The Presidents of the Confederate States of America: An Alternate History

Earlier today, a historian friend of mine sent me a list of Presidents of the Confederate States of America.  Though I by no means a sympathizer of the Confederate States of America, I thought the list of presidents deserved a short counterfactual historical sketch, to “play along” with an alternate history of the Confederate States of America.  For those readers of mine who are more supportive of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy than I am, I hope you enjoy.  For the rest of you, I hope you recognize enough genuine history to be informed as well.  As a note, I have included the wikipedia entries for all of the proposed “Presidents” of the Confederacy for the amusement of the readers who wish to read the “real” histories of these people, some of whom are very obscure.

1.  Jefferson Davis (1861-1867) [1]

Despite a difficult time during the first part of his term with the Civil War (called “The War Between The States” in the official histories of the Confederate States of America and “The War of Northern Aggression” or “The War of Southern Independence” by many popular historians who cater to the patriotic fervor of the Southrons), the election of George B. McClellan to the presidency marked a much better second half to his one term in the presidency, as it led to a withdrawal of Union troops from occupied territories and the vote of Kentucky and Maryland to join the successful Confederacy, which was promptly recognized by Great Britain, France, and the Empire of Mexico, a staunch Confederate ally.  Despite some difficulties dealing with his generals, Jefferson Davis was recognized as being a president who established the precedent of strong leadership and government intervention in business for the common good by later leaders in similar times of crisis.  Nonetheless, his presidency was uniformly cheered and he achieved a permanent place on the Confederate $1 bill.

2. John Breckinridge (1867-1873) [2]

In honor of his successful service as Jefferson Davis’ last Secretary of War in winning Southern independence by a negotiated peace and his being the vice president of James Buchanan and the candidate of the Southern Democrats in 1860, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky was that state’s first president of the Confederacy.  Breckinridge was tested as a president in foreign affairs, with the addition of Alaska to the Union and the settlement of the claims against Great Britain for Confederate commerce raiders in the favor of the United States, but he was a strong enough president to help his allies to the South in the Empire of Mexico to maintain their rule against Mexican forces led by US ally Benito Juarez, whose insurgency efforts were contained by the combined Confederate-French effort.  Domestically, the Confederacy was able to rebuild its infrastructure from the late unpleasantries and begin efforts to build a small gunboat fleet of its own to protect its shores from the powerful United States Navy.

3. Alexander Stephens (1873-1879) [3]

Despite being passed over for the presidency in 1867, Alexander Stephens of Georgia was recognized for his loyal service to the Confederate cause during its war for independence as well as for his first-hand masterpiece of history, A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States (2 volumes), though later historians of the South admitted that slavery was really the cause of the Civil War, after it had been peacefully abolished in place of a system of labor known as “sharecropping” during the Buckner presidency (see #6 below).  Stephen’s presidency was known for its relaxing of centralized government in favor of a more decentralized one, in light of the demobilization of the Union Army and the demilitarization of the border between the Union and Confederacy.  During Stephen’s presidency the Empire of Mexico granted the Confederacy the states of Baja California and Sonora, which quickly became States #16 and #17 of the Confederacy in 1874, as the Confederacy continued its march to the Pacific.  In addition, Confederate claims against the Union for damages during the war were paid by the cession of New Mexico and Arizona territories as well as the southern part of California, which had voted in a plebiscite to join the Confederacy as State #18:  Middle California, with its capital in the small frontier town of Los Angeles.

4. James Longstreet (1879-1885) [4]

The election of James Longstreet to the Presidency of the Confederate States of America after his long and faithful service of the CSA as a diplomat to foreign lands (like the Court of St. James in England as well as the Court of the Ottoman Sultan) marked what Southron historians consider “the dynasty of the Generals,” in which four straight presidents had served as generals of the Confederacy.  Since the most illustrious of them all, General Robert E. Lee, had died in 1870, the voters of the South chose the next best available candidate, his trusty and solid right-hand man, who is not remembered as a flamboyant president but is remembered as a solid one, who successfully presided over a presidency known for its honesty and integrity and its avoidance of any taint of scandal.  After his presidency Longstreet became known as an intellectual defender of the new way of war, where trench warfare made frontal assaults nearly suicidal, insights gained from his experience as a general as well as his successful late presidential brokering of a peace deal between CSA ally Chile and US allies Bolivia and Peru to end the War of the Pacific (1878-1884), which made Chile the premier power of Pacific South America.

5. Joseph E. Johnston (1885-1891) [5]

Though he barely survived his term, Joseph E. Johnston of Virginia served as president during a contentious time in Confederate history, as he struggled to maintain peace in the Indian Territory after it was opened for settlement in 1886, and faced the growing demand for compensated emancipation of slaves.  Though he resisted the call for the end of slavery, he allowed states to fund their own emancipation schemes with corresponding remittances of taxes, leading to the end of slavery in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland.  By the end of his term, slavery was on the way out in the Confederacy, which was the last nation in the Western Hemisphere with legal slavery at the end of his term.  In foreign affairs Johnson’s presidency is most notable for the development of an alliance between the CSA and Spain, an alliance strengthened by the desire of many Northern foreign interests for a war over Cuba.  In gratitude for this support, during Johnston’s term the Confederacy was granted the perpetual use of the area around the Guantanamo Bay for a base, the first foreign base the CSA possessed.

