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"What if the South won the ACW?" Topic

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Warspite119 Apr 2023 3:38 a.m. PST

I do like 'what if?' discussions and I spotted this one on YouTube:

YouTube link

One of the earliest points he makes is the weakness of the Southern position and its reliance on European imports and exports of cotton to pay for them. This ended with the Union blockade.

This is my reply:

"The Confederacy's first and best chance of winning was to get official government recognition from France and Great Britain. The CSA had cut its supply of cotton early in the ACW to try to force GB and France into this recognition due to the effects on their cotton industry (dire in the case of GB – Lancashire cotton workers were starving in the streets when the mills closed for lack of cotton).

Assuming GB and France give in and do recognise the CSA, the supply issue for weapons and gunpowder are solved and the CSA can fight for a good stalemate and even a victory. The Royal Navy and maybe the French navy opt to break the Union blockade and escort European supply ships into the southern ports and get the cotton exports out. The CSA can trade cotton for everything it needs. The Union Navy backs off from confrontation with the European navies, fearing a war on two fronts. The ‘Anaconda Strategy' disintegrates. The South now has a chance.

But with supplies from Europe can come increased anti-slavery agitation, as both France and Britain had banned the Atlantic slave trade in the 1840s. Indeed France and Britain could argue that their naval support is only good as long as the South guarantees to end slavery by, say, 1870. With the Confederacy committing itself to end slavery, one of the great causes of the ACW is eliminated and a grudging compromise might be reached to end the stalemate. A 'live and let live' policy might be agreed by the Union and the CSA.

Black slaves are freed by 1870, probably with government compensation as had happened when Britain freed its Caribbean slaves in the early 19th century, but the black population is NOT enfranchised and thus white domination of Southern politics continues. With the lack of voting rights, there is no need for Southern vigilantes and the formation of the KKK and so the 1870 to 1900 period is less polarised and less violent in the South. The free black people are still second-class but without threatening the political status quo they are not an issue in white eyes.

Continued pressure from France and GB might see black males over 30 or 35 achieve a vote by 1900 or the end of WW1. But white political interests and agendas would prevail in the South."

which can be found on the supplied link.



rustymusket19 Apr 2023 4:30 a.m. PST

Blacks would be free but not enfranchised. IMHO: Well, I would think it might take a while, but I would foresee uprisings due to non-enfranchisement and continued non-free freedom of former slaves. Even with being given Constitutional freedom, black former slaves were not truly given freedom and voting rights in the South. Even in the North, it was questionable. I think the KKK would have existed to deal with "criminal" behavior of former slaves, so very much an issue. White people helping former slaves in the South would be criminals almost as much as the former slaves. I am not conversant in apartheid South Africa, so I cannot give a comparison. Again, IMHO.

Personal logo KimRYoung Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2023 4:48 a.m. PST

Why speculate, watch the movie:

C.S.A. The Confederate States of America


Totenkopf Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2023 5:24 a.m. PST

Although I understand the interest in such topics. It's kind of like what if Jackson had not died? Or How would a Roman legion fare against a PanzerGrenadier company in 1944?

From a historical perspective, these scenarios are non-starters.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2023 5:56 a.m. PST

I think Totenkopf got a sneak peak at Osprey's "future releases" list.

Dn Jackson Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2023 6:31 a.m. PST

The primary issue I see with the above would be the breaking of the blockade. Doing so would be an act of war against the US. France and the UK were reluctant to reluctant to recognize the CS government as a belligerent for fear of starting a war. I don't think there was the political will in the UK to do it and France wouldn't do it without the UK.

donlowry19 Apr 2023 8:04 a.m. PST

True, and such a war would spread to British North America (Canada) and Mexico (if started after France had taken over there).

The trouble with the Confederate hopes of European interference was that there had been bumper crops of cotton the previous few years, and there was a sizable reserve built up in England, et al. The CSA could have shipped a lot more over before the blockade got going good, to finance the purchase of weapons and equipment, but if it had there would have been no incentive for the Europeans to break the blockade.

Of course, everyone expected a short war (say a year or less), which also mitigated against breaking the blockade, if it was all going to be over soon anyway.

