The Confederate States of America: What if History?

Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia
Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

What if history?

This hub started off as a reply to question on what America would be like if the Confederate States of America achieved their independence in the American Civil War. We can never be sure what would have happened if one thing or another changed in history, but it can never hurt to imagine what might have been.

Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee

How could the Union have lost?

The Battle of Gettysburg was a pivotal battle in the Civil War. The Union army stopped the advance of the Confederate forces, and probably saved the capital from being invaded. If the Union forces at Gettysburg had fallen it is highly likely that the Confederates would have been able to force the Union to recognize their secession and ended the Civil War on terms more favorable to the South.

There are several ways the Battle of Gettysburg could have gone wrong for the Union. General Lee launched the largest artillery barrage ever seen on American soil. If some of the Union forces had been held in reserve, or had they not finished deploying before the barrage they would have been decimated which would have greatly weakened the Union defense.

Another part of the battle that could have turned the Union victory in to defeat was a cavalry battle that took place behind the Federal lines. Major General J.E.B. Stuart led a confederate cavalry charge against Gen. Gregg and George Armstrong Custer. Had the Confederates successfully driven off the Union cavalry they would have been able to support Picketts Charge which may have changed the outcome of the battle.

If either of these events changed Gettysburg and allowed Lee to be victorious the Confederate States of America could have become a permanent piece of America. The Union would consist of the Northern States and their industrial might, while the South would have been an agricultural society.

Two Americas

The world would be a very different place if the Confederate states were successful. American expansion would have been halted or extremely slowed. Without the Southern states the Union would have lost many natural resources, as well the means to transport goods out of the country. The Mississippi river would have fallen under the control of the Confederate States if they had New Orleans and this would have proved disastrous for the Union.

The USA would never have been able to fight in the wars it did at the end of the 19th and early 20th century. This means that the Spanish would have retained some of their overseas empire rather than lose it to the USA. The World Wars might have seen the Union and Confederacy on different sides of the war. There would probably have been more territorial wars in North America between the Union, Confederacy, Canada, and Mexico.

The Union contained the majority of the industry in America, but there were several important Southern cities before the Civil War. After the Civil War the Confederates industrial capacity would have been expanded. Cities like Atlanta would become especially important because of their railroad hubs, but new cities would have sprung up along the Mississippi to control trade and maximize easy travel routes.

Socially the South would have retained white domination. Slavery would have been phased out as technology made slaves less profitable, but African-Americans would probably have been banned from civil society. Poverty in the south would be rampant, with income distribution extremely uneven long before the north. Otherwise the south would have maintained many of the nationalist, militarist, American-Christian views that it acquired anyway, the only difference being that the southerners would be smug about being the winners.

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Comments 28 comments

ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada


I do enjoy a good game of "What If" history.

I tend to think that if the Battle of Gettysburg were to be lost by the Union forces, it would have been on the first or second day of the battle rather than the third day during Pickett's charge.

Had General Rhodes carried the top of Cemetery Hill on July 1 or had General Longstreet conducted a more vigorous push against the Union left on the Round Tops on July 2...the outcome could have been a Confederate victory.

More interesting is the post-war North American scenario you posit...the latter half of the 19th and the 20th centuries would have been markedly different.

Excellent job! I am voting up and sharing!


hush4444 profile image

hush4444 4 years ago from Hawaii

What a fascinating hub! I had never thought about how much our history would have changed if the Confederacy had been victorious. My Southern husband is going to love this!

ata1515 profile image

ata1515 4 years ago from Buffalo, New York. Author


I'm glad you enjoyed it! I didn't think to mention Gen. Longstreet but that is just as possible as other scenarios. Thanks for stopping by and voting up!


Thanks for the comment, I hope your husband enjoys this hub as well!

