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American Civil War alternate histories

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The American Civil War is a popular point of divergence in English-language alternate history fiction. The most common variant of these detail the victory and survival of the Confederate States of America. Less common variants include a Union victory under different circumstances than in actual history, resulting in a different post-war situation; African-American slaves freeing themselves by revolt without waiting for Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation; a direct British intervention in the war; the survival of Lincoln and his wife during John Wilkes Booth's assassination attempt; a retelling of historical events with fantasy elements inserted; and secret history tales. The point of divergence in such a story can either be a "natural, realistic" event (such as one general making a different decision than he did in our timeline, or one sentry detecting an enemy invasion which he failed to notice in reality), or else it can be an "unnatural" fantasy/science fiction plot device such as time travel, which usually takes the form of someone bringing modern weapons or hindsight knowledge into the past. American Civil War alternate histories are one of the two most popular points of divergence to create an alternate history in the English language, the other being an Axis victory in World War II.


Depictions of the later development of a victorious Confederacy vary considerably from each other – especially on two major, interrelated issues: an independent Confederacy's treatment of its Black population and its relations with the rump USA to its north.

In the mockumentary C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America slavery continues up to the present, including a chilling depiction of "an electronic slave auction" carried on via the internet. However, most other alternate histories assume that, even when succeeding to become independent with its "peculiar institution" intact, the Confederacy would have still eventually put an end to slavery. In Grey Victory, set in the immediate aftermath of the war, the Confederacy is faced with both subversion by northern Abolitionists and the increasing organization and assertiveness of the Blacks themselves, and the story gives the clear impression that, no matter who wins, the end of slavery is inevitable. In several other depictions, such as Bring the Jubilee and The Guns of the South, freeing the slaves is attributed to Robert E. Lee, who in all these works becomes the second Confederate President. It is logical to assume that his prestige would have run high, making him a plausible candidate to succeed Jefferson Davis, although the position he would have taken regarding slavery is the subject of some debate. However, ending slavery would not necessarily provide equality for Blacks. In Bring the Jubilee Blacks, despite President Lee's grand gesture, remain disenfranchised into the 20th Century (as are the people of Latin America who were in this timeline annexed by the Confederacy). The same is true for Harry Turtledove's Southern Victory series – where it is President James Longstreet who frees the slaves from being property, as a prerequisite for retaining British and French support for the Confederacy, but Blacks remain a very oppressed and discriminated underclass, denied basic civil rights. In later volumes of the series the Blacks burst out in brutal armed rebellions which are met with equal brutality from White authorities, who then make them the target of a terrible Holocaust-like genocide.

In Bring the Jubilee, the rump USA is completely broken down by its defeat, becoming an impoverished and backward country while the Confederacy goes on to annex everything to its south as far as Tierra del Fuego (barring the Republic of Haiti) and become a major world power. In the CSA mockumentary, the USA is annexed by the CSA upon winning the war - a historical inaccuracy, as this was strictly against CSA doctrine and impracticable for a host of other reasons. But most other alternate histories assume that, even if losing its southern part, the US would remain a major economic and military power. In Grey Victory, Abolitionists seek to provoke the US and the Confederacy into a new war. In By Force of Arms, an attempt at reconciliation fails and after a few years they are at war again. More optimistic results occur in The Guns of the South and several other works, where the two nations settle down into reasonable good neighborly relations within a few years of the war's end, and in some cases agree to reunite as one nation after 50 or 100 years of being apart. By stark contrast, in Southern Victory they develop into hereditary enemies who go to war again every decade or two and who spend the rest of the time preparing for new war, becoming entangled in webs of worldwide military alliances. In the 1914 of Southern Victory, US and Confederacy are drawn into the worldwide war immediately following the Archduke's murder, and open an American front of trench warfare, every bit as terrible as the ones in Europe. Conversely, the 1914 of "A Hard Day for Mother" in Alternate Generals 1 by William R. Forstchen sees the amicable treaty of reconciliation and voluntary reunification between the two nations.

In If the South Had Won the Civil War by MacKinlay Kantor, reunification comes later: during the 20th Century the USA, CSA and Texas (which seceded from the CSA) become economically integrated and in both World Wars, they all fight against Germany as close allies. Following World War II, USA, CSA and Texas all feel threatened by Soviet missile bases and armored brigades in Alaska (which was never purchased from Russia). Therefore, they announce a formal reunification in 1961, on the precise centennial of Fort Sumter. Conversely, the GURPS game presents a 1993 in which the U.S.A. and C.S.A. still watch each other warily across an armed border that stretches to the Pacific.