Personal logo Mister Tibbles Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2023 9:10 a.m. PST

This is like saying what would my life be like today if I had married the other girl 40 years ago?

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2023 10:18 a.m. PST

Indeed! What can be cathartic than pointless speculation.

Not one of us19 Apr 2023 10:45 a.m. PST

Not an entire waste of time. As an international relations topic, working over the what-ifs might shed light on what to do in some future event.

McPherson's Antietam book makes a good case for British and French plans for "intervention" should the Confederates continue to "sweep all before them" in 1862. The British considered blockades to be a valuable tool of their own and did not want to undermine the concept, so they supported even a weak blockade on those grounds. The intervention mentioned would have been pressure on the (perceived weak) US government for an armistice and a general empowering of the US peace parties.

A common theme on both sides was ending the war with union again, with slavery intact. That "put it back the way it was" theme seems almost as persistent as the complete C.S. independence theme. Whether a Civil War II happened later under those conditions would likely have depended on a number of complicated factors like rate of industrialization, how discouraged everyone was by CW1 as it ended in 1862, wars with other countries (IE – Spain), etc..

Irish Marine19 Apr 2023 11:12 a.m. PST

There were of 2 million Union Soldiers under arms near the end of the Civil War neither the UK or France would want to deal with that.

rmaker19 Apr 2023 12:02 p.m. PST

The biggest problem the Confederacy faced was its own internal political weakness. As early as 1862, various states were cooperating with Richmond only reluctantly, if at all; Georgia's governor Brown being a case in point. By 1864 some legislatures were already discussing secession, and throughout, some states had serious inter-regional problems, e.g., Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas.

Stryderg19 Apr 2023 12:35 p.m. PST

If the south had won the war, sweet tea would be more popular!

Legionarius19 Apr 2023 4:13 p.m. PST

The South did win; the Confederates did not win.

Mr Elmo19 Apr 2023 6:03 p.m. PST

By winning do we mean being allowed to stay the CSA or conquering the North?

I'm picturing a land where the power rests with White land owners. Women would not have the right to vote, drive, etc. and the human rights of slaves would be dire. Maybe like modern Muslim countries only Christian.

There would be a Berlin style wall on the Mason Dixon line.

Bill N19 Apr 2023 6:13 p.m. PST

The Southern economy was much stronger in 1860 than many histories like to portray it. In 1865 much of the capital, manufacturing capacity and transportation capacity in the South had either been destroyed or exhausted. This is why the South ended up economically dependent on the Northeast after the War. If the Confederacy won early its economy was robust enough so it could rebuild on its own terms. A later Confederate win could result in a Confederacy that was economically dependent on foreign capital. Also boundaries matter. A Confederacy that included Maryland, western Virginia and Kentucy would be a far stronger nation than if it did not.

DJCoaltrain19 Apr 2023 8:11 p.m. PST

As long as slavery was protected in the CSA Constitution, there would not be foreign recognition. Also, too many horrific war casualties in the 1850s European wars made a lot of Europeans wary. Britain's "Balance of power" in Europe would have been in shambles. The French Army were waist deep in Mexico, and losing that war. The Prussians were looking for an excuse to unite the German Nation under a Prussian banner, not Austrian. The Russians were looking for any ally in Europe, they sent their fleet to the USA so it was beyond the reach of France and Britain. The CSA had very few blue water war ships. The burden of Naval actions would have fallen on the Brits. The USS Monitor launched in 1862. La Gloire in 1859, but the French were not likely to risk sending it across the Atlantic to fight in American coastal waters. 1861 to June 1863 was not a time when either Britain or France could effectively intervene in the ACW, and after June 1863 it was much too late. The Emancipation Proclamation in Fall of 1862 made it politically impossible. Slavery made it impossible for Britain or France to intervene for the CSA. Just a few thoughts.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2023 12:18 a.m. PST

The CSA in the very late part of the war, with Richmond under siege, the Confederate government did offer to end slavery in exchange for recognition from Britain and of course, Britain refused. The Confederacy was largely overrun by Union troops. So it was an empty offer.

