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

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!
 
That was an amazing update, thank you for sharing! And thanks for the map, that was really neat and helpful.

I it's fun to see Albert Sidney Johnston have more time and what he would do. Having him captured makes things quite interesting.

I wonder who led McPherson's group when he went down. He will probably get a promotion somewhere at some point since he was able to rally the troops so well.

the cabinet promising to surrender with Breckenridge doesn't mean they can't just force him to resign if they deem it his fault that there is another such disaster. If they discuss it, there will be great trouble in the Confederacy.

It's fun to see the use of the spy networks send the other anecdotes. I can see kids really enjoying out of that story about Grierson overcoming what was probably a fear of horses at the beginning. I can see the aforementioned mr. Vrsan, my sixth grade teacher from Czechoslovakia who had such an incredible love for American history, sharing that anecdote with pride as something the kids could relate to in some ways, even though I don't know how many of us had even ridden a horse. But the idea of overcoming obstacles is there. It's fun to read that grierson is a real person, as I see him Wikipedia, though his exploits will probably be much more memorable here because of the proximity to the battle.

Man, who knows, I don't remember everything I was taught in 6th grade. :) Maybe he did mention the story even OTL.
 
That was an amazing update, thank you for sharing! And thanks for the map, that was really neat and helpful.

I it's fun to see Albert Sidney Johnston have more time and what he would do. Having him captured makes things quite interesting.

I wonder who led McPherson's group when he went down. He will probably get a promotion somewhere at some point since he was able to rally the troops so well.

the cabinet promising to surrender with Breckenridge doesn't mean they can't just force him to resign if they deem it his fault that there is another such disaster. If they discuss it, there will be great trouble in the Confederacy.

It's fun to see the use of the spy networks send the other anecdotes. I can see kids really enjoying out of that story about Grierson overcoming what was probably a fear of horses at the beginning. I can see the aforementioned mr. Vrsan, my sixth grade teacher from Czechoslovakia who had such an incredible love for American history, sharing that anecdote with pride as something the kids could relate to in some ways, even though I don't know how many of us had even ridden a horse. But the idea of overcoming obstacles is there. It's fun to read that grierson is a real person, as I see him Wikipedia, though his exploits will probably be much more memorable here because of the proximity to the battle.

Man, who knows, I don't remember everything I was taught in 6th grade. :) Maybe he did mention the story even OTL.
I didn't think of that calculation when Breckenridge had his cabinet sign on the dotted line, shades of Lincoln forcing the rest of his cabinet to accept Seward in the OTL. Great catch DTF.
 
Grierson did not even like horses, having been kicked in the head by one as a child
I wondering why this man had a dent on his temple.
thanks to a red of spies
Either I just learned a new word or your Spanish is bleeding through, friend. Hell, I might start using it anyway.
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.

Is Johnny Breck attempting to stomach the idea of asking for terms?
Hopefully. The thing that's made the South all the more interesting ITTL is the differences in approach and disposition from Breckenridge as opposed to Davis. The man seems to have a far better sense of the stakes of the war. The better part of valor is discretion and knowing when the clock is ticking is very much to his credit.
There's no sense drawing things out, on his part anyway.

If that surrender letter has the same effect as the surrender from OTL remains to be seen, there's still plenty of people who are seeing red and will no doubt ignore his orders at a minimum.
 
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I wondering why this man had a dent on his temple.

Either I just learned a new word or your Spanish is bleeding through, friend. Hell, I might start using it anyway.



Hopefully. The thing that's made the South all the more interesting ITTL is the differences in approach and disposition from Breckenridge as opposed to Davis. The man seems to have a far better sense of the stakes of the war. The better part of valor is discretion and knowing when the clock is ticking is very much to his credit.
There's no sense drawing things out, on his part anyway.

