bulk of the land and don't have to worry about living too close to any black communities, and white southerners...well, are never going to be happy in this situation, but one hopes that they appreciate their inability to negotiate in this scenario and that the land for those freed people have to come from somewhere, and an acre given to them in the West is an acre not given to them in the South.
Aye, but you can and you did.

Look at poor Red, look what you've done to him.


I believe every day should start with a bad joke, most of the time that joke is just waking up, but today feels special.

That's a terrible joke. ...I'll allow it.
first thought "that's fucked up"

second thought"red would go really well with a hot dog and some hibiscus water
.now i want some tacos de campo "

Yes, yes I would. I personally prefer Ecuadorian style beans, but I guess that's just nostalgia and patriotism.

Even worse, that brand of beans are Trump approved, the horror....
The stupidest things become political debates thanks to Trump. Thank God he's gone.

A bad joke should keep giving.

The primary joke is Red's under pressure, like a can.

That the Red can is Colombian Style *Red* beans is the second layer of the joke. Cause Red is...red.

That Red has written a Latin American Timeline is the third layer of the joke.

And that the can of beans is Trump approved is the fourth layer to make it extra cringey. Because putting the confederacy through this much pain is definitely *not* Trump approved.

Are you saying that the Party of Lincoln is... not the Party of Lincoln at all?

Lincoln could surely make the case, if he wished, that coloured veterans, men of unquestioned valour and loyalty to the Union, deserve colonia for their families, as the veterans of Rome earned with their service 1800 years earlier. Should these be built on the land of southern yeomen, who we wish to accept back into the Union, or should they be out in the West? Small, specific subdivisions of the territories would not take up any significant amoung of land compared to the vastness of the West, but with railroad connections to the rest of the country they could relatively quickly become cities eligible to become states on their own.

Yes, I think that can be done. It would lead to something of... a racial gerrymandering at the country level by creating a few Black states.
Are you saying that the Party of Lincoln is... not the Party of Lincoln at all?
Everyone's a little too focused on what's the Party of Lincoln when they should worry more about who's the Lincoln of the Party.

~ Things I'd Write On a Fortune Cookie
That's a terrible joke. ...I'll allow it.
I appreciate your candor.
I personally prefer Ecuadorian style beans, but I guess that's just nostalgia and patriotism.
Don't ask what your country can do for you, but instead ask what you can eat for your country.

The stupidest things become political debates thanks to Trump. Thank God he's gone.
Also, it's not over until the fish jumps.
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Yes, I think that can be done. It would lead to something of... a racial gerrymandering at the country level by creating a few Black states.

Of course, people sympathetic to the idea will argue they're just doing something the constitution doesn't disallow so that a pressing issue can be alleviated.

As things are, black people would make up about 13% of the national population in 1867, at which time IOTL there was 37 states. The status of black men as voters will certainly be, eh, "controversial", but anybody who accepts the Reconstruction Amendments will basically be forced to acknowledge that black Americans are "owed" around 5 states, if we going by representation ideally being proportional to demographics. It's possible for reconstructed states that are roughly evenly split between whites and blacks to give one US Senate seat each to both communities, either through some amendment on how senators are picked to make it follow the principle of proportional representation, or by some less formal arrangement in state legislatures to divide appointments "fairly", but it isn't a stable arrangement and would only, by my reckoning, give black Americans only the equivalent of 2 or 3 states.

Lincoln could also see it as a tool for his carrot-and-stick approach to secessionists; with these colonia he can communicate to them that freed slaves are definitely going to get land no matter what, and if Confederate whites accept the terms of Reconstruction then the amount of land that has to be from confiscations can be minimised. If he wants to convince them that ceasing their rebellion won't cost them everything, he has to be able to honestly say that he doesn't need to commit wide-scale confiscation in order to fulfil his party's goals. All of these measures to irreversibly enfranchise black people into the federal government would be bitter medicine for slavocrats, but they'll agree that it's much better than the measures some radical Unionist papers could be advocating at this point.

As for practicality or plausibility; Legally, the US already has some level of precedent for this kind of territorial unit: the District of Columbia. The argument could be made that some urban cities, at the very least urban areas on land which the federal government directly possesses, could be declared to have some special significance and status, so it could absolutely be assigned to the Land Bureau or a similar organisation to deal with black demand for land, and then later on become either a state or, if that is too radical, a state-lite, perhaps with one senator apiece or something. There are no rules on how large or rural a state has to be, Delaware and Rhode Island manage to qualify, so the only limiting factor is pure politics. And finally, as for what quantity of land could be provided, an area equal to D. C. is 44,000 acres, a Rhode Island is 777,000 acres, that would set a huge amount of black veterans up with a livelihood while barely making a dent in the amount of Great Plains/Rocky Mountains land that whites effectively have to themselves.
The argument could be made that some urban cities, at the very least urban areas on land which the federal government directly possesses, could be declared to have some special significance and status, so it could absolutely be assigned to the Land Bureau or a similar organisation to deal with black demand for land, and then later on become either a state or, if that is too radical, a state-lite, perhaps with one senator apiece or something.
So something like the Free Imperial Cities in the HRE?
So something like the Free Imperial Cities in the HRE?
The exact analogy in my head was with the federal cities in modern Russia - Moscow, St. Petersberg, and (rule of caution) Sevastopol get to be their own regions at Russia's highest administrative level. But yeah, the Free Imperial Cities are another analogy to it.
It seems based on its small size Florida might be easiest to do this with,. I could see some of the more racist elements remaining in the party comparing it to Africa and saying it's less expensive to give them Florida, while more progressive thinkers argue that it would let them have growing power and influence because of the citrus growing potential. It would be interesting to see a black-led version of Dole or one of the other big fruit growers TTL.
It seems based on its small size Florida might be easiest to do this with,. I could see some of the more racist elements remaining in the party comparing it to Africa and saying it's less expensive to give them Florida, while more progressive thinkers argue that it would let them have growing power and influence because of the citrus growing potential. It would be interesting to see a black-led version of Dole or one of the other big fruit growers TTL.