To paraphrase Alexander Stephens "Without slavery this nation has no reason to exist." There is no way the Confederate plantation owners were going to give up three billion dollars (1860 dollars) worth of property. This was the whole point of succession.

If the CSA had managed to win the war slavery would have lasted probably into the early 20th century. The nation would have been treated as South Africa was in the 20th Century, as an international outcast. Far from phasing slavery out, the CSA had plans to expand their slave empire into the Caribbean and Central America.

King Cotton Diplomacy was a failure and only hurt the CSA. Britain developed other sources of cotton in Egypt and India. After the war, southern cotton would never approach pre-war numbers.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2023 2:34 a.m. PST

If the Confederacy had achieved independence, there would eventually have been battles for which we have no maps, orders of battle or appropriate castings. The speculative politics and diplomacy of a southern victory belong on

Mr Elmo20 Apr 2023 3:01 a.m. PST

appropriate castings

Wouldn't that be Wild West Exodus Confederates?

Stonewall Jackson with a bionic arm is pretty cool.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2023 4:44 a.m. PST

There is also a fairly serious book on this that deals with a lot of the economic issues


Bill N20 Apr 2023 8:31 a.m. PST

A few quick points OC.

Stephens' Cornerstone Speach is misunderstood by most modern scholars. It was an act of politics, pure and simple.
Stephens was not a Fire-eater. He was viewed with suspicion by those who were. The Cornerstone Speach was intended to give comfort to those who questioned whether Stephens should have a place in the new nation.

Slavery, or more accurately the maintenance and expansion of slavery in the face of growing opposition, is what started to bring the Southern states together. What gets overlooked is the rise in a Southern identity that also occurred. There was a belief that the U.S. had taken a wrong turn while the South was remaining true to the spirit of the American Revolution. Think "Not in my America" 1860 style.

By 1880 U.S. cotton export numbers exceeded those of 1860. The U.S. was the world's primary cotton producer well into the 20th century. What changed was the relative importance of cotton in the U.S. economy.

Bismarck20 Apr 2023 3:22 p.m. PST

If the Confederacy won, Historicon would be held in Atlanta
with Cold Wars held in Richmond.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2023 10:03 p.m. PST

Bill N,

Stephens' Cornerstone Speech is misunderstood by most modern scholars. It was an act of politics, pure and simple

This sounds like another attempt by the lost cause crowd to rehabilitate the CSA on slavery.

Stephens meant every word. There is no misunderstanding. Stephens's speech is his defense of slavery, outlining the perceived differences between the North and the South, and the racial rhetoric used to show the inferiority of African Americans.

The Confederates believed they were the true inheritors of the Founding Father's vision. According to them, It was the loyal citizenry in the North who strayed away from what the Founders intended. After all, it was the Constitution that allowed slavery.

The CSA put Washington on their nation's seal. Lee was very much looked upon as a latter-day Washington with his rag-tag army defeating a mighty foe and with his family ties through his wife to Martha Washington. I agree there was a sense of Confederate nationalism among its white citizens.

I do agree with Stephens that without slavery there would have been no reason for the Confederate States to exist. I would add no need for a war resulting in 700,000 dead.

I think you might be right about the Southern cotton trade. By the turn of the century, they had recovered their markets. Ironically the US Merchant Marine never recovered its place as the leading nation. Thanks to Confederate commerce raiders and the British who financed them.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP21 Apr 2023 10:21 a.m. PST

"Wouldn't that be Wild West Exodus Confederates?"

If you're serious Mr Elmo, no. In a few years, both USA and CSA armies would be differently uniformed, organized, trained and equipped. And they'd be fighting wars we can only guess at. Slave uprising with clandestine USA support? Plains Indians with CSA arms and ammunition? Border clashew with one another? A Texan war of Secession from the CSA? A Californian war of Secession from the USA? We leave historical miniatures immediately after the course of history changes, and the differences will only grow as we get further from the "change date."

And we get nothing in return. If I fight battles based on Howard, Tolkien, Piper, Drake or Pournelle, I get scenarios, described armies and sometimes even purpose-built castings. If I fight battles where the change date is only a year or so off the prime time line--"Cold War Gone Hot" is the classic example--I know, pretty much, what men and equipment will be in play.