If that surrender letter has the same effect as the surrender from OTL remains to be seen, there's still plenty of people who are seeing red and will no doubt ignore his orders at a minimum.
It's a solid play by Breckenridge, ensuring none of his cabinet can 'go rogue' if another disaster takes hold. One big downside would be some Union spy or god forbid, a dedicated Fire Eater getting ahold of the document and publicizing it, that'll absolutely gut the Southern leadership along with making a lasting peace that much more difficult, Fire Eaters could use the document as an argument along the lines of the 'stabbed in the back' myth the Germans used after WWI.
 
Fire Eaters could use the document as an argument along the lines of the 'stabbed in the back' myth the Germans used after WWI.
Well its not hard to imagine that the Fire Eaters and their ilk will be blaming the blacks and unionist whites amidst them, they need only point to grant's black spy for evidence. But, i don't think this narrative will become very popular.
In the case of post-ww1 Germany the public thought that the war was going well (or that they at least had a good chance yet), and this was because of the combination of ate censorship and the fact the fighting never came to their doorstep.
That is not the case here, as despite all the spin and some feeble attempts at censorship, the confederate public seems well aware the tide is turning against them. And soon, generals like Sherman will be bringing the fight into the confederate heartland
 
Well its not hard to imagine that the Fire Eaters and their ilk will be blaming the blacks and unionist whites amidst them, they need only point to grant's black spy for evidence. But, i don't think this narrative will become very popular.
In the case of post-ww1 Germany the public thought that the war was going well (or that they at least had a good chance yet), and this was because of the combination of ate censorship and the fact the fighting never came to their doorstep.
That is not the case here, as despite all the spin and some feeble attempts at censorship, the confederate public seems well aware the tide is turning against them. And soon, generals like Sherman will be bringing the fight into the confederate heartland
True, Uncle Billy is not the sort who is known for compassion, understanding, or clemency when it comes to rebellion. Despite Sherman hitting his stride, everything I've read about the time, the southern Fire Eaters had a unique ability to bullshit themselves about the odds despite everything proving contrary. Fire Eaters like Louis Wigfall and Robert Rhett would be absolutely enraged by Johnny Breck's sensible measure and would stir the pot just because, not to mention letting their sympathisers in the military know, like Maj. Gen. William Walker, the OTL general who sent Cleburne's Memorandum to Richmond against Joe Johnston's orders.
 
Please like the update and comment if you have something to say or criticism to offer.

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.
I can see a lot of Southerners giving into hate or despair and trying to murder the Union leaders... there definitely will be guerrilla warfare. The region, as I have said several times, will not see real peace for a long time.

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."
Thanks for the map! I think that, unfortunately, some degree of leasing to Northern investors is impossible to avoid.

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?
Virginia and the East still receive the Lion's share of attention and resources from both the public and the governments, but more people are aware of just how bleak the situation is to the West. Breckinridge, as @Athelstane has pointed out previously, is not likely to carry the war to the bitter end but try and end it in a negotiated peace so as to spare the South the suffering.

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.
Lincoln would accept nothing less than Union and Emancipation. At best Breckinridge and some moderates could aim for a Southern led-Reconstruction, which would stave off the "worst" of the Radical impulses (read, Black civil rights). But of course, the fire-eaters would rather see the South completely destroyed and all its people dead than submit to such "degradation"

Amazing stuff, @Red_Galiray ! Great detail and I like how the western theater is finally coming to strangle the Confederacy once and for all.
Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed this update. As IOTL, it's the West that ultimately dooms the Confederacy.

And there's the Grant we all love to see.
Unconditional Surrender Grant, my favorite general. Since we've touched the topic, I've almost finished Chernow's biography, and it's mentioned that Grant became a better politician after his world tour. I wonder if something similar could happen here...

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.

Thanks for making this, helps visualize things!
The first march, but by no means the last ;)

Well, last time we heard of Kirby Smith he was part of Bragg's failed campaign in Tennessee. I could have him as commander of this "Western Confederacy", but I am open to someone else if there are other candidates. I, too, am very interested in "Kirby Smith's Confederacy". It's fascinating how it basically became an independent state.

That was an amazing update, thank you for sharing! And thanks for the map, that was really neat and helpful.

I it's fun to see Albert Sidney Johnston have more time and what he would do. Having him captured makes things quite interesting.