But the concern would be that it would set the precedent that the federal government could, of its own choice, permanently dismember states, West Virginia only being allowed by being such a grassroots effort that the federal government simply chose to recognise rather than playing the protagonistic role. Territories are by their nature more fluid and thus subject to the whims of the federal government; the Fed deciding it has the power to effectively design new states with an explicit demographic makeup and purpose is an increase of its power, but it's nothing like the increase of power which would result from it deciding it can carve new majority-black states out of the defeated CSA states. Of course, the defeated Confederates are always going to treat the terms of Reconstruction as if they're getting their noses shoved into a puddle of piss, but carving up "empty" lands in the Rockies and the Great Plains rather than being forced to seize planter land regardless of if the landowner repents or not helps to minimise the depth of the puddle.
That's why Florida is the ideal place. They don't have to carve it up.

I'm not saying this will happen TTL, but I do think that there will be elements of the party that believe that Florida, with 140,000 total before the war and 44% of those slaves - in our timeline, can be populated with large numbers of Colored Troops and their families. They will argue that - if Florida's white male population is devastated enough – they could manage to give 100,000 people land, counting the families of those troops and other former slaves who moved there, and with 60,000 already there, the chances would be great of having a black controlled state.

Of course, it wasn't even considered in our timeline so I can see why it might not be here.
I will admit that Florida is definitely a prime locale to focus on slightly more amicable requisitions of land than the outright confiscations which Lincoln seems to still view primarily as something to threaten non-compliant rebels with than as an actual engine for distributive justice. One could imagine a scheme where the government "offers" to purchase plantations of families that have been decimated by the war. The families, hopefully understanding that they're being given an opportunity to make the most that they are ever going to get from a property that is going to crash in value and which they'll have trouble getting anything like the same kind of profit that they did before the war thanks to the abolition of slavery and the shortage of white men around that can be used to enforce a new pseudo-slavery, would put up only a nominal resistance to this "offer". I expect white Northerners will want to keep their own tax burden for this programme to the absolute minimum, so I expect a precondition for receiving land would be to pay its selling price back over a couple of decades. Hopefully, it would be recognised that it's better to start the payments very low and ramp it up only after the freedmen have been able to build up their ability to pay them.

But, you are ignoring the issue that just because it would become a black-majority state, that doesn't mean the white population (which are, again, predominantly composed of white supremacists) goes away or has no agency. The poor whites fighting for the Confederacy are doing so precisely because they are terrified of being turned into a servile minority by the machinations of the North. "We either do it to them, or they'll do it to us." The Union going through with the project of engineering southern states into becoming majority-black, in a political system that generally understands "democracy" to be majoritarian rather than inclusive, would be kicking whatever former Confederates that remain into a frenzy that will feel justified. Perhaps they'd be able to get away with it a bit more by doing it to Florida, which the Anglophone South doesn't feel as strong a kinship with than they do with each other, but you'd still have a lot of Southerners panicking about which state is next on the chopping block. As Sun Tzu said, "Don't push too hard on a desperate enemy"; The North making the South accept Reconstruction requires convincing the South that Reconstruction won't cost them everything. The white South having to accept a new reality of biculturalism is something they're going to hate, but if they come to be convinced that a final conflict over which race in the South will be supreme over the other is certain to be futile for them, then avoiding that conflict and keeping their hands on at least half of the governing power in the Southern States would be worth the cost to most of them.
Chapter 40: Until That Key Is in Our Pocket
Ulysses S. Grant’s life is in many ways a tale of bitter failures followed by astounding successes, After his shameful departure from the Army, Grant found only failure in his life as a civilian, only to mount an amazing comeback with his capture of Forts Henry and Donelson. Consequently, Grant became one of the Union’s premier generals, but his diffident, non-assuming nature contrasted heavily with his comrades in arms. So did his lack of success. Even as Reynolds turned back the tide in Pennsylvania and Thomas achieved a great victory over the rebels in Tennessee, Grant bogged down in Vicksburg and failed to reopen the Mississippi, threatening the cause and his own career. It was at this critical juncture that Grant would once again astonish the world with a brilliant victory, but previous to that it had seemed like another bitter failure was his lot.

Grant’s position was threatened even more by a lamentable act as well as a grave political mistake, his Order No.11. These infamous orders declared that "The Jews, as a class, violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department, and also Department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department." This was a misguided attempt to control the trade that flourished as the Union advanced into the heart of the Confederacy. The existence of laws that formally outlawed trade with the enemy was ignored by both Federal and Southern merchants that were too allured by the possibility of enormous profit. Soon enough, Union traders started to acquire great quantities of cotton in exchange of gold or material goods such as salt or medicine. An English man would remark that "a Chinese wall from the Atlantic to the Pacific" could not stop this commerce, forcing Richmond and Philadelphia to regulate it.

