Alternate history is a way of reimagining true events, and one of the most commonly considered subjects is the American Civil War. That conflict was likely the most important American war in regards to the development of the modern world, and seeing as that war was fought around the legality and expansion of slavery, a lot of thought has gone into how slavery would continue or abate if the South won the war.
See Also: 10 Monuments More Controversial Than The Confederate Statues
This list touches on ten different ways the United States of America (USA) and the Confederate States of America (CSA) would have evolved were the Civil War to end following the Battle of Gettysburg. Much of this is supposition made from identifying the major events in culture, economics, and politics evolving from the late 19th-century through the 20th, and into the 21st.
Some of these ideas are based on the author’s own analysis of the American Civil War, as well as other historians who have studied the concept of alternate history where the conflict is concerned. If you have any thoughts about these items, please share them in the comments section to discuss how you think the world would be different had the Union lost the Civil War.
10 The Battle Of Gettysburg Would Have Been A Different Kind Of Turning Point
The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the war, but in real history, it was beneficial to the North, not the South. The Army of the Confederacy, under the command of General Robert E. Lee, hoped that an incursion into the North would stop the Union’s push into the South. Ideally, the battle would have thwarted the Union advance towards Richmond and other southern territories. It didn’t work, and the CSA was defeated in one of the bloodiest battles in American history.
In our alternate history view, the CSA won, and because they devastated the North so badly in the battle, all northern aggression directed at the CSA came to an end. Shortly thereafter, a peace treaty was signed, ending the American Civil War in July of 1863. In this scenario, the turning point ended the conflict and allowed the CSA to fall back to their own territory, choosing not to take parts of Pennsylvania for their nation. The Union Army would likewise consolidate their positions along the established borders, and each military would head to the West with the intent of furthering their political borders towards the Pacific Ocean.
9 Two Separate Countries Or 48 Individual Nations
Immediately following the cessation of hostilities, the border would be declared a demilitarized zone, and it would be guarded. This would reduce the number of slaves moving north, and sympathizers from the Union would have trouble relocating to the South. The biggest change would be the quick and direct westward expansion to claim new territory. California, Oregon, and Washington would likely remain/join the Union, as would the northern states along the Canadian border. The CSA would get all of the states that seceded, as well as the western states, including Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona. Texas would either become its own independent nation, or it would remain with the CSA.
Because the economies of both countries would be in shambles, it’s possible that each State would ultimately secede from its respective Union or Confederacy. If this happened, the United States would no longer exist, the Constitution would be moot, and each State would become an independent country. In a way, they are like that today, but are joined under a Federal Government—take that governing body away, and each Governor becomes a President with their own military, government, and economy. If that happened, the national borders of the States would likely change over time as new conflicts arose.
8The Conflict Would Have Continued For Decades
Another possible outcome resulting from a victorious CSA at the Battle of Gettysburg would be a continuation of the war on different fronts. As the nation continued to settle new states to the West, conflicts over the desired territory would certainly arise. Contests over specific borders, resources like rivers and ore deposits, and lands for ranging cattle would certainly spark border conflicts, which could break out into outright warfare. The next war between the states wouldn’t be a Civil War, it would be a protracted between two established nations, and it would be just as bloody, if not bloodier, than the original.
Granted, if the two countries managed to avoid an outright conflict over new states, there would still be the occasional border skirmish or disagreement over land. One of the biggest problems for the Union would be the loss of the Mississippi River, which is one of the primary avenues for shipping into the central United States. Losing that valuable shipping avenue would push the United States to gain more ground as fast as possible, and this would ultimately lead to a faster and more widespread slaughter of the indigenous populations in the American West.
7 No Democrats In The USA & No Republicans In The CSA
The United States is a two-party system, even though there are dozens of other “independent” parties active in modern politics. The same would likely be true in both the CSA and the USA following a southern victory, but one thing that would be different would be the makeup of those parties. During the Civil War, the Democratic party was overtly racist while the Republicans of the 19th-century were seeking freedom and equality for slaves and (later) women. Some believe there was an ideological shift that occurred throughout the 20th-century with the parties switching positions, but, regardless, in a world where the South won, the Democrats would remain the dominant party in the CSA while the Republicans would either be the dominant party in the North, or it would disappear following the war.
Remember, Lincoln was a Republican, and they opposed slavery while supporting a smaller government and limited spending, but the Democrats were all about values related to their established way of life, which included slavery. As the parties continued to develop in their respective nations into the 20th and 21st-centuries, they would adapt and change, but both would likely remain the dominant parties where they were established. Smaller, less powerful parties would rise to challenge the establishment, but it’s unlikely they would take hold with any degree of influence for decades into the 20th-century.
6 No War With Spain And No Spanish Independence
The Spanish American War kicked off in 1898 following the sinking of the USS Main, which the nation blamed on Spain. It was later discovered that the ship sank when its powder store exploded, but in 1898, it was all about Spain, and the two nations went to war. The front for this conflict extended in and around the waters of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam, but without a combined United States, it’s unlikely the conflict would have ever taken place.