I wonder who led McPherson's group when he went down. He will probably get a promotion somewhere at some point since he was able to rally the troops so well.

the cabinet promising to surrender with Breckenridge doesn't mean they can't just force him to resign if they deem it his fault that there is another such disaster. If they discuss it, there will be great trouble in the Confederacy.

It's fun to see the use of the spy networks send the other anecdotes. I can see kids really enjoying out of that story about Grierson overcoming what was probably a fear of horses at the beginning. I can see the aforementioned mr. Vrsan, my sixth grade teacher from Czechoslovakia who had such an incredible love for American history, sharing that anecdote with pride as something the kids could relate to in some ways, even though I don't know how many of us had even ridden a horse. But the idea of overcoming obstacles is there. It's fun to read that grierson is a real person, as I see him Wikipedia, though his exploits will probably be much more memorable here because of the proximity to the battle.

Man, who knows, I don't remember everything I was taught in 6th grade. :) Maybe he did mention the story even OTL.
Johnston's capture is a key point for several reasons. The main one is, of course, that he's a high ranking Confederate leader under whose watch atrocities were committed (the massacre at Canton). Since exchanges have broken down, Johnston will be trialed, and that opens a lot of questions about how the Union is to deal with traitors, war criminals, and rebel leaders. Johnston's trial will naturally become the blueprint for future trials of men like Davis, Lee or Breckinridge himself.

The problem is that there really isn't any mechanism for forcing Breckinridge out. Neither the US Constitution nor the Confederate Constitution (which was largely a copy of the first) including anything like the modern 25th amendment. For the Cabinet or anyone else to force Breckinridge out a coup would be needed. And that would certainly not be good for Dixie...

Grierson's is such a good tale. It's one of those moments where reality seems stranger (or perhaps more narrative) than even fiction.

I didn't think of that calculation when Breckenridge had his cabinet sign on the dotted line, shades of Lincoln forcing the rest of his cabinet to accept Seward in the OTL. Great catch DTF.
I was purposely making a reference to Lincoln making his Cabinet sign a similar "Blind Mémorandum", where he outlined a plane to save the Union between Election Day and March, 1865, should he be defeated. Sherman's capture of Atlanta rendered this unnecessary, as that assured Lincoln's reelection.

Beautiful, beautiful!
Thanks! It really is beautiful to see the Mississippi flowing free of the odious traitor presence.

Enjoyed that update.
Thanks! Thank you, especially, for taking the time to say so.

I wondering why this man had a dent on his temple.

Either I just learned a new word or your Spanish is bleeding through, friend. Hell, I might start using it anyway.



Hopefully. The thing that's made the South all the more interesting ITTL is the differences in approach and disposition from Breckenridge as opposed to Davis. The man seems to have a far better sense of the stakes of the war. The better part of valor is discretion and knowing when the clock is ticking is very much to his credit.
There's no sense drawing things out, on his part anyway.

If that surrender letter has the same effect as the surrender from OTL remains to be seen, there's still plenty of people who are seeing red and will no doubt ignore his orders at a minimum.
Damn, every time I think I'm finally fluent I come and make a mistake like that... oh well, it isn't as if I never made a mistake when speaking Spanish.

Breckinridge would rather surrender and spare the people the pain if the situation turns truly hopeless than be the one that leads the South to complete annihilation... but not many think like him. Not for nothing have many authors declared that the Confederacy was something of a suicide pact made by the Planter class.

Well its not hard to imagine that the Fire Eaters and their ilk will be blaming the blacks and unionist whites amidst them, they need only point to grant's black spy for evidence. But, i don't think this narrative will become very popular.
In the case of post-ww1 Germany the public thought that the war was going well (or that they at least had a good chance yet), and this was because of the combination of ate censorship and the fact the fighting never came to their doorstep.
That is not the case here, as despite all the spin and some feeble attempts at censorship, the confederate public seems well aware the tide is turning against them. And soon, generals like Sherman will be bringing the fight into the confederate heartland
Though it's true that many are aware that their chances are bleak, to say the least, others are complete masters of the art of self-delusion. IOTL, even Davis, usually a level-headed man, believed he could carry the South to victory after Appomattox. Of course, the different nature of the war is bound to make more Southerners believe that they don't have a chance and never did, and I think that's necessary if post-war violence and terrorism is to be crushed.