In the Union case, this desire answered not only to a need for cotton, but also to the hope that reestablishing commercial relationships would help along in the work of Reconstruction. Thus, the Treasury issued commerce permits to those who pledged allegiance to the Union, which stimulated many to desert the Confederacy. But these supposed Unionists were most of the time not sincere at all, seeking to aid the Southern cause and grow their own fortunes through this trade. The Yankees themselves were not paragons of honesty. Charles A. Dana denounced a net of illicit trade that “to an alarming extent corrupted and demoralized the army." “Every colonel, captain, or quartermaster is in secret partnership with some operator in cotton; every soldier dreams of adding a bale of cotton to his monthly pay”, he wrote.

One factor that added to Union woes was the fact that the Breckenridge government had practically made this trade an official policy. The Confederacy, like the Union, had produced laws against trading with the enemy, and some proud Southerners thought it better to burn cotton rather than allow it to fall into the Yankees’ hands. Naturally, not everyone agreed. The Richmond Examiner thus rallied against those planters “who were so early and furiously in the field for secession” but who were prompt to take loyalty oaths in order to access Northern markets. “This shameless moral turpitude”, the newspaper concluded, “inflicts a heavy injury upon the general cause of the South, which is forsaken by these apostates." Yet, it was clear that the Confederacy desperately needed some goods, and that this trade, shameful as it may be, was one of the easiest ways to obtain them.


The extreme need of cotton guided many political and military decisions

The Commissary General, George Randolph, recognized this need and its possible solution. Randolph argued that it would be impossible to sustain the Armies without trading with the enemy, something that was “of ordinary occurrence” in European wars. Despite the opposition of some key figures of the administration, such as Davis, whose sense of honor led him to “resist the proposal in toto”, Breckenridge allowed Randolph to implement his idea. Davis himself was forced to concede, after the Bread Riots, that such trade could be allowed “if the necessity was absolute”, which it clearly was. As a result, a considerable part of the trade was done with Richmond’s blessing and under its guidance. The salt, gold and foodstuffs obtained through it served to mitigate, but never resolve, the Confederacy’s want of food and ordinance.

Much of the blame was placed on Jewish traders, “whose love of gain is greater than their love of country”. Despite the undeniable fact that most traders were gentiles, Jews were scapegoated by Union commanders. This anti-Semitism sadly transcended battlelines, for Confederates too denounced “Jew extortioners” who had “injured our case more than the armies of Lincoln”. This helps explain Grant’s reasoning behind General Orders N.11, which Ron Chernow declares “the most sweeping anti-Semitic action undertaken in American history.” When Jewish leaders denounced this “enormous outrage” before Lincoln, the President was quick to revoke the order, expressing that he “did not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners.”

Lincoln was gentle in his reprimand, but the Chesnuts, then in the ascendancy thanks to Union misfortunes, took off their gloves. Condemning Grant’s orders as “illegal, tyrannical, cruel and unjust,” they tried to officially censor the General, but the resolutions were narrowly defeated in both chambers. Nonetheless, the greatest threat to Grant was simply his lack of success. Daily letters arrived that painted Grant as “a jackass in the original package” and “a poor drunken imbecile”. Lincoln probably paid no heed to these letters, but Grant’s failure to open the Mississippi troubled him. The closure of the river not only weakened the Union while strengthening the Confederacy, but it led to anger in the Midwest and seditious rumors. “Vicksburg is the key”, Lincoln thus declared. “The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.”

Grant’s efforts to seize the slippery key, unfortunately, proved unfruitful. In the three months that followed the failure of the First Vicksburg Campaign, Grant tried several “quixotic engineering projects” in order to reach the high, dry ground to the east of Vicksburg, the only terrain suitable for a military offensive against the citadel. The first of them was an attempt to dig a canal, which was abandoned after rising waters in February “threatened them with drowning”. A similar effort led by Charles F. Smith’s to dig a canal from Lake Providence to the river failed as well. Grant then set his hopes in a maze of narrow channels and overgrown vegetation known as the Yazoo Pass. But the advance was tortuous and difficult. The expedition was finally stopped after it failed to subdue an earthwork grandiosely named “Fort Pemberton”.

Though Grant would later claim that all these maneuvers were simply to entertain his men while he prepared the real offensive, in truth he was greatly disappointed by their failure. They also contributed to Northern despondency during that Winter of Woes between the Peninsula Campaign and Union Mills. Grant’s army, the New York Times complained, was “stuck in the mud of northern Mississippi, his army of no use to him or anyone else.” Another newspaper mocked Grant by predicting that the enemy would die of old age before Grant took the citadel. "I think Grant has hardly a friend left, except myself," commented Lincoln, no doubt conscious of the great criticism Grant was receiving but unwilling to part with him because he needed “generals who will fight battles and win victories. Grant has done this, and I propose to stand by him." A possibly apocryphal anecdote even has Lincoln inquiring what brand of whisky Grant liked to drink, so that he could send some to his other generals.


The Yazoo Pass expedition turned into a hellish adventure that saw the Yankees attacked by falling logs, snakes and rebels guardsmen

However, even Lincoln started to grow somewhat impatient at the lack of success. “The eyes and hopes of the whole country are now directed to your army”, he informed Grant through General-in-chief Lyon. “The opening of the Mississippi River will be to us of more advantage than the capture of forty Richmonds.” General Lyon was, fortunately for Grant, a stalwart ally that had full confidence on him, but Lincoln wanted to corroborate that high opinion. To do so, he and Stanton decided to sent Charles A. Dana to Mississippi with a “secret” mission to spy on Grant and see if the rumors as to his incompetency and drunkenness were true. Grant decided to receive Dana with friendliness, and he was in turn so impressed that he declared Grant “the most modest, the most disinterested, and the most honest man I ever knew”.