But guessing at the franchise in the CSA 35 years or more into an alternate future gives us nothing as miniature wargamers--no armies, no wars, no battles. If someone wants to write such a thing up as a novel, I might take a look at it as a science fiction fan. But it has nothing to do with miniatures, and not much to do with history.

Bill N21 Apr 2023 10:53 a.m. PST

Not "Lost Cause ism" OC. Being PC isn't a license to be factually misleading.

Most people who quote Stephens's speech are unaware that Alexander Stephens opposed secession. That in the days immediately following Lincoln's election he told the Georgia Legislature that talk of secession was premature. That he said of the election of 1860 "The result was different from what we wished; but the election has been constitutionally held." Stephens was by no means anti-slavery. He believed though that in the critical days of 1860-61 that the interests of his region were better served in the U.S. than outside of it. His views on this were well known at the time. His pro-Union stance right up to the moment when secession was an accomplished fact was probably a factor is his being selected Vice President of the C.S.A.

If you are looking for a good defense of slavery quote from a Confederate that was true to the speaker's position I would suggest the following from Howell Cobb: "You cannot make soldiers of slaves, or slaves of soldiers. The day you make a soldier of them is the beginning of the end of the Revolution. And if slaves seem good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong."

donlowry22 Apr 2023 7:59 a.m. PST

Being PC isn't a license to be factually misleading.

I'm afraid that is exactly what it is.

Marcus Brutus23 Apr 2023 8:26 p.m. PST

This sounds like another attempt by the lost cause crowd to rehabilitate the CSA on slavery.

I get tired of people quickly retreating to the "Lost Cause" trope when they run into an opinion they don't like. Argue against the opinion you don't like but can we stay away from ad hominem attacks?

Brechtel19824 Apr 2023 7:01 a.m. PST

How is the subject of the 'Lost Cause' a 'trope' and anywhere near an 'ad hominem attack'?

Brechtel19824 Apr 2023 10:59 a.m. PST

Definition of 'trope':

1: a word or expression used in a figurative sense : FIGURE OF SPEECH

:3 a common or overused theme or device : CLICHÉ

definition of 'ad hominem':


-(of an argument or reaction) directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.


-in a way that is directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.

Au pas de Charge24 Apr 2023 7:01 p.m. PST

I believe what he is referring to is the exasperation people get when they cant celebrate all that good confederate stuff without having the tedious detail of slavery ruining the festivities.

It seems Tennessee has recently gone all in for an official Confederate History Month. Although there are several former Confederate States that celebrate this "holiday", Tennessee is special because they omitted all references to slavery and simply celebrate…well, let me put it Tennessee's own words:

…Confederates conducted "a four-year heroic struggle for states' rights, individual freedom, local government control, and a determined struggle for deeply held beliefs."


I mean, but for the slavery, it sounds so very noble. Who would disagree with a lofty opinion concerning such eternal values such as State's Rights, Individual freedom and deeply held beliefs?

Put this way, opposing heroic Confederate values seems downright un-American.

I have to admit, I never thought of the Confederacy as a fight for individual freedom. I guess you learn something new every day.

Brechtel19825 Apr 2023 1:58 a.m. PST

And then there's the fact that the Confederate states were in rebellion against the United States…

arthur181525 Apr 2023 3:00 a.m. PST

Yes, but can the USA claim that rebellion is such a heinous crime when the country itself was born out of rebellion?

Here in the UK, we don't seem to get so worked up over the numerous rebellions – some successful; others not – that have occurred during our history. So we have a statue of Oliver Cromwell outside Parliament, though he fought against the Crown, was proclaimed a traitor and ritually 'executed' although he was already dead after the Restoration.

Brechtel19825 Apr 2023 8:03 a.m. PST

The Confederacy attempted to tear the country apart. That is a heinous crime, and theirs was a society that defended and used slavery. That is also a heinous crime. And Great Britain, along with France, wanted to support the Confederacy, at least initially. One of the reasons is that they feared that the US would grow into a large industrial state, which it eventually did, surpassing both Great Britain and France.

