The Great "What Ifs" of the American Civil War: Historians Tackle the Conflict’s Most Intriguing Possibilities

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Chris Mackowski & Brian Matthew Jordan
Pub Date:
November 2021
Hardcover, 6 x 9
30 images, 4 maps, 264 pp.
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About the Book

“What If . . . ?” Every Civil War armchair general asks the question. Possibilities unfold. Disappointments vanish. Imaginations soar. More questions arise. Asking “What if . . .” is often more than an exercise in wishful fantasy. A serious inquiry sparks rigorous exploration, demands critical thinking, and unlocks important insights.

The Great “What Ifs” of the American Civil War: Historians Tackle the Conflict’s Most Intriguing Possibilities is a collection of thirteen essays by the historians at Emerging Civil War, including a foreword by acclaimed alternate history writer Peter G. Tsouras.

Each entry focuses on one of the most important events of the war and unpacks the options of the moment. To understand what happened, we must look at what could have happened, with the full multitude of choices before us and a clear and objective eye. “What if” is a tool for illumination.

This is not a collection of alternate histories or counterfactual scenarios. Rather, it is an invitation to ask, to learn, and to wonder, “What if . . . ?”

Table of Contents

Foreword: “Paths Not Taken: Thoughts of an Alternate Historian” by Peter G. Tsouras

Introduction by Chris Mackowski

Chapter One: “‘Persistently Misunderstood’: The What-Ifs of Shiloh” by Timothy B. Smith

Chapter Two: “The What Ifs of Antietam” by Kevin Pawlak

Chapter Three: “What If Great Britain Had Intervened in the American Civil War?” by Dwight Hughes

Chapter Four: “What If Someone Else Had Been Offered Command of the Army of the Potomac?” by Frank Jastrzembski

Chapter Five: “What if Stonewall Jackson Had Not Been Shot?” by Kristopher D. White

Chapter Six: “To Go Around to the Right? Longstreet at Gettysburg” by Dan Welch

Chapter Seven: “What if Jefferson Davis Hadn't Been So Loyal to Braxton Bragg?” by Cecily Nelson Zander

Chapter Eight: “What if Robert E. Lee Had Struck a Blow at the North Anna River?” by Chris Mackowski

Chapter Nine: “‘Rally the loyal men of Missouri’: What If the 1864 Missouri Expedition Had Been Successful?” by Kristen Trout

Chapter Ten: “Why Didn’t General Robert E. Lee Wage a Guerrilla War with his Army of Northern Virginia in April 1865?” by Barton A. Myers

Chapter Eleven: “‘What if Lincoln Lived? The Civil War’s Perennial Counterfactual Question” by Brian Matthew Jordan and Evan C. Rothera

Contributor Notes




Chris Mackowski, Ph.D., is the editor in chief of Emerging Civil War. He is a writing professor in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University and the historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge, a historic property on the Spotsylvania battlefield. Chris has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books on the Civil War. Brian Matthew Jordan is associate professor of Civil War history and chair of the History Department at Sam Houston State University. He lives in southeast Texas. He is the author of Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory (Savas Beatie, 2011). His book Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War (2015) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.