Still, Lincoln thought a change in strategy was necessary, and that continuing “all these side expeditions through the country” was “dangerous”, for their chances of success were slim and it exposed the rest of the department to attack. He again repeated his suggestion of a joint attack against Port Hudson, and although he did not make it an order, Grant recognized that it would be prudent to follow the President’s wishes. It was at that moment that Grant start to hatch a plan to take Vicksburg and defeat Johnston decisively. The first part of the new plan entailed sending part of his army as reinforcements to Burnside’s Army of the Gulf, so as to bolster the Union’s chances of taking Port Hudson. Grant decided to send General Rosecrans, with whom he had a bad rapport, though the decision was also influenced by Burnside’s brief and inconclusive Bayou Teche campaign.

The hapless Burnside had been stuck in a rather unenviable situation since the capture of New Orleans in August, 1862. His army had seen little direct action, being mainly employed to assist Farragut in his river campaigns that failed to take Vicksburg or Port Hudson. Aside from these military maneuvers, Burnside, as the commander of the Department of the Gulf, had been tasked with overseeing the occupation of New Orleans and the first tentative steps towards a Reconstructed Louisiana, a political quagmire that must be studied in detail later. By March, 1863, Burnside had been ordered by Lincoln to try and take Port Hudson, in a southern thrust that, it was hoped, would weaken Vicksburg and expose it to capture by Grant.

As Burnside advanced through the plentiful region of Bayou Teche, he was attacked by the Confederate Army under Richard Taylor, son of the late President Zachary Taylor. Taylor and Burnside faced each other at Fort Bisland in April, where Burnside would commit the bloody mistake of ordering a frontal assault that resulted in heavy casualties. However, even as the Confederates triumphed in land, in the river their gunboat fleet had been defeated decisively, which opened the possibility of the Federals landing behind Taylor. Conscious of this threat, Taylor was forced to evacuate the Fort, and although Burnside pursued, he was unable to bag the canny rebel. Still, and despite the bloody nose he had received at Fort Bisland, Burnside and his troops had arrived near Port Hudson, ready to siege it.

That’s when Grant decided to put his plan in action. This plan involved marching the Army down the west bank of the river while Porter’s flotilla would run Vicksburg’s batteries. The Army and the Navy would then meet south of the citadel, allowing the ships to ferry them across the Mississippi to the dry land to the southeast of Vicksburg, from where a campaign could begin. This was a daring plan full of risks, and even if successful, would cut Grant off his supply lines, forcing him to live off the land. Even some of his most loyal commanders expressed doubts. Sherman thought it better to again advance along the Mississippi central, and confessed that “I don’t like this roundabout project, but we must support Grant in whatever he undertakes.” Admiral Porter, too, warned that “when these gunboats once go below [Vicksburg] we give up all hopes of ever getting them up again”. But, in spite of these misgivings, all commanders decided to trust Grant.


David Dixon Porter

By that time, most Confederates were convinced that their Gibraltar of the West could never be taken. Newspapers gloated that “there is no immediate danger here”, and the enlisted men believed that continuous failure would make the Yankees desert the army and “the nefarious designs of the Abolitionists”. Pemberton even prepared to send some regiments east to bolster the army Bragg had shattered, and instead of closely watching the Federals he and other Confederates prepared to hold a festive ball. They paid little attention to reports of movement along the Louisiana side of the river. In April 16th, as the Southerners waltzed, the fleet “floated down the Mississippi darkly and silently, showing neither steam nor light”.

Alas, Porter was unable to pass through undetected, and soon enough a pitched artillery fight started, interrupting the music. Showing his good tactical mind, Porter instructed his boats to hug the eastern shore, making many rebel gunmen overshoot their target and minimizing the damage the Yankee navy received. The sound of cannons and the red bonfires lit to better see the river created an atmosphere that the crewmen could never forget. Yet, the rebels only sank one transport and failed to kill even a single bluecoat. A few days later, Porter would repeat this achievement by running six more transports, losing only one. Pemberton seemed unable to comprehend Grant’s plans, but his soldiers well suspected something was afloat. “We have given up all ideas of peace soon and are making our calculations in feeling to meet the worst yet”, one confessed.

The worst was indeed yet to come. By the end of the month Grant had brought the fleet and his three corps, under Smith, Rosecrans, and Sherman, to New Carthage, and was ready to cross the river. The second phase of Grant’s plan was ready to start, and it was here that Grant showed his keen mind and good understanding of his enemies. Previous to the start of the campaign, Grant had leaked a false version of his plan, to make Johnston believe that he was moving his entire Army down to Port Hudson. Johnston’s nature as an aggressive commander meant that he couldn’t miss the chance to attack Grant, but also forced him to perpetually react to Grant’s actions instead of truly seizing the initiative. Through this deception Grant hoped to draw Johnston away from Vicksburg, separating him and Pemberton and preventing each from helping the other.

Fulfilling Lincoln’s orders, he sent Rosecrans’ XIII Corps to Port Hudson, to aid Burnside in subduing the city. Grant then ordered Smith to demonstrate against Vicksburg’s bluffs and raid the farms to the north of the citadel; meanwhile, Sherman was to make an expedition along the Red River and raid Shreveport. This expedition had been conceived by Sherman himself as a way to “make that rich country pay in gold or cotton for all depredations on our river commerce" and “make them feel their vulnerability”. Yet now Sherman hesitated, not completely believing that his corps would be able to live off the land. It’s a testament to the strong friendship they had forged and their mutual respect and loyalty that Grant was able to convince Sherman to go forward. Thus, in that May began the first of the marches that would make Sherman the scourge of the South.