Healthy Pursuits profile image

Healthy Pursuits 4 years ago from Oregon

Wow. The possible ramifications are endless. In WWI and WWII, what would the difference have made to Europe? What would it have meant with Hitler and Japan? Would there have even been a Pearl Harbor? Would Hitler have succeeded? What would that have meant to the Jews and all of the other groups that were persecuted under the Nazis? Stop! Stop! My brain's on fire! Great, thought-provoking hub.

tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

Very interesting. I have lived up north and down south and I agree with your theory. That is a very neat anaylsis on something I have never thought of before. Well done!

iguidenetwork profile image

iguidenetwork 4 years ago from Austin, TX

Very interesting!

marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois

There's a humorous documentary called the Confederate States of America that takes on this idea (it's in my Netflix queue). Part of me feels that we have two Americas today - North and South. The ideals are very different between the two, different enough to justify the peaceful creation of two countries, in my opinion.

Kyricus profile image

Kyricus 4 years ago from Ohio

As an avid reader of both civil war history and historical fiction I really appreciated the thoughts this hub brought to mind.

It reminds me of a sci-fi book I once read about "Alternate Generals" ( I forget the author unfortunately) and a story it had where instead of Lincoln leading the north, situations were reversed and it was instead Jefferson Davis in the north, and Lincoln in the south.

I love stories and imaginings about what could have been were only one simple ingredient different.

ata1515 profile image

ata1515 4 years ago from Buffalo, New York. Author

Healthy Pursuits,

Thanks for the comment, I'm really glad that you found it so thought-provoking!



Thanks for the comment!



Thanks for the comment!



That's really interesting. hopefully you mean it's on the instant queue because I'm going to go look for it!



That's awesome. I think that Davis would have made a great President for the North.

Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Oh honey, the South couldn't be more smug if we had won! It's just our nature. But you make some great points and this is a very interesting hub. I had a favorite history prof in college who had a famous (infamous?) last lecture "How the South could have and should have won the War Between the States." Basically he said we should have sold our cotton to England to finance the war instead of burning it to keep the North from getting it. Whatever.

I think the Union would have reformed to fight WWI as an excuse to put the foolishness behind us. By then both regions would have seen we are stronger because of what the other brings to the table.

The progress of the industrial revolution would have brought the scurge of slavery to an end in the South as it did in the North earlier.

And race relations would have progressed at a quicker pace and with less animosity if the region hadn't been put through the hostility of Reconstruction.

Possibly. Who knows?

ata1515 profile image

ata1515 4 years ago from Buffalo, New York. Author

Kathleen Cochran,

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your interesting thoughts on the subject.

UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Nice job, ata1515. Very thought-provoking. I liked how you worked from parts of a battle to how two countries would have changed the world. Something to think about in my idle time. Voted up and interesting.

ata1515 profile image

ata1515 4 years ago from Buffalo, New York. Author


Thanks for comment and vote up!

Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

There were so many battles that were important to the Union winning the war, I don't think the South would ever have gotten free. The Union would have just kept fighting until it won. Though there were many resource in the South, it did not have the ability to process it. The north had farms and could use the resources from the Midwest to support its industry as it did during the war.

I like what if things also. This was a good hub.

ata1515 profile image

ata1515 4 years ago from Buffalo, New York. Author


Thanks for the comment. The Union could have kept on fighting if they lost at Gettysburg, but it would have been a much longer war and the South may have found international recognition much the same as the USA did after the Battle of Saratoga in the Revolutionary War. This would have allowed the South to purchase arms and possibly defeat the North.

Skarlet profile image

Skarlet 4 years ago from California

Wow! Now this is a great hub!

ata1515 profile image

ata1515 4 years ago from Buffalo, New York. Author


Thanks for the comment!

eaglecreek profile image

eaglecreek 4 years ago from Vilonia , Arkansas

I like the hub but there are a few things not mentioned. Had the South won the war here are a few changes we would see today: Elvis and Dale Earnhardt holidays, $20 dollar fine for men that don't open a door for a lady, national anthem would be free bird and Hospitality and graciousness would catch on everywhere. That's just a few.

Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Ata1515, good point. I did not consider that at all. I am sure England would have thrown its support behind the Confederacy just to see if it could get a foothold into the country again.

Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Eaglecreek, that's funny. I don't know whether to be sad or continue laughing. All the things that I love about the South would have been here but but I would be a second class citizen if one at all.

eaglecreek profile image

eaglecreek 4 years ago from Vilonia , Arkansas

Don't be sad Rodric, its just a post to get folks laughing and the last thing I would want would be to upset one of my Cherokee brothers. I have lived and traveled all over the states and europe and i don't know of any other place where folks get along better than the South.

and wouldn't we all love an Elvis Presley day?

Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Eaglecreek, the holiday has been unofficially celebrated since his "Blue Suede Shoes."

My mother is an Elvis fan. My surrogate mother has a shrine built to him and would start a religion if it wasn't against hers to have other Gods.

Elvis may not have invented Rock and Roll, but he surly mastered it, and crown himself with perfected it!

No disrespect to Little Richard.

ibbarkingmad profile image

ibbarkingmad 4 years ago from Utah

I love your points and the ideas behind them. Just to add to the what if scenario. If Stone Wall Jackson had not died in the Battle of Chancellorsville I am positive that General Lee would have been more in the game. Further more, the successful secession may have resulted in other groups such as the Mormon pioneers in declaring a complete independence and forming a nation called Deseret rather than applying to be part of the union.

I have to disagree on the point about the Unions expansion from not happening as quickly. The heavy industrial nature of the Union would have resolve major transport issues with rail and immigration. The expansion west would still have happened. It had already started pre-Civil war. The increased population would have resulted in a giant growth in Union held North American territory. The South would have expanded as well, but at a slower rate. As for the final assessment of poverty in the South being rampant, I have to heavily disagree. The only reason the South was so poor post-Civil War is because of Reconstruction. It that event had not taken place, the wealth of the South would have stayed in place and even expanded. The poverty gap would have been large when looking at ethnic groups, but the opportunities for trade and eventual mastered industrialization. Remember, the ideas of the assembly line got their start in the South with Eli Whitney.

ata1515 profile image

ata1515 4 years ago from Buffalo, New York. Author


Thanks for the comment. The reason I think they south would have been poor after the war was, assuming all else stayed the same, England would have taken India and Egypt and used them as their primary cotton producers. Then the South would have lost a major trading partner and probably suffered a depression. Furthermore globalization would have wreaked the South while the North would have limped on a bit longer, though that is as all conjecture.

Freeway Flyer profile image

Freeway Flyer 4 years ago

Given their belief in the concept of states' rights, you have to wonder if the Confederacy would have held together as one nation if they had succeeded in the Civil War. Other parts of what was left of the United States could have also been emboldened to secede as well given the success of the South. Maybe my state of California would have broken off at some point.

But given the intense competition over the West that played a big part in triggering the Civil War, it's hard to imagine peace being maintained between the Northern and Southern nations for long. The North may have also realized that they could not do without New Orleans, and given the fact that they gained control of the Mississippi River at about the same time as the Battle of Gettysburg, I'm not sure if the North would have given in even if that battle had gone differently. They may have realized that the costs of admitting defeat were too high and eventually regrouped and succeeded in holding the Union together.

Given the Northern advantages in terms of industrial capacity and manpower, it seems that they would inevitably wear the South down if willing to fight to the bitter end. Of course, as your hub points out, circumstances that seen inevitable today could have turned out differently. It's fascinating to realize how just a few key decisions could have altered the course of history. This is why History is different from Chemistry or Math. You can't just plug circumstances into a formula and come up with the inevitable result.

ata1515 profile image

ata1515 4 years ago from Buffalo, New York. Author

Freeway Flyer,

History can help to show us that odds can change at any moment if we look at how history was written. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Unifiniti profile image

Unifiniti 3 years ago

But then, since Hitler was anti-Africa, then wouldn't that mean the South would fight the North?

ata1515 profile image

ata1515 3 years ago from Buffalo, New York. Author

Thanks for stopping by Unifiniti.

Popular history likes to paint in broad strokes, and so Hitler is seen as hating all kinds of people, which is not particularly accurate. Hitler did want to create a white German empire, but he only hated Africans in that colonial French troops from Africa were sent to occupy the Rhineland. The bastards of the Rhine were the only Africans that Hitler obstinately hated.

It is also good to remember that at the time the USA was carrying on a series of its own racist policies. Separate but equal was not only in the south, and the north had many of it's own race riots and racial inequality.

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