The Great “What Ifs” of the American Civil War, Historians Tackle the Conflict’s Most Intriguing Possibilities, edited by Chris Mackowski and Brian Matthew Jordan, published by Savas Beatie, 2021, a Tennessee Valley Civil War Roundtable review by Arley McCormick
It’s here. This is supporting analysis that addresses alternatives Civil War enthusiasts have considered and debated for years. “What ifs” have no right answer but they certainly challenge the logic and understanding of the known facts or at least the accepted historical facts. Yet this time the authors and editors, having extensive experience researching and analyzing aspects of the War and Lost Cause with basic logic and solid thought and analysis. They create compelling and convincing arguments based upon historical and technical knowledge and each possess a grasp of the character(s) position and perspective. They write impeccably well and they spin an interesting yarn and that is just what is needed to spice up conversation regarding the War Between the States.
Timothy B. Smith begins with what could have happened if Albert Sidney Johnston had not bled out on the battlefield and his successor not called off assaults because of darkness? And there are other suggestions regarding Shiloh. Then, Kevin Pawlak addresses September 13, 1862; the Maryland campaign and the famous Special Order No. 191 covering Robert E. Lee’s intent lost and found by the Union leadership.
Dwight Hughes addresses the big international question President Davis waited for; British intervention on behalf of the South. Frank Jastrzembski addresses the impact of Alfred Pleasonton not accepting command of the Army of the Potomac and Kristopher D. White presents arguments that may be valid if General “Stonewall Jackson” had not died. Dan Welch presents an alternative reality describing what may have happened at Gettysburg if General Longstreet’s advice to go around the right were accepted. Then, a question that lingers in every enthusiasts’ mind; What if Jefferson Davis and not been so loyal to Braxton Bragg? Chris Mackowski presents the possibilities if Robert E. Lee had hit the North Anna River really hard and even the Western Theater is covered as Kristen M. Trout challenges a different outcome if Sterling Price’s 1864 Missouri Expedition were successful. Even the Northern political outcome of 1864 is challenged with Jonathan A. Noyalas suggesting an alternative result if Sherman and Sheridan had not set the military conditions for Lincoln’s successful Presidential campaign. And what if Robert E. Lee had encouraged a Guerrilla War in April 1865 and what if Lincoln had lived? Brian Matthew Jordan and Evan C. Rothera have an alternative. Finally, Chris Mackowski and Daniel T. Davis suggest an alternative if General George Meade were captured at Spotsylvania.
There is a lot to get your head around here and it is supported with suggested reading, graphics and character sketches throughout. Proposing the alternatives suggested will certainly spice up any Civil War discussion among the enthusiasts that try to find a reason for turning West rather than South where all the marbles were lost.