True, Uncle Billy is not the sort who is known for compassion, understanding, or clemency when it comes to rebellion. Despite Sherman hitting his stride, everything I've read about the time, the southern Fire Eaters had a unique ability to bullshit themselves about the odds despite everything proving contrary. Fire Eaters like Louis Wigfall and Robert Rhett would be absolutely enraged by Johnny Breck's sensible measure and would stir the pot just because, not to mention letting their sympathisers in the military know, like Maj. Gen. William Walker, the OTL general who sent Cleburne's Memorandum to Richmond against Joe Johnston's orders.
One of Breckinridge's main advantages over Davis is that his genial personality means that people who hate him do so due to politics, rather than personal feuds or simply dislike as it often happened to Davis. Nonetheless, many within the planter class (who have oversized power within the Army and Congress) think Breckinridge is an apostate that has betrayed them, due to, for example, his opposition to the Twenty Negro Law and his openness to some measures that are anathema to the South (treating Black soldiers as prisoners or being willing to listen to Cleburne and Walker instead of chastising them). It's a terrible, bitter feud that is only becoming more severe as the Confederate cause turns more hopeless.
 
I think that, unfortunately, some degree of leasing to Northern investors is impossible to avoid.
That is a shame. Well, here's hoping that it won't be too bad.
Well, last time we heard of Kirby Smith he was part of Bragg's failed campaign in Tennessee. I could have him as commander of this "Western Confederacy", but I am open to someone else if there are other candidates. I, too, am very interested in "Kirby Smith's Confederacy". It's fascinating how it basically became an independent state.
The Trans-Mississippi Theater is an interesting one to say the least. If the Western Theater is the Confederacy's neglected child, the Trans-Mississippi Theater is the bastard child conveniently sent away to an orphanage with some cash. ITTL, the Confederates probably considered the Trans-Mississippi states to be Arkansas, Texas, Kansas and Missouri, the parishes of Louisiana west of the Mississippi, the Indian Territory, and the New Mexico Territory. The Confederates were forced back to Arkansas from Kansas and Missouri and the plantations in the parishes of Louisiana west of the Mississippi have been burned down by Sherman.
For the leadership of the Trans-Mississippi Theater, the options were pretty limited: van Dorn is probably dead after sleeping with someone's wife, E.K. Smith was one of the more senior Confederate commanders (as senior as Longstreet and outranked Jackson), Theophilus H. Holmes (as senior as Jackson but God help the Confederacy if that man takes command) and the major generals (John B. Magruder, Thomas C. Hindman Sterling Price and Richard Taylor -the most junior members of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi High command).

Although E.K. Smith fails to impress Breckinridge ITTL, one (such as Jefferson Davis) could argue that he is the most suitable for command. Thomas C. Hindman was definitely not going to get the job because he tried to abuse martial law to usurp the state government of Arkansas (and was frankly incompetent). IOTL T.H. Holmes was the commander of the Trans-Mississippi Theater before E.K. Smith. Holmes displayed little skill during his time in Virginia and was nearly deaf (he once remarked "I thought I heard firing" during the artillery hell of Malvern Hill). Holmes was difficult to get along with, resisted any attempts to transfer units even if the other departments were desperate for men, and his health collapsed from stress after he lost 21% of his army in the failed assault on Helena.

John B. Magruder might be an option, having been praised for his distractions in Maryland and Virginia. Historically, Magruder did well in Texas, recapturing Galveston Bay from the U.S. Navy in 1863 IOTL. The only downside to Magruder is Lee's negative review on Magruder's performance IOTL and ITTL. Magruder failed to follow Lee's orders, had a tendency for piecemeal attacks and was accused of being drunk at Malvern Hill. In Texas, Magruder did not give into despair (like his predecessor Hebert did) and carried out the bold attack at Galveston Bay well. However, Magruder's insubordination showed again when he clashed with E.K. Smith over allotment of manpower. Magruder's men were not very fond of him because of Magruder's insistence on living the high life of a privileged commander in full view of the men.