At the same time, another Yankee soldier “set forth on what would become the most spectacular cavalry adventure of the war”. The Federal cavalry had, most of the time, been unable to match and best the rebels, and their inability to ride as well and as hard as they did left the Union armies vulnerable to guerrillas and raids. Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher from Illinois, seemed an unlikely choice for a man who would have to defeat the likes of Forrest and Morgan. Grierson did not even like horses, having been kicked in the head by one as a child. But he proved nonetheless “one of the finest horse soldiers in the western theater”. Copying the tactics of his foes, Grierson rode forward in a daring 16-day raid that destroyed supply depots and railroads and captured some 500 rebels. Grierson, Grant exulted, had “spread excitement throughout the State, destroyed railroads, trestle works, bridges, burning locomotives & rolling stock taking prisoners destroying stores of all kinds.”


Benjamin Grierson

Sherman’s raid did not have as large an effect as Grierson’s in a logistical sense, but it managed to surpass it in destruction and strike fear into the hearts of Southerners as never before had a Union commander done. Having abandoned his supply base, Sherman’s soldiers survived by seizing the “supplies that penniless women and children could not afford to buy” and stripping plantations bare of all they had. Sherman carved a path of destruction and devastation that truly showed that war was hell. ‘‘Not a foot of rail fence remained unburned . . . the whole line of our march was one flame of fire which consumed fences, cotton fields, meadows, hay stacks and everything combustable”, said a soldier. In a report, Grant described how “Houses have been plunder’d and burned down, fencing destroyed and citizens frightened without an enquiry as to their status in this Rebellion, cattle and hogs shot and Stock driven off”.

In truth, Sherman’s raid was neither wanton nor vindictive, and he tried to limit needless violence especially against the poor and the loyal. In line with Grant’s instructions, he harshly dealt with any soldier that engaged in “depredations”. But the war had irremediably changed, and neither the soldiers nor their commanders felt much mercy against the rebels who had ruthlessly preyed on their comrades and defenseless Unionists. Sherman, a racist at heart, had no great concern for the enslaved who received his army with “tears and joy”, but seeing the horrors of slavery up close had awakened in the soldiers “a thirst in my heart for vengeance when I looked upon the master”, as one Iowa private described. Some Southern guerrillas attempted to stop the Yankees, but their tactics did not work against Sherman’s highly mobile force, and when the Union General hanged several captured partisans they seemingly vanished.

Grierson’s and Sherman’s raids had a devastating effect on a region already greatly destroyed by the war. “Villages that once were prosperous and flourshing are now desolate and the whole country on eather side of the river looks like some dreary waste where God in His wisdom has seen fit to wreek his vengeance upon a wicked people”, wrote a soldier. “Plantations were burning far and near, down the river and inland from the river.”, rejoined another. “If the angel of destruction had passed over this region the blight would not have been more complete”, concluded a veteran. “This is the effect of that demon war.” Sherman’s raid came to an end in June, after he brushed aside Richard Taylor at Mansfield. Sherman then took and destroyed everything of military value in Shreveport, leaving the city a smoldering ruin and dismantling the main logistical center of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi. While Grierson went south to join Burnside, Sherman returned to Grant with thousands of contrabands and many bales of confiscated cotton.

These twin expeditions sounded bells of alarm throughout the Confederacy. A panicked Breckinridge, careworn and dispirited after the disaster of Union Mills, sent a flurry of telegrams asking Johnston to do something and emphasizing the absolute necessity of holding Vicksburg. Johnston himself had been greatly shocked by it all, but he believed he had deciphered Grant’s intentions. Smith had only weakly demonstrated against Vicksburg while both Grierson and Sherman had gone south, Grierson rejoining the Army of the Gulf instead of returning to Grant. This all convinced him that Grant was shifting south and intended to take Port Hudson before joining Burnside for an attack on Vicksburg. Decided to prevent this, Johnston started to shift south, a movement that was delayed by Grierson’s raid. This played right into Grant’s hands.


The Shreveport Raid

Johnston’s decision to shift his Army south by rail has been long criticized as a fatal mistake. Johnston thought that Grant had completely shifted to Port Hudson, where he and Burnside could subdue the port and open an unimpeded supply line from New Orleans to New Carthage, thus bypassing the guerrillas and difficult terrain that had doomed the first Vicksburg campaign. This was the kind of plan Lincoln envisioned in Philadelphia, and was in and of itself not a bad plan. If Grant had truly intended to follow this plan, then Johnston’s choice to pursue him and stop him before he was able to join with Burnside was probably the right one, because holding Port Hudson was just as vital. Having decided that Vicksburg was not greatly threatened anymore and that what mattered was defeating Grant, Johnston pulled out most of the Vicksburg garrison except for Pemberton and 10,000 men who would guard the citadel.

That’s when Grant decided to strike. Grant’s timing was impeccable, and this is because he knew the disposition of the terrain and Johnston’s numbers and movements thanks to a red of spies established by Greenville Dodge, an accomplished spy who provided invaluable intelligence, even if he spent the hefty sum of 5,000 dollars per month. Contrabands and escaped slaves were an important part of this spy network, showing yet again the capacity and fighting spirit of African Americans. By that point Union Mills had already shown that to the entire nation, and Grant, an early believer in the martial capacity of Black soldiers, would include an all-black corps in the campaign. Its command was trusted to James McPherson, a genial soldier who was by no means an abolitionist but exhibited humanitarian concern towards the contrabands and had even pronounced a speech in favor of Black recruitment.

