This book is not a fantasy story where the author just dreams up what would have been if the Confederacy had been able to win the Civil War. No; this is fantasy based more on very factual possibilities that really could have happened if things had gone the other way, like if a certain Confederate general such as Albert Sidney Johnston had not died at the Battle of Shiloh. Roger Ransom and others look at what-if situations and determine if there are facts suppporting things having been different if just a certain event had occurred in a different way. This is called counterfactual analysis, which is not science fiction or fantasy but an academic analysis of what could have been.
Ransom examines the history of the United States before the Civil War by looking at the Northern and Southern societies and how these two distinct cultures came to blows and war. Of the issues that brought these two regions of the U.S. to civil war, the issue of slavery is the most well-known. Other issues included states’ rights, the theory is that the Federal government did not have ultimate power. Another issue was economics.
Ransom reviews the Civil War and how the Confederacy could have won the war, or at least forced the North into allowing the South to be an independent country. How could the South could have done this? If situations were altered, such as General Albert S. Johnston surviving Shiloh, or the North making major mistakes and being unable to move forward by losing at Shiloh or other critical engagements like Antietam. If the South could have defeated Union armies and further discouraged the North, maybe Abraham Lincoln would not have been re-elected in November of 1864. Also considered: is it really realistic that European powers like Great Britain and France would have recognized the Confederacy, or would they have intervened in the war?
If the South had been able to gain independence, he argues that slavery eventually would have ended in the South regardless due to a new economic situation. He suspects that John C. Breckinridge most likely would have succeeded Jefferson Davis in 1867 as the second Confederate president, based on the fact that in the 1860 election Breckinridge had carried the South and was still popular. Other successors might have been General Wade Hampton or General James Longstreet.
Several maps and charts throughout illustrate how things would have changed and battles might have been different. Appendix three is the Confederate Constitution, and there are endnotes, a bibliography, and an index, but no illustrations. This book is highly recommended to those interested in the Civil War and in what could have been.
Roger L. Ransom is the author of Conflict and Compromise: The Political Economy of Slavery, Emancipation, and the American Civil War (1989) and Coping with Capitalism: The Economic Transformation of the United States, 1776-1980 (1981), and co-author of One Kind of Freedom (2001). He has also authored articles and co-authored other books.