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP25 Apr 2023 8:18 a.m. PST

"Yes, but can the USA claim that rebellion is such a heinous crime when the country itself was born out of rebellion?"

"The Confederacy attempted to tear the country apart. That is a heinous crime, and theirs was a society that defended and used slavery."

As our colonial ancestors during the Revolution did both, tearing the country apart and defended slavery. We are happy they won in this country, but they did do it.

Au pas de Charge25 Apr 2023 10:19 a.m. PST

As our colonial ancestors during the Revolution did both, tearing the country apart and defended slavery.

You do realize that this is thematically what the 1619 Project asserts?

We are happy they won in this country, but they did do it.

Perhaps we owe the Confederacy a debt of gratitude on par with the Founders? We could nationalize Confederate History Month devoted to all those amiable and admirable Confederate values like individual freedom, personal dignity and treating all men equally.

As an anthem, the song "NY State of Mind" could be rewritten as "Confederate State of Mind".

Brechtel19825 Apr 2023 10:33 a.m. PST

Well said.

Brechtel19825 Apr 2023 11:04 a.m. PST

As our colonial ancestors during the Revolution did both, tearing the country apart and defended slavery.

The 13 colonies were not a 'country' before the Revolution, but 13 separate colonies each with their own colonial government. The main ideas of the Revolution were independence from Great Britain and to forge a new country, both goals being accomplished.

The Revolution was not fought to defend slavery. That is ludicrous and just plain wrong. And that is one of the ideas expressed in the 1619 project, which is also wrong.

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP25 Apr 2023 12:09 p.m. PST

Brechtel, your previous line Specifically said: "used slavery". So from that perspective, so did the colonists who rebelled against the King. But as some loyalist also owned slaves, neither side can be said to be attempting to free them.

Sentence in question: "and theirs was a society that defended and used slavery."

As far as fighting to defend slavery, I have no idea. I've seen some argue that they did and others argue they did not. But as I said, both sides still owned slaves, so they obviously did "use them".

Although the colonists DID NOT have all the rights of a British citizen, they were still subjects of the crown and therefore DID rebel against said King. So from that perspective can be compared to the Confederates. That is fact, no matter how you may want to disagree.

"And that is one of the ideas expressed in the 1619 project, which is also wrong."

On this we agree, the "1619 Project" is crap history. But not a subject here and has been argued to death on TMP before.

Brechtel19825 Apr 2023 1:41 p.m. PST

Again, have you read, at least partially, the 1619 project?

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP25 Apr 2023 1:59 p.m. PST

Enough to regret reading it. 🤮 As you seemed to agree with.

donlowry26 Apr 2023 7:56 a.m. PST

Ironic that Tennessee, of all states, would do this, when one-third of the state (East Tennessee) was very much AGAINST the Confederacy!

As for states' rights, what about the fugitive slave law, that denied free states the right to protect run-away slaves?

Au pas de Charge26 Apr 2023 12:04 p.m. PST

Well said.

Thank you.

It is curious that the persons who want to support the Confederacy deploy the arguments that only the Confederacy ever deployed to justify their actions and then become both worried that others see them as pro-Confedracy or cite the very recognition of their source as an ad hominem attack. Further, it seems curious that if someone considers you to to be the very thing you unyieldingly approve of and support, that they would consider that recognition a slur.

Curious but not altogether surprising because several of them continue to keep banging on with their egregious interpretations of the Constitution and it's working, interpretation and history in spite of having been proven wrong in several different forums.

The 1619 Project does not maintain that it is history just a set of ideas and different perspectives on how we view our history. Interestingly and again, the very persons who seem to constantly need to defend the Confederacy seem to also need to condemn the 1619 Project often citing non-existent sources for the first position while not bothering to read or even contemplate the ideas for the other position.

And there are many contrasts between the Founders and the Confederacy.

The Founders knew they were rebelling while the Confederacy were clear that they were seceding and not rebelling. In fact, the CSA was careful to suppress any notion of rebellion as a dangerous chance to give new rights to people who might not have had them before or ask for any changes the CSA elite might find threatening.