On June 18th, Grant’s troops crossed the river, landing at Bruinsburg and proceeding to seize Grand Gulf. This sudden movement took Johnston by surprise, as he had expected Grant to continue south. Johnston immediately tried to go north and destroy Grant, reasoning that he would have to stay in Grand Gulf for a couple of weeks to gather supplies, but Grant had taken nothing except ammunition and arms and had abandoned his supply lines, rushing to Jackson. The Canton retreat and the Shreveport raid had perfected the Army of the Tennessee’s foraging skills, and they were able to find plentiful food. An oft-cited anecdote has a furious farmer in a mule demanding compensation, for his farm had been stripped bare by a Union regiment. Answered the commander: “Well, those men didn’t belong to my division at all, because if they were my men they wouldn’t even have left you that mule.”

Johnston tried to shift his army north to protect the state capital, but the lamentable state of Southern logistics made this movement slow and cumbersome. When Grant reached Jackson in June 28th, Johnston had failed to concentrate his entire force. Johnston attempted to use the high ground at Wright Ridge, to the west of Jackson, to delay Grant enough for the rest of his army to arrive, but the “incomplete and poorly located earthworks thrown together” around the city were no match for Grant’s dashing Yankee boys. In a brave charge of bayonets, Johnston’s force was routed and the state capital was taken, alongside several supplies that Johnston intended to send to Vicksburg. Johnston then retreated behind the Pearl River, while the victors destroyed everything of military value, “doing their work so thoroughly that Jackson became known to its conquerors as Chimneyville”.


Battle of Jackson

While Grant rushed to Vicksburg, Johnston deliberated his next move. He was conscious that the small Vicksburg garrison would not be able to resist Grant for long, and Grant’s dizzying speed confused him. His guerrillas had been unable to cut any supply line, not understanding that Grant had no supply line. Rushing to Vicksburg may afford him an opportunity to face Grant again, but he would have to wait for his army, much of it still to the south, to gather. Besides, Port Hudson, which Burnside had been sieging for weeks, would be unable to resist for much longer. Going after Grant at Vicksburg would give up Port Hudson, and Johnston would probably be unable to save either citadel. Consequently, Johnston decided that saving Port Hudson would be more important. Johnston hoped to join with Taylor and drive Burnside away from Port Hudson, after which they could go north, defeat Grant and retake Vicksburg.

As predicted, Grant quickly reached Vicksburg, on July 1st. An anguished Pemberton had learned that Johnston would not try to help him, and he lacked vital supplies that were meant for him but were instead seized by the Federals at Jackson. Trapped in an impossible situation, Pemberton started to make preparations for abandoning Vicksburg. This despite civilians that begged him not to abandon them to the abolitionists and telegrams by Secretary Davis stating that Vicksburg could not be given up without a fight. The lack of communication and trust between Pemberton and Johnston also contributed to this error, for Pemberton practically knew nothing of what Johnston planned. When Grant’s troops arrived to Vicksburg’s entrenchments, they found dispirited and famished rebels, who believed themselves abandoned by their commanders and outclassed by their enemies. Nonetheless, they fought hard.

The assault began on July 3rd. Grant and Sherman looked on from the heights near the city, as their soldiers prepared to assault the earthworks. "Until this moment I never thought your expedition a success,” confessed Sherman. “I never could see the end clearly until now. But this is a campaign. This is a success if we never take the town.” But Grant was decided to take the town. At 2pm, Potter’s gunboats and Grant’s artillery unleashed a fiery storm upon Vicksburg, while the bluecoats moved forward and assault the rebel position. Severely outnumbered and demoralized, the rebels tried their best to resist the charging Yankees. What one Union colonel called “the most murderous fire I ever saw” took the lives of hundreds of Union soldiers, but the graybacks still gave way and by the end of the day Grant had taken most of the first line of defense. McPherson’s USCT corps performed well, increasing rebel despondency.

The next day, just as Grant prepared a second assault, the rebels swept forward. At first, the Union General thought that Pemberton was counterattacking, but the true purpose of this assault soon became clear – it was a breakout attempt. Grant quickly shifted his troops to try and prevent Pemberton from escaping, but the movement could not be executed quick enough, and Grant was reluctant to call of the simultaneous assaults his troops had started. As a result, some 4,000 soldiers, including Pemberton, managed to escape Vicksburg. A brief chase was unable to catch them before they joined Forrest’s cavalry, which screened their movement. Pemberton’s escape was one of the most daring achievements of the war, but few considered it a success for it meant that Vicksburg had fallen. The “Yankee Pemberton” received great opprobrium by Confederates who thought him cowardly and maybe treacherous, despite his insistence that saving his army was the right choice.


The Battle of Vicksburg

On July 4th, 1863, the last few Confederate defenders were routed, and then finally forced to surrender. “I shall never forget the woeful sight of a beaten, demoralized army—humanity in the last stage of endurance,” commented a citizen. “Wan, hollow-eyed, ragged, foot-sore, bloody, the men limped along completely whipped”. One woman contrasted these beaten Southrons with the victorious Yankees: "What a contrast [these] stalwart, well-fed men, so splendidly set-up and accoutered [were] to . . . the worn men in gray, who were being blindly dashed against this embodiment of modern power.” The Union Army entered the Gibraltar of the West in a jubilant mood, in the “most glorious Fourth I’ve ever spent”, according to a soldier. Yet they did not taunt the rebels, but offered them rations and saluted their courage. This maybe lessened the sting of seeing Black Union troops marching into the city and being received by joyful slaves who shouted “Glory Hallelujah!” to the skies.