Sterling Price... God, just no. The man was obsessed with retaking Missouri and showed mediocre skill for the most part, but the 1864 Missouri Raid was a total catastrophe. Richard Taylor seems to the best candidate... but only in hindsight. Taylor was bold, ambitious and a capable organizer and trainer of men. The man really was responsible for the fact that there was a Confederate force in Louisiana at all. However, IOTL and ITTL Taylor's performance doesn't really impress. He was a minor nuisance to New Orleans in 1862 and he won Fort Bisland ITTL but still lost the Bayou Teche campaign. Richard Taylor's impressive performance only really shows in late 1863 and so on.

While part of the failure of the Kentucky Campaign, E. Kirby Smith was respected by many in the army for his service in Mexico, served as Johnston's chief of staff and performed well historically as a brigade commander at Bull Run until he was wounded. E.K. Smith won the only Confederate victory in Kentucky (at Richmond, Kenucky) and can shift the blame to Bragg for the defeat at Lexington. I'd say that E.K. Smith had energy and a good mind on logistics and strategy. His strategy was mostly reactionary, trading ground for time to concentrate the army for a knockout blow. However, he definitely fumbled at Jenkins' Ferry and for better or worse focused on reclaiming Arkansas and Missouri.
Historically, the Confederate mass surrenders at Arkansas Post, Vicksburg, and Port Hudson combined with the costly failed assault on Union-fortified Helena left many Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department demoralized and in disarray. Here, I assume that the disasters of surrender of Vicksburg and Port Hudson as well as the decisive battles of Liberty and Union Mills have struck an even greater demoralization. IOTL and (probably) ITTL, the primary driver for the Union to reclaim these states was France's flagrant disregard of the Monroe Doctrine in Mexico. They hoped that by planting the flag in Texas, Benito Juarez's Mexican government could be supported in morale and weapons and discourage France. A Union lodgment on the Rio Grande would also disrupt the cross-border cotton trade that did so much to sustain the Confederate war effort in the Trans-Mississippi.

Although Lyon is in command, I assume that there will be pressure to mount an offensive to finish off the Trans-Mississippi Theater. IOTL, Frederick Steele, a trusted subordinate of Grant and Sherman, outmaneuvered Sterling Price out of Little Rock, Arkansas, with ease. However, invading Texas was the hard part. Historically, the invasions of Texas fell apart due to a lack of focus and considerable distance involved.
  1. Sabine River: If one could move down the Sabine River in gunboats and transports, one could seize Houston and gain control of Texas' railroad network and use it against the Confederates. Historically, the Sabine Pass Expedition was an embarrassment for the Union. Everyone regarded Sabine Pass to be the easiest point for the Union to invade... and yet the Union troops were unable to seize Fort Griffin, a well engineered and modern earthwork fort with only an artillery company as a garrison.
  2. Rio Grande: By taking the Rio Grande, one could disrupt the cotton trade that sustained the Trans-Mississippi Department. This expedition was a technical success: it disrupted the cotton trade and made the French ponder at the Union presence. However, the Rio Grande expedition stretched Union manpower considerably and it was feared that it left New Orleans open to Taylor. Hence, the follow-up to the seizure of the Rio Grande, the invasion of the rest of Texas' coastline and later Houston, was canned.
  3. Texas Overland Expedition: This route returns the Union army to Bayou Teche to invade East Texas. This was a bust from the get go. It would've taken the fight to Taylor but the logistics of the operation was really questionable.
  4. Red River: This takes the Union back to the parts of Louisiana Sherman burned down. Following the Red River might allow the Union to penetrate East Texas, but the long distance and destroyed region makes logistics difficult.

