Long before there were all these alternative histories of the Civil War like "Guns of the South" and "Stars & Stripes in Peril," historical novelist MacKinlay Kantor, best known for "Andersonville," wrote this little volume that sketches out what would have happened with a Confederate victory. The above title might be an exaggeration, but as far as I know this was the first alternative history of the Civil War to see print. Kantor starts with a single, simple event: General Ulysses S. Grant is thrown from his horse and is killed on the first day of the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. The Army of the Tennessee does not make a come back on the second day and is destroyed. That also means Grant does not come East to take charge of all the Union armies and use the Army of the Potomac to batter Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, take Richmond, and end the war. Instead, it is Washington, D.C. and President Lincoln that are captured by the Confederates, who achieve independence. Kantor takes the long view of what happens next: Texas breaks away from the Confederacy, the three nations fight together in various wars, while various generals become presidents of their respective countries. Ultimately Kantor's focus is more on the future of these Americans than the specifics of how the South actually wins the war. As far as Kantor is concerned the road not taken still produces a unified United States in the end. Consequently, "If the South Had Won the Civil War" is more a personal rumination along these lines than a scholarly argument. However, you have to appreciate his choice of the pivotal event, especially since he was writing at a time when it was pretty much gospel that the Confederacy's best chance was Pickett's Charge on the final day of Gettysburg. I concur with those who argue Lee had a better chance on the second day at Gettysburg and that his army was too battered to march on Washington, where they still would have been outnumbered and outgunned by the Union forces entrenched around the capital. Therefore, by 1863 the South was not going to win a military victory. Kantor sidesteps that conclusion by going back even farther. "If the South Had Won the Civil War" is not really a novel, being more like a magazine or newspaper article in both length and style; my old paperback copy had drawings on every other page. At the heart of Kantor's speculation is the belief that no matter what happened, the nation would end up being unified (with Columbus, Ohio renamed "Columbia" and made the new national capital). An interesting little volume that should not be forgotten in the current "what if" craze.
I love this little book of 'alternative' or 'what if?' history - only 127 pages in the edition I have - and, though reading it occupies a mere hour or so, it deals with the delightful thought that 'The War for Southern Independence' might have ended much earlier, in 1863, and very differently, if a couple of relatively minor happenings had had different outcomes, and it acts as a tonic to those of us who still believe in the Southern cause. The reason I write this is because MacKinlay Kantor does not describe a victory for the old Confederacy as a triumph for illiberal white supremacists, more a rational and sensible reinstitution of peace and civilisation for both North and South. For example, one of Mr Kantor's imagined heroes is 'Rel' Stuart - Robert Edward Lee Stuart, son of General 'Jeb' Stuart - a Congressman from Virginia who becomes Governor of the C.S. State of Cuba. (That would be infinitely preferable to the Castro brothers, surely?). I won't reveal the whole of the logically and carefully crafted tale: suffice to say that the people prosper, that slavery dies a death in the late 1800s (the 'Liberation Act' being passed by the Confederate Congress in 1885, with provision for financial restitution for slave-owners), and that the old 'United States' are likely to be reunited following a conference between the Presidents respectively of the Confederate States of America, the United States of America and the Republic of Texas, at Washington, D.D. (District of Dixie) - in April, 1961, one hundred years after the firing on Fort Sumter. Relatively light reading regarding a very heavy subject - but so enjoyable!