  • If the South Had Won the Civil War by MacKinlay Kantor (Originally published in Look Magazine in 1960, published as book in 1961)
  • "Sidewise in Time" by Murray Leinster (one of several alternate realities briefly visited in the story)
  • 1862 by Robert Conroy
  • Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore
  • A More Perfect Union by Robert Stapp
  • The Shiloh Project by David Poyer
  • The Confederate States of America: What Might Have Been by Roger L. Ransom
  • Fire on the Mountain by Terry Bisson.
  • Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War, Grant Comes East, and Never Call Retreat: Lee and Grant: The Final Victory by Newt Gingrich, William R. Forstchen, and Albert S. Hanser
  • Gray Victory by Robert Skimin
  • The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove
  • A Rebel in Time by Harry Harrison
  • "The Forest of Time" by Michael F. Flynn, where a war among the Thirteen Colonies directly follows the American Revolution, resulting in a stillborn United States and a perpetually balkanized North America.
  • Russian Amerika by Stoney Compton. The backstory is only vaguely defined, but the PoD seems to be a CSA victory in the 1860s.
  • The Southern Victory Series by Harry Turtledove.
  • War Between the Provinces series by Harry Turtledove, a fantasy allegory of the Civil War set in imaginary countries with recognizable analogous characters such as King Avram, General Bart, and General Hesmucet.
  • "Must and Shall" (collected in anthology Counting Up, Counting Down, also in volume 32 of the Nebula Awards series) by Harry Turtledove
  • "Lee at the Alamo" by Harry Turtledove, story published on line at
  • Crosstime Traffic series by Harry Turtledove visits many alternate realities, briefly mentioning a few where the South won the Civil War. The fourth volume The Disunited States of America focuses on a world where there were frequent small localized wars between states (e.g. Ohio versus Virginia, Massachusetts versus Rhode Island) but no single big civil war.
  • If It Had Happened Otherwise (1931) anthology contains two relevant entries: "If Lee Had NOT Won the Battle of Gettysburg" by Winston Churchill, and "If Booth had Missed Lincoln" by Milton Waldman.
  • Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith, re-casts the Civil War as a war on vampires using slaves as a food source.
  • By Force of Arms by Billy Bennett, Depicts a world where Stonewall Jackson survived the battle of Chancellorsville and the South won Gettysburg and the war. Six years later William Tecumseh Sherman is elected President of the USA and war breaks out again.
  • The Stars and Stripes trilogy (Stars and Stripes Forever [1998], Stars and Stripes In Peril [2000], and Stars and Stripes Triumphant [2002]) by Harry Harrison, where the Trent affair and the death of Prince Albert (the husband of Queen Victoria) elicits a war between the Union and Britain, eventually seeing America reunited under one government.
  • Britannia's Fist (trilogy) by Peter Tsouras. England/France enter the War in 1863 when British built warships enter the CSA Navy instead of being seized by British forces before entering Confederate service (as what really happened).
  • Gettysburg: An Alternate History by Peter Tsouras
  • Dixie Victorious: An Alternate History of the Civil War by Peter Tsouras
  • Alternate Generals, volume 1, contains three US Civil War-related stories: 1) "The Charge of Lee's Brigade" by S.M. Stirling. The American Revolution never happened, so Virginia and most of North America remain under British rule; in the mid 19th century, Brigadier General Sir Robert E. Lee and his lieutenants, including Jeb Stuart, fight against the Russians in an analogous Crimean War. 2) "An Old Man's Summer" by Esther Friesner. In the mid 20th century, Dwight Eisenhower dreams (maybe) that he time travels to the Battle of Gettysburg. 3) "A Hard Day for Mother" by William R. Forstchen. A look at what might have happened at Little Round Top had Joshua Chamberlain fought for the Confederacy rather than the Union.
  • "East of Appomattox" (in Alternate Generals III) by Lee Allred. In the late 1860s, the CSA sends Ambassador Robert E. Lee to London to assure continued British recognition, and he finds unexpected challenges and even unlikelier allies.
  • Alternate Presidents contains four stories with wildly differing hypothetical US Civil War scenarios: "Chickasaw Slave" by Judith Moffett, "How the South Preserved the Union" by Ralph Roberts, "Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night" by Jack L. Chalker, and "Lincoln's Charge" by Bill Fawcett. In Roberts' and Chalker's entries, the Northern states seek to secede from the Southern-dominated Union.
  • Dirk Pitt series: Volume 11: Sahara by Clive Cussler. This series' recurring macguffin, wherein the heroes discover an astounding secret history, involves the Lincoln Assassination in this one. It's a brief side plot only tenuously related to the main adventure, and this element is completely left out of the film adaptation of the novel.
  • "The Lincoln Train" by Maureen F. McHugh, in Nebula Awards anthologies volume 31, Alternate Tyrants, and Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction
  • The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter
  • Shattered Nation: An Alternate History Novel of the American Civil War by Jeffrey Evan Brooks. The plot centers around a scenario in which Joseph E. Johnston is not replaced by John Bell Hood as commander of the Army of Tennessee during the Atlanta Campaign.
  • "If the Lost Order Hadn't Been Lost" by James M. McPherson, first printed in What If?, and reprinted in What Ifs? of American History
  • "Beyond the Wildest Dreams of John Wilkes Booth" by Jay Winik, first printed in What Ifs? of American History
  • TimeRiders: volume 4: The Eternal War (2011) by Alex Scarrow, in which Britain entered the American Civil War on the side of the Confederacy, turning the war into an unending stalemate. Without the United States to challenge its dominance, the British Empire continued to expand, and by 2001 it controls half the world.
  • "Custer's Last Jump" by Steven Utley and Howard Waldrop (1976), reprinted in numerous anthologies.
  • "Hush My Mouth" by Suzette Haden Elgin, first printed in Alternative Histories: 11 Stories of the World as It Might Have Been (1986).
  • "All the Myriad Ways" by Larry Niven, with worlds of CSA victory being mentioned only briefly by the narrator in a list of alternate realities known in the story.
  • In David Mason's The Shores of Tomorrow, the slave-holding South dominated a technologically backward US from its foundation until the 1940s - when a series of Northern rebellions led to the creation of three Free Republics taking up the interior and leaving the Southrons with "a slave-holding, vice-ridden burned out piece of the coast".
  • In Underground Airlines, by Ben H. Winters (2016), President-elect Abraham Lincoln is assassinated in 1861, and a version of the Crittenden Compromise is adopted; as a result, slavery continues to the present in four states (the "Hard Four"); the title refers to the secret network assisting escaping slaves, updated from "Underground Railroad"; the protagonist is a black U.S. Marshal who is forced to work tracking down runaway slaves.
  • Film and television