Without that war, Cuba would have remained part of Spain, as would the other territories, and the US wouldn’t have expanded its influence into the Pacific, which became an issue in World War II. Additionally, the men who fought during that war went on to become integral in the first World War, and seeing as neither conflict would likely happen, nor would it include America, the politics of the USA would have evolved differently across the 20th-century, especially where men like Theodore Roosevelt were concerned.
5 The USA Would Not Have Entered WWI
World War I broke out in Europe following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and things went to hell quickly. The United States stayed out of the conflict initially but entered into in 1917, shortly before the war ended. The USA helped bring the conflict to an end, but if the Confederacy won the Civil War, it’s unlikely either the USA or CSA would have been in a position to render aid in any significant manner.
Because of this, the war would have likely continued for several years, which would have had its own alternate history of Europe stemming from the elongated conflict. Would Germany have signed a treaty that stripped them of nearly everything, sending the nation into economic turmoil, and planting the seeds of WWII? Maybe not, and maybe there would never have been a WWII or a rise of Fascism in Europe if the USA didn’t enter the Great War. There’s no way to know for sure, but it’s highly likely the USA and CSA would have entered the conflict.
4 Lincoln Wouldn’t Have Been Assassinated, And Grant Would Be #18
John Wilkes Booth didn’t like how the war ended, and he took it out on the man he considered to be responsible: Abraham Lincoln. If the South won the war, there wouldn’t have been any reason for him to assassinate the US President. Additionally, Lincoln would never have been reelected for a second term in office. Think about it; what’s he campaigning on if he lost the war and half of the United States’ states? His political career would have been over, and new blood would have risen to take his spot.
Another ‘victim’ of the war’s loss would have been Union General Ulysses S. Grant. He would never have risen to prominence following the Battle of Gettysburg, and wouldn’t have had a leg to stand in a campaign to become the 18th President of the United States. Because of these changes, the political makeup of the USA could have gone in any direction. The Republican Party might have been seen as a failed political ideology, and it could have dissolved, or it could have rebranded and returned strong. There’s really no way to know how the parties would have changed, but two things are certain: no reelection for Lincoln and no election for Grant.
3 International Trade Would Explode For The CSA
One of the biggest hindrances to the CSA during the war was a naval blockade that prohibited trade to and from the CSA. Once that blockade was lifted following a cessation of hostilities, trade with the Confederacy would explode. Not only would the USA need to establish trade with its southern neighbor, but the CSA would also begin trading with Europe en masse. Cotton and tobacco were huge exports from the South in the 19th-century, and with trade opening up, the economy of the South would grow exponentially.
There would be a rise in American competition across the borders with nations across both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as each country vied for more trade partners overseas. The North would continue to expand its manufacturing and industrial sectors, while the South’s agriculture would propel it into a viable and sustainable economy well into the 20th-century.
Neither nation would become as large a trade partner as the USA is today, but their combined economies would still render both nations prosperous.
2The Geopolitical World Would Look Very Different Today
The 20th-century was shaped in many ways by the United States of America. Once the USA jumped into Europe in WWI, and then again in WWII with expansions into Asia, the US became a driving force in the growth of world economies, which continue well into the 21st-century. A world without the combined USA is a world that would look vastly different from today. If the October Revolution still happened, the Soviet Union would rise to become a dominating force on the world stage, and it would likely take the place the USA holds today.
This may result in an eastern expansion into Europe, and the second World War could have been fought between the Soviet Union and everybody else. If they won, Communism would be the dominant political ideology across the planet today. The CSA and the USA would be no match for the expanding Soviet Union, and the two nations might finally find a way to come back together should their mutual defense require it.
1 Slavery Would Have Continued For Some Time
Slavery was the main cause of the American Civil War. The southern states feared a lack of expansion into new states and territories, which became of paramount concern following the Election of 1860, and that led to cessation, which led to the war. The only issue of “State’s Rights” that came about was a state’s right to continue using slave labor. As such, a victorious CSA would have meant that the American enslavement of Africans and African Americans would continue well into the 20th-century. Despite this, Atlantic Slave Trade would have ended, or been reduced to piracy/privateers, as most other nations no longer supported it. Slavery in the CSA would be limited to reproduction within the nation, and “supplies” from Africa would end by the turn of the century.
As the CSA expanded westward, each new State would become a slave state. Congruously, the Union states settled westward would be free states, but slavery wouldn’t continue to today, at least, not in the same capacity. The Industrial Revolution meant that a specialized and better-trained workforce was necessary to improve agricultural and industrial production. If the South continued to rely on slave labor, which was purposefully uneducated and illiterate, they would fall behind the USA and other more developed nations. It’s likely slavery would decline through the 20th-century, but it wouldn’t die out completely.
So-called “house slaves” would still be around for a long time, and unless there was significant international pressure for the CSA to abandon those practices, they would remain. Poorer farms and plantations that couldn’t afford modern equipment would try to keep pace with slave labor, but eventually, those would also die out in favor of automation and skilled labor. By the 21st-century, slavery would be limited to rich households and small enclaves of the CSA, with many segregated into small communities where they would be relied upon for small levels of production.
The video clip above is from the satirical mockumentary “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America”.