Robert Cowley has done it again!
After two first-rate "what if" books covering alternative endings of major events in World History, Cowley and his distinguished coterie of authors (James McPherson, Jay Winik, Caleb Carr, Cecilia Holland, et. al.,) have taken on the major events of American History and have provided a fresh view and sometimes not too pleasant alternative endings to them.
Consider this: Jay Winik's "John Wilkes Booth's Wildest Dream" - a Union angered by the assassination of Lincoln enacting retribution on Southern leaders, with the South in turn resorting to widespread guerrilla warfare, which by the time Grant takes office, is practically uncontrollable. Winik had already alluded to the possible horror of guerrilla warfare had Lee NOT surrendered at Appomattox; here he elaborates on it.
In another essay, Anthony Beevor writes an intriguing "what if" Eisenhower had given the "green light" for American forces to seize Berlin ahead of the advancing Red Army in the spring of 1945, and the probable consequences of such an order. We now know that Stalin was prepared to order Red Army commanders to open fire if the U.S. 9th Army had entered the city.
Or a Nuclear Holocaust where the United States, having experienced a Soviet tactical nuclear response in Cuba, and several strikes on the United States itself, resulting in the deaths of both JFK and Lyndon Johnson, resorts to a massive Nuclear assault on the Soviet Union? A quarter of a million Americans are killed, but that is nothing compared to the virtual obliteration of the old USSR, where only a tenth of the population survive the American air and sea bomber and missile assaults - and the world is so revulsed by this overkill that America is ostracized for the next three decades. Wow!
And that is just the tip of the alternative history iceberg...consider a Nixon Presidency that survived Watergate, or an America wracked by Labor Strife in 1877!
About the only faults that I can find in this remarkable work is the regurgitation of James McPherson's brilliant essay on an alternative Antietam which turned in a Lee victory at Gettysburg, an "event" already visited in the first "What If" volume. Also no alternative 9/11 or war on terror essay, as this book ends with Nixon and Vietnam. It also might have been fascinating to see alternative endings to Little Big Horn, where Custer was victorious over Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, or a turn of events in the Spanish-American War. Hope Mr. Cowley and his associates will take on these and other events next time around.