  • The Time Tunnel, episodes 12 ("The Death Trap") and 25 ("The Death Merchant").
  • The Wild Wild West episode "The Night of the Lord of Limbo"
  • C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, a mockumentary directed by Kevin Willmott.
  • The Legend of Zorro (sequel to The Mask of Zorro, which is not Civil War-related)
  • Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
  • Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies
  • Game

  • Aces & Eights: Shattered Frontier role-playing game, written by Jolly R. Blackburn, Brian Jelke, Steve Johansson, Dave Kenzer, Jennifer Kenzer and Mark Plemmons, and published by Kenzer & Company in 2007.
  • Damnation by Blue Omega Entertainment and published by Codemasters.
  • Deadlands role-playing game by Pinnacle Entertainment Group
  • Dixie [hex and counter board game] by Simulations Publications Incorporated (SPI), the Union loses the Civil War and is trying to reclaim the Confederate States of America in the 1930s.
  • Doomtown collectable card game by Alderac Entertainment Group, Wizards of the Coast, and Five Rings Publishing Group
  • Doomtown: Range Wars, a Disk Wars game by Fantasy Flight Games
  • GURPS Alternate Earths (1996), a supplement of alternate realities published by Steve Jackson Games for the GURPS Third Edition, which includes the alternate world codenamed "Dixie", where the North American continent, circa 1985, is divided between the northern USA and the southern CSA along an extended Mason–Dixon line. An updated (current year: 1993) but truncated description of this world, now known as "Dixie-1 , was included in the revised Fourth Edition version of the book (see history at GURPS Infinite Worlds#Dixie-1).
  • Victoria II, a grand strategy wargame by Paradox Interactive, offers an opportunity for the Confederacy to win the American Civil War and become a world power.
  • Gettysburg: Armored Warfare - A man from the year 2060 travels back in time to the Civil War, bringing weapons from his time, that he gives to the Confederate forces in the hope of changing the future of America.
  • Comic

  • Captain Confederacy (1986, and occasional tie-ins afterward) by Will Shetterly and Vince Stone.
  • Elseworlds: Batman: The Blue, the Grey and the Bat (1992) by Elliot S! Maggin and Alan Weiss.
  • Elseworlds: Batman: Detective No. 27 (2003) by Michael Uslan and Peter Snejbjerg
  • One issue of Supreme written by Alan Moore.
  • References

    American Civil War alternate histories Wikipedia

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