Though it's true that many are aware that their chances are bleak, to say the least, others are complete masters of the art of self-delusion. IOTL, even Davis, usually a level-headed man, believed he could carry the South to victory after Appomattox. Of course, the different nature of the war is bound to make more Southerners believe that they don't have a chance and never did, and I think that's necessary if post-war violence and terrorism is to be crushed.
Seriously, I was stunned to see that Confederate civilian morale, outside of those in Sherman's path, was still high when Confederate military morale was breaking down. Civilians envisioned that Sherman would suffer the same fate as Burgoyne in September 1777; they wrote off Hood's loss at Tennessee to be alright because it wasn't as bad as Horatio Gate's defeat at Camden in 1780; they considered Johnston's army in North Carolina was in totally better shape than Greene's had been in 1780! The diehards only truly lost hope when Lee and Johnston surrendered and Davis was captured (some still clung to the hope of European intervention after Lee's surrender).
 
Unconditional Surrender Grant, my favorite general. Since we've touched the topic, I've almost finished Chernow's biography, and it's mentioned that Grant became a better politician after his world tour. I wonder if something similar could happen here...
Hmmm... I think that Grant's handling of politics improved over time in the office, but Grant's issues with personnel choice is pretty problematic. Grant often stuck to his first impression of someone despite evidence to the contrary, and it negatively affected his judgement of some personnel. I suppose, however, his ability to choose could improve after seeing his supposed friends act less than honorably, but he could still be fooled as seen in the scam of the "Grant-Ward" company.

That reminds me, who will become president in 1868? The Radical Republicans seemed to favor either Salmon P. Chase or Benjamin Wade. Moderate Republicans favored Grant, but Grant, as I mentioned in a previous post, disliked the idea of being president. He hated the idea of having to face vicious criticism from his political opponents and did not trust politicians for their supposed short-sighted maneuvering that led to the civil war. Grant allowed himself to be talked into running for President because he feared losing the fruits of more than seven years' hard work on his part and the sacrifices of the Union soldiers if Copperhead Horatio Seymour won the Presidency.

On that note, one would hope that Republicans could better handle the Panic of 1873... but the panic seems somewhat inevitable. The economic downturn in Europe seems pretty inevitable, which in turn caused European investors to sell off their American investments, particularly railroads. The sell-off resulted in having more bonds for sale than anyone wanted. Railroad companies (who were reliant on borrowing for cash) could no longer find anyone who would lend them cash and thus went bankrupt.

The key failure was the Jay Cooke & Company, the biggest bank in New York. It had invested a lot of money in the railroads, and when the railroads started having problems, Jay Cooke & Company went bankrupt. Thus began, the panic that spread to banks in Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Georgia and the Midwest. Without a Federal Reserve, the U.S. President doesn't really have the economic tools of today's presidents. Moreover, many financial leaders believed the market would regulate itself and was thus distrustful of any government intervention. Can Reconstruction survive such a great economic crisis?
 
Hmmm... I think that Grant's handling of politics improved over time in the office, but Grant's issues with personnel choice is pretty problematic. Grant often stuck to his first impression of someone despite evidence to the contrary, and it negatively affected his judgement of some personnel. I suppose, however, his ability to choose could improve after seeing his supposed friends act less than honorably, but he could still be fooled as seen in the scam of the "Grant-Ward" company.

If John Rawlins lived longer he might have been able to temper some of Grant's worse impulses. The man was Grant's confidant for years and a strong pillar of advice, and could probably have sniffed out and quashed some of Grant's more problematic subordinates. Even absent that, he was a great fixer and would probably have been invaluable in the administration.

Than again, IIRC he was an advocate for Cuban independence and he probably would have wanted Grant to go to war over the Virginius Affair so maybe not as great...
 