Grant did not rest in his laurels for long. He quickly paroled his prisoners, not wanting to take the time to conduct them to a prisoner’s camp, and then set forth in hot pursuit of Johnston, intending to destroy him. The Confederate General had been informed of the Vicksburg disaster and that Grant was coming. Though he briefly considered turning back and facing him, he decided to press onward with his original plan, reasoning that he could occupy Vicksburg back after defeating Burnside. Desperate letters from Port Hudson, where skinned rats were being sold in the markets, made it clear that he had no option. Johnston continued to move to Osyka, the nearest supply depot, but the bad state of the railways plus Grierson’s continuous harassing slowed him down. An annoyed Johnston sent Cleburne to bag Grierson, but instead of the cavalryman Cleburne found Rosecrans.

Rosecrans and Burnside had been working closely to subdue Port Hudson while Grant operated against Vicksburg. Burnside had too believed that Grant was going to move his entire army to Port Hudson, but as the picture became clearer, Burnside decided that his Army of the Gulf could defeat Johnston. Rosecrans was the one selected for this push. With meticulous, brilliant movements, Rosecrans had gathered supplies and moved towards Cleburne, intercepting him at Terrys Creek, to the west of Osyka. But Cleburne was just as capable, evading combat and returning to Johnston, who decided to confront Rosecrans. The resulting battle was a pitched and ferocious affair, where no side had the upper hand at first, until Rosecrans committed a fatal mistake and sent a poorly worded order to his flank commander. While the confusion was being straightened out, the advance stalled and Cleburne was able to hit the Union flank, sending the Yankees fleeing.

While Rosecrans retreated behind the Amite River, Johnston completed his preparations to lift the siege of Port Hudson. That’s when partisans arrived with information carried by a courier they had intercepted. Grant was coming, and much faster than expected. Johnston had believed that Pemberton would resist longer and that guerrillas would slow Grant down, but neither had happened. Though the situation looked increasingly bleak, Johnston welcomed the chance to face Grant, especially now that his entire force was gathered and supplied, whereas at Jackson Grant had faced but a fraction of his entire army. On August 16th, Johnston chose the small town of Liberty for the following battle. It was fitting that armies fighting for completely opposite conceptions of liberty and freedom would face each other in that town.

Grant’s army advanced in three columns, with Sherman going towards Liberty, Smith towards Osyka, and McPherson in between. Seeking to separate and isolate Grant’s columns, Johnston fired at Sherman, who was pushed against the forests to his rear. Just as Johnston planned, Grant immediately ordered Smith and McPherson into the fray, which required crossing the Amite River. This exposed them to a counterattack, and the cautious McPherson, seeing this, advanced rather slowly. Losing his patience, Johnston attacked and started to push the Union corps towards the river. McPherson then started to plead for help, and the calls grew desperate when McPherson was shot and put hors de combat (he would lose his arm, but survive). After this, Grant decided to heed his call and ordered Smith to come to the rescue, even though that involved abandoning the road to Osyka, thus affording the rebels one escape route.


Battle of Liberty, also called more thematically The Battle for Liberty

Smith’s help saved McPherson’s corps and maintained the Union position west of the Amite. The terrible combat died down as night fell and the stalemated enemies retreat and regroup. Savage, furious combat around the Amite had “made the waters run red with blood and corpses”, while the forests to the north were burning due to a pitched artillery fight between Johnston and Sherman. In a late-night war council, Cleburne recommended retreating to Osyka and trying to lift the Port Hudson siege through another route, but Johnston was reluctant. The starving garrison would not resist for much longer, and he was confident that he could push the Yankees to the river and destroy them the following day. Discounting Rosecrans, whom he believed defeated, Johnston concentrated all his soldiers for a push against Smith and McPherson at dawn-break.

Unfortunately for Johnston, Rosecrans hadn’t been idle. After licking his wounds, he had contacted Burnside and gotten reinforcements, and, showing his dynamic energy, he had built a bridge in record time, crossing the fork that Johnston was confident would protect his army. As the titanic struggle around Liberty was renewed, it seemed like the rebels would carry the day when Rosecrans’ men suddenly burst from the south. Grant, quick to realize what was happening and even quicker to seize the initiative, immediately ordered an all-out attack. Smith organized an artillery barrage in a grand Napoleonic style, while McPherson’s soldiers charged with fury, intending to avenge their commander. With the enemy advancing on both its front and rear, the Southern army gave to panic, preventing Johnston from forming a coherent response as he was crushed between Grant and Rosecrans’ pincers.

Cleburne and slightly less than half of the Army managed to escape through the unguarded road to Osyka, making many blame McPherson and his supposedly bad performance in the first day of the Battle of Liberty. Nonetheless, this blemish could hardly obscure the great victory, as more than half of Johnston’s army was encircled and destroyed, the rebel general himself captured. The remnants of the Army of Mississippi made a hasty retreat to the interior, abandoning Port Hudson and ceding the entire Valley to the Union. Just a few days after the Battle of Liberty, Grant arrived at Port Hudson, whose defenders had pinned all their hopes in Johnston. The news of his defeat and capture broke their spirit, and when Grant honored his Fort Donelson nickname and demanded an unconditional surrender on August 22nd, they accepted.

