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4.0 out of 5 stars Ten counterfactual essays: how the South could have won, 17 Nov 2011
This review is from: Dixie Victorious. an Alternate History of the Civil War (Hardcover)
This is a collection of ten essays by historians, mostly military historians, each of which assesses a different means by which the Southern states could have won the U.S. Civil War or, as we would probably be calling it if any of them had come true, the war between the states.

The ten essays do not form a continuous narrative, each of them is an independent counterfactual study of one particular course of events which could have led to the CSA gaining their independence.

These range from the diplomatic - the first essay by British historian Andrew Uffindell points out how easily the "Trent" incident could have led to British and French military intervention on the side of the south - through the political - e.g. if McLennan's Democrats had won the 1864 U.S. election - to the options for Southern military victory on land or at sea.

Perhaps the most interesting is the essay which the editor, Colonel Tsouras, contributed himself, on what might have happened if the confederacy had offered freedom to black slaves who enlisted in the Rebel Army in January 1864 when the outcome of the war was still in doubt, instead of 1865 when it was obvious that the South was going to lose and the slaves would get their freedom anyway.

Thes essays will be of most interest to the reader who already has a fair degree of familiarity with the real history of the US civil war, but it is not absolutely essential to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of actual events to appreciate the book. Each essay concludes with a section called "The reality" which explains how the counterfactual story presented diverges from actual history. There is an amusing set of real and counterfactual footnotes and references for each essay, with the ones which are not real in our Universe marked out with an asterisk!

This is an interesting and well argued collection of essays which will make any reader who had been under the impression that a Northern victory in the civil war was inevitable think again. I still think that the massively superior resources of the USA made it the North's war to lose, but this book shows that this is not the whole story.

This book shows that, while Union generals and politicians made plenty of costly mistakes, they avoided all those which would have fatally blown their side's chance of winning, and there were quite a few of them: similarly, while the Rebels' military and political campaigns were often a miracle of improvisation, they had a number of chances for victory and missed them all.
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