Not super familiar with the period, but could the government stabilize the railroads by contracting them to build new rail lines in the south? iirc, the southern rail road infrastructure was pretty under developed
To start from the beginning, the key railroad project that failed and caused the collapse of Jay Cooke & Company was the Northern Pacific Railway. In hindsight, the project seemed doomed from the beginning. It was intended as a railroad that stretched from Minnesota to Washington state. This project was even bigger than the original transcontinental railroad and involved passing through that Sherman described as "bad as God ever made or anyone could scare up this side of Africa." Jay Cooke, a prominent financier, pretty much financed the company. By 1872, there was a problem. The wilderness and mountains beyond Bismarck, North Dakota meant that the cost of construction was going to skyrocket. Due to international and domestic factors, raising money through the domestic and international investors was not an option and so Jay Cooke's bank was forced to draw upon its own resources to cover its arrears and was close to bankrupt.

At this point, could the government have intervened? Perhaps. But Grant's government was not inclined to help railroads after the embarrassment of the Credit Mobilier scandal. Helping the development of Southern railroad infrastructure would have very problematic. Simply put, the Northern Pacific Railway would need even more money than before to start building railroads. Railroads are not cheap. You need to build up a massive amount of capital before one can even building railroads. This typically requires external financing in the form of debt and equities. Due to international and domestic factors, raising money would have been difficult and probably require the government to print money (inflation) which would have involved very sharp political debate in Congress.

Thinking about it, one would have to come up with a way to improve corporate governance in the U.S. to prevent such a crisis or perhaps an improved National Banking Act, but I'm not sure which historical figure is best suited to handle this problem.
Unfortunately, since the Long Depression took place in the late 19th century, there are not a lot of studies on the subject. It's a shame, especially since the Great Financial Crisis had a good resemblance to this depression.

As a background, following the American Civil War, railroad construction grew dramatically. The scale of railroad operations, with large fixed costs before any revenue could be obtained, meant that firms had to obtain external financing (equity or bonds). Most used debt and the much of the debt of smaller firms was often owned by foreign investors. The key firm involved was the Jay Cooke & company firm. Jay Cooke was a prominent financier and innovative banker. He gained an excellent reputation for managing to sell Union government loans across the nation to small investors through a network of brokerage houses and agents. After the war Cooke continued as the primary underwriter of US government debt and marketed both government debt and private securities in the US and Europe.

Cooke decided to buy Northern Pacific Railway, a transcontinental railroad. Cooke and Company had underwritten $100m worth of Northern Pacific bonds in 1869. Politicians were bribed, newspapers were bought, and the bonds were initially widely promoted both domestically and internationally, promising riches of new territory. By 1873, there was a problem. The company and several others were going bankrupt. Why?

There are two traditional views for the cause of this depression:
  1. International factors: In Europe, on May 1873, the stock market in Austria and Germany crash. The German and Austrian crashes are often linked to the U.S. by the collapse in demand by European investors for U.S. railroad bonds. There was also a sudden stop in capital flows from the UK to the settler colonies, which includes the US.
  2. Domestic factors: there was definitely overbuilding and overcapacity. In agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation, plenty of real progress was made, but the pace was more rapid than was consistent with healthy development. Facilities for the production of many commodities were provided beyond demand, and many enterprises that had expanded had insufficient working capital (not enough money for day-to-day operations) and collapsed when subjected to the strain of crisis and depression. Furthermore, the Coinage Act of 1873, which embraced the gold standard and demonitized silver, reduced money supply and increased interest rates. This meant trouble for companies that borrowed a lot like railroads.
With all these factors, the slide to the Panic of 1873 began on late August when the newspapers reported that two railroad companies were in danger of collapse. Two major financial institutions, the New York Security and Warehouse Company and Kenyon, Cox & Company, failed. The straw that broke the camel's back was the collapse of Jay Cooke & co. The public thought: if Jay Cooke can't be trusted, who can we trust? So they rushed to get their money back. There were a lot of bank runs, which caused plenty of banks and other financial institutions to go under. Now, if Jay Cooke & Co. can be saved, the panic of 1873 would still be bad, but not terrible. Plenty of railroads were probably going to go under, which hurts demand for coal and iron. But if the banks and other financial institutions could survive, commerce and industry would be less hurt because they still have the option to borrow money for day-to-day operations. Not all companies are going to be saved, but at least 18,000 companies aren't going to go under as historical.
 
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