Reflecting on the defeat, one of the last defenders of Port Hudson penned a letter that speaks of great anguish: “As I looked upon the scene and reflected upon the mighty blow we had just received . . . upon the carnage and desolation and destruction which should sweep over our beloved South . . . tears of bitter anguish fell from my eyes and a cloud of darkness and gloom settled upon my mind.” Even as the Yankees shared rations and cigars with the defeated rebels, many Southerners could not help expressing similar bitterness and despair. Not even the Union Mills disaster had produced such hopelessness, for “Most Southerners did not view Lee’s setback as something that doomed the Confederacy”, but “the loss of Vicksburg and Johnston’s army brought a quite different reaction.”


The surrender of Port Hudson

Secretary Davis confessed he had fell into “the depth of gloom in which the disasters on the Mississippi have shrouded our cause”; Mary Boykin Chesnut said she “felt a hard blow struck on the top of my head, and my heart took one of its queer turns. I was utterly unconscious.” The most distressed reaction came from Breckinridge. The embattled President, whose faith in the cause had already been badly shaken, appeared before his Cabinet with a sealed letter he asked everyone to sign. The cabinet members hesitated, until the loyal Davis stepped forward and affixed his signature to the paper. The other men followed suit, as Breckinridge weakly but effusively thanked them. Only later did they learn that they had signed a pledge to surrender should the Confederacy suffer another such disastrous defeat.

In the North, the people jubilantly celebrated the great victory. Grant himself would later declare that the fate of the Confederacy was sealed as soon as Vicksburg fell. In Philadelphia “the announcement of the news was received with cheer upon cheer from the crowds of officers and clerks”, according to a journalist. An overjoyed Lincoln pronounced Grant’s campaign “one of the most brilliant in the world”, and declared that "Grant is my man, and I am his for the rest of the war." Indeed, through his achievements Grant had shattered a Confederate army, divided the Confederacy in twain and opened the Mississippi to commerce. As a steamer made the entire trip down the mighty river for the first time in years, Lincoln declared poetically that “The Father of the Waters again goes unvexed to the sea”.

The struggle for the Mississippi was now over, and though there still laid more battles and bloodshed in the future, the end of the war was in sight. The three victories at Union Mills, Vicksburg and Lexington seemed to assure the eventual victory of the Union, and with it a new birth of freedom for the United Stated. As new campaigns started for Mobile, Atlanta and Richmond, and elections confirmed the people’s confidence in the Lincoln government, the Union cause marched forward with energy and enthusiasm, while the Confederacy sank into despondency and desperation. Even Breckinridge started to wonder whether their magnificent epic had not come to an end.

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Special thanks to @Arnold d.c, who once again provided me with invaluable help for writing this update. I regret to say that a lot of what we discussed did not make it, and I had to delete close to 1,500 words to prevent the update from being too long. Sometimes I feel I have enough material for a full three volumes of TL...
Another awesome update and can’t wait to see how this TL will end now that it looks like we are nearing the end of the war.

I’m also a little curious about the fate of high ranking Union politicians and generals. This war is so much more brutal than the one OTL and I imagine that some of the diehard fire eaters aren’t gonna pack up with a peace treaty. Probably won’t see a big underground Confederate movement but maybe something similar to Chechnya where there are certain places where guerrillas hold sway. Also will be interested to see if there will be more assassinations or attempts by grieved Southerns.

Can’t wait for the next update and keep up the great work.
Great update, I can't imagine how Johnny Breck must be feeling to write such a letter! In any case, here's a map of the campaign for anyone curious:

Note: the map isn't quite perfect. Osyka is located too close to the south and Liberty, the town straddled between the forks of the Amite River, is a bit too far to the north. Dark blue represents Grant's movements, gray represents Johnston's and light blue represents Rosecrans.

With the Mississippi and Chattanooga in Federal hands, it's almost the end of the Confederacy. I wonder if they will even make it past June 1864. On the subject of freed slaves, I hope that the Union manages to copy the Davis Bend plantation system and apply it across the conquered states instead of the leasing of plantations to the OTL " unsavory lot."
Wow, the south realizing how important the war in the west truly is ITTL is quite the trip. I remember reading of the rebel AoT in the OTL and the trouble they had getting much of anything from the gov't in Richmond, let alone anyone on the coast caring about the war in the west until Sherman began revving up in Atlanta. Shreveport, Jackson all got the torch, nothing on the scale of Atlanta yet, but I imagine that is subject to change.

Interesting ploy by Breckenridge, he's managed to stave off total defeat so far, so why take this tack now? Is Johnny Breck attempting to stomach the idea of asking for terms?
If Breckinridge tries to seek for terms I could easily see the South descending into a civil war of their own. Especially if said terms include eventual restoration of the South to the Union.
Thus, in that May began the first of the marches that would make Sherman the scourge of the South.
And so it starts. DO IT AGAIN SHERMAN! More seriously, this has taught the Union a useful lesson about how to keep a campaign going despite Dixie guerilla activity.

The Mississippi is a free river again. This means that the western third of the confederacy is now entirely cut off from the rest. Is it under the command of Kirby Smith as in OTL or someone else? In any case, I do hope we later get an update describing what's it like in that de facto independent area.
Great update, I can't imagine how Johnny Breck must be feeling to write such a letter! In any case, here's a map of the campaign for anyone curious:
Thanks for making this, helps visualize things!