3 in 1 America?
I’ve written a number of these essays about the critical role that the Battle at Gettysburg played in the Civil War. Except for a number of blunders that Lee made, he could very well have avoided that battle and won the campaign and perhaps the war.
There is an interesting and highly speculative WHATIF follow-on to the CSA winning the war and splitting the eastern portion of the country in two. That speculation centers on the west. What we refer to today as the Mid-west didn’t really exist in the 1860s-70s; a few hearty settlers where there, very few. The Southeast, Arizona and New Mexico, that the CSA would have controlled, was only slightly more populated, but by people who allied themselves more closely with Mexico City than Richmond, VA. California, on the other hand, as a result of the 1849 gold rush had a fairly substantial population and was not dependent on either the USA or the CSA.
An obvious WHATIF is that the Western Regions might very well have been tempted to break away from the USA and form a separate country on the continent. Undoubtedly, the entire Pacific coastal region would have joined California. They could easily have drawn a major portion of the upper mid-west; perhaps even as far as the Mississippi river. Even if it only extended to the Colorado Rockies, it would have been a formidable country, with great mineral wealth – especially gold and silver. It might even have enticed the western Canadian regions to join it.
This, of course, begs the question as to the assimilation of Alaska and Hawaii, as well as the utility of the Panama Canal. It is easily predictable that a canal may eventually have been a purely commercial venture rather than a government project. Mexico proper would have been a trading partner — perhaps even a virtual vassal-state — of the CSA. California, however, could easily have carved off the Baja as its own; thereby bringing its influence closer to South America. Initially, it would have stayed close to home, likely opening trade relations with the western South American counties – perhaps even assimilating one or two.
Both the original USA and the CSA would have been closely linked politically and economically to Europe, but a western nation would have had a very different perspective. It would have had the entire Pacific Ocean in its sights. Striking out across the vast expanse of the ocean would have been almost inevitable. One could easily speculate about not just the sparsely inhabited islands, but trade and diplomatic relations with Japan and China.
This brings the WHATIF speculation then to the end of the 19th century and the Spanish-American war. The actual war started in Cuba and ended with the USA planting its flag in the Philippines. But in this new 3 country American continent, Washington would have had little influence or interest in Cuba; that would have been the backyard of the CSA. Likewise, any influence of the eastern-locked USA in the Pacific would have been non-existent. It would be the western nation that would have exercised any possible influence over the Philippines.
Although both the USA and CSA could possibly have been drawn into Europe’s “Great War”, it is unlikely that a western nation would have been inclined to join them.
Is it even to far-fetched to speculate that the mid-western portion of the continent may have been inclined to affiliate themselves with their neighbors to the north and somehow a patchwork partitioning and joining of Canada and America could has resulted?
Part 2: An even larger country?
There is another potential configuration that the US might possibly have taken had the Confederacy won its independence. Its roots pre-date the secession and Civil War. It was spear-headed by a group known as the KNIGHTS of the GOLDEN CIRCLE.
This was a group of many of the elite of the Confederacy but had followers and sympathizers in the North as well. It had a grandiose plan to greatly expand the influence and control of the USA, southward! Beginning with the annexation of Mexico, they hoped to extend their ideas of democracy, which included slavery, down through Central America and into the northern coastal regions of South America. They also had eyes on Cuba and all of the Caribbean islands, most of whom still embraced slavery.
They referred to this southern expansion area as the GOLDEN CIRCLE. The riches they envisioned controlling across this vast area were almost unimaginable.
In 1860, as newly elected President Lincoln was making his way by train to WASHDC, there was a well-publicized conspiracy to kidnap and possibly even assassinate him as he passed through Baltimore. Many historians have implicated the KNIGHTS in this plot. With the inauguration of Lincoln, the emphasis of this group (at least temporarily) shifted to establishing the Confederate States as an independent entity. Some of the supporters of the anti-Lincoln, Peace Democrats, also known as the Copperheads, were thought to be active in the KNIGHTS.
Although somewhat disconnected geographically from the major Civil War battlefields, the KNIGHTS were quite active in Texas and the New Mexico territory. In California, Knights outfitted a schooner that they intended to use along the west coast to interdict Union commerce with the California Territory. That plot was discovered and the ship was seized before it sailed. There is a direct Gettysburg tie-in that has yet to be proven to actually be associated with or perpetrated by members of the CIRCLE. As Lee’s Army approached southern Pennsylvania, ‘southern sympathizers’ (knights?) were selling chits for $1 that were purported to protect the holder from harassment or looting by the Rebel Army. Of course, it was a scam and no one in Lee’s command was involved or even aware of such a ‘get out of jail free card’.
The organization essentially died with the demise of the Confederacy; although some hard-core supporters remained active if more secretive. Many of those involved in the 1865 assassination of Lincoln were known or thought to be Knights. Some accredit Jesse James as a member and attribute some of his exploits as attempts to further fund the CIRCLE.
In modern times, treasure hunters across the South and especially the Southwestern US still hunt for caches of gold and silver that supposedly belonged to the Confederacy and were spirited out of Richmond and buried as seed money for when the “South would rise again”.