If the Founders had slaves, most of why they rebelled had very specific non-slavery based reasons they could give voice too. Meanwhile the CSA appears to have had no other reason to secede other than slavery. Their claims that they had other reasons dont seem to really ever be able to be voiced or divorced from preserving slavery. Additionally, the CSA was trying to take land away from the Union, which was a no-no.

There is also the reason Brechtel gives, that the colonists didnt enjoy full British Citizenship and were considered "subjects" with lesser rights. Here at last we have some parallel between the Revolutionary period and the Civil War where the British crown was not extending full, equal rights to to the colonists and the CSA was not interested in equal rights among the slave population.

Au pas de Charge26 Apr 2023 12:27 p.m. PST

Ironic that Tennessee, of all states, would do this, when one-third of the state (East Tennessee) was very much AGAINST the Confederacy!

There were a lot of people in the South who did not want to secede but they were drowned out. I believe that even now, Tennessee is very heavily Gerrymandered by the sorts who think the CSA was a fight for the rights of man. Those types always seem to be the most militant and willing to work for control.

I believe many people from Tennessee actually fought for the North.

I should also mention that there were plenty in the North who either wanted to allow the South to Secede or sympathized with their desire to keep slaves.

As for states' rights, what about the fugitive slave law, that denied free states the right to protect run-away slaves?

That non-enforcement is ironically cited by several Seceding states as one of the last straws. Many of the Slave States appear to have only been in the Union as long as they got their way. The South was very sly about making sure slavery was legal. Ironic if only because the very people who think something's legality is both an ironclad defense and justification for behavior often will also tell you that you cant legislate morality.

Really it isnt a shock that the South lost the Civil War. From the outset, slavery was a shortsighted labor solution. Additionally, everything the South did was proof that they had a very selfish, emotional approach to life which cannot sustain a serious nation. If you look at its secession, there was no thought or planning, just a visceral reaction to forces they considered a threat to its id.

What is truly sad, is that even its truest supporters in TN, when they created a Confederate History Month, had to whitewash slavery out of the equation.

Brechtel19826 Apr 2023 1:37 p.m. PST

The south was always for 'states' rights' and non-interference by the federal government-with the exception of the Fugitive Slave law, which was federal, not state, law.

donlowry27 Apr 2023 10:56 a.m. PST

I believe that even now, Tennessee is very heavily Gerrymandered by the sorts who think the CSA was a fight for the rights of man.

I thought they were fighting for their rats!

Bill N27 Apr 2023 6:07 p.m. PST

There were a lot of people in the South who did not want to secede but they were drowned out.

I think it would be more accurate to say that as it became apparent their states would secede, a split occurred between Southern Unionists. Many like Stephens chose to stick with their states.

Take a look at what happened in Virginia. In three votes over less than three weeks starting at the beginning of April, 1861, the Virginia Convention moved from 2:1 against secession to 8:5 in favor. Jubal Early was a member of the Convention and an outspoken Unionist. After the votes he said "I would call upon gentlemen to recollect that it often happens that those who begin a revolution do not end it." We know what he did afterwards. Alexander Stuart, another Unionist argued at the Convention "Secession is not only war, but it is emancipation. It is bankruptcy. It is repudiation. It is widespread ruin to our people." He voted against secession throughout the Convention and yet signed the Ordinance of Secession. A number of other Unionist delegates went on to support or serve Virginia and the Confederacy during the ACW.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP27 Apr 2023 8:43 p.m. PST

The south was always for 'states' rights' and non-interference by the federal government-with the exception of the Fugitive Slave law, which was federal, not state, law.

"There's a great deal of irony in the fact that in the course of the war, the Confederacy developed the most powerful—the most intrusive—central government seen in American history, until about the midpoint of the 20th century."

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP29 Apr 2023 10:53 p.m. PST

Harry Turtledove has written a series of novels on this question. My son and I have played many game based on his books. My son was very happy to meet the author when he visited our game at Origins some years ago.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2023 2:37 a.m. PST

I think I still have this game.


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