6. Simon Bolivar Buckner (1891-1897) [6]

Simon Buckner, former governor of Kentucky, and hero of the “Border War” between Kentucky and West Virginia, was elected president of the CSA in 1891 on a ticket of financial security and an adoption of “sound money” gold standard policy in order to prevent runaway inflation due to the mining of silver in the United States and to stop its transfer into the CSA as legal tender.  Buckner’s presidency was a busy one, as he brokered a successful end to a civil war in Chile (1891) at the beginning of his presidency and kept the United States from attacking the CSA’s strongest ally in South America over the Baltimore incident in Valpariso.  Buckner’s presidency is best known for the peaceful end of slavery within the CSA, though his shepherding of three new states into the Confederacy (Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, the last granting full rights of citizenship to the loyal population of American Indians there, who were granted a concurrent veto within the state government, states #19, 20, and 21 into the Confederacy) was also notable.

7. Fitzhugh Lee (1897-1903) [7]

The flamboyant Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of Robert E. Lee and writer of his uncles definitive biography, was president during an active time in international affairs.  The alliance of Spain and the CSA against Cuban rebels and the USA led to a victory for Spain in the Spanish-American War of 1898.  A grateful Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the CSA, and the independent Republican of Hawaii, which was run by sugar farmers friendly to the CSA after a successful Revolution in 1893, also joined the CSA as a state, becoming the first sovereign nation to be granted statehood by the CSA as state #22.  Additionally, the growing international prestige of the CSA allowed President Lee to pursue an “open door” policy for Confederate trade in China after the unsuccessful Boxer Rebellion, in which Confederate troops were part of a successful international coalition including Great Britain, France, and Germany.

8. Benjamin Tillman (1903-1909) [8]

As could be expected, the peaceful end of slavery in the CSA prompted a racist backlash over concern of “uppity” blacks that led to the racist Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina to be chosen as the eighth president of the Confederate States of America, and the first from the Palmetto State.  Despite Tillman’s efforts to codify “black codes” limiting the civil rights of the freed blacks, he is best known for his pivotal influence in aiding the cause of higher education, not only in South Carolina (through his influential role in founding Clemson), but even in black universities, as his support led to the development of the CSA’s first black colleges, focused on training capable black workers to serve as the working class of the CSA’s growing industrial sector, and alleviating many of the social concerns that led to his election as president.  In foreign affairs, Tillman’s presidency was notable for the strict neutrality of the CSA in the growing rivalry between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente, as well as Tillman’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize for successfully brokering an end to the Russo-Japanese War, the first CSA leader to win that prize.

9. John Sharp Williams (1909-1915) [9]

John Sharp Williams became the second member of the “dynasty of academics” that held the position of CSA president after a lengthy career as the majority leader of the CSA Congress.  His lengthy efforts to develop a University of the Confederacy were successful when one was established in Corinth, Mississippi, near the center of the CSA.  However, despite his interests in education and the development of the South’s intellectual infrastructure, he was not allowed to focus purely on domestic affairs with the outbreak of World War I during his last year in office.  With the help of his Vice President Woodrow Wilson (see #10 below) he managed to keep the CSA out of war during his term, but the sinking of CSA ships by German U-boats and the seizure of CSA ships by Great Britain on the high seas led to an estrangement between the CSA and both powers, and a growing focus on trade with Pacific nations, Latin America, and the Caribbean, where the CSA had bases and safer seas.  As a result, the CSA passed the “Embargo Act of 1915” banning trade with all nations who violated the freedom of the seas, leading the USA to the north to a deeper involvement with the UK and the growing war.

10. Woodrow Wilson (1915-1921) [10]

Despite suffering from a stroke during his last part of his term in office, Woodrow Wilson is remembered as one of the CSA’s most successful presidents in a difficult time worldwide.  The stalemate between the Entente and Central Powers in WWI allowed for Woodrow Wilson, in his most proud moment, to broker a peace between the two parties that allowed for a status quo antebellum, and the peaceful resolution of the most serious crises of Europe, allowing for the use of the plebiscite to resolve the ownership of Alsace-Lorraine (which reverted to France) as well as the independence of many new nations in Eastern Europe under the aegis of the League of Nations, which was developed and became a robust institution with the powerful support of the CSA, which avoided isolationism while preserving its role as a principled neutral in international conflicts, with its powerful army capable of enforcing the peace if need be.  The result was a growth of confidence in the CSA over its increasing influence in world affairs, which won Woodrow Wilson a Nobel Peace Prize of his own in 1919, after brokering the successful Peace of Versailles.  As a bonus, Confederate women received the right to vote in 1920.

11. Theodore Bilbo (1921-1927) [11]

As has often been the case in the history of the CSA, periods of great progressive reform have been followed by the election of racist presidents who are hostile to the gains that blacks have made, and such was the case with the election of Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, who promised “a return to white supremacy” after the CSA was scandalized by the sight of free blacks in Paris, France kissing white French girls in public.  The result was a retrenchment of sorts and a renewed enforcement of black codes.  Nonetheless, the focus on segregation during Bilbo’s presidency could not stop the “Montgomery Renaissance,” where blacks in the CSA’s first capital developed their own distinctive literature groups, nor the development of jazz music in New Orelans, which quickly spread around the world thanks to the support of the CSA’s soldiers abroad.  However, his presidency was widely seen within the nation as a return to sanity and the South’s heritage after the threat of warfare during the previous two presidencies.

12. John Nance Garner (1925-1931) [12]

John Nance Garner of Texas was chosen president, and despite his lengthy years of service to his state and nation, he is perhaps best remembered for his diatribes against Yankee Do-Gooders like US President Herbert Hoover, whose bungling led to the Great Depression, which profoundly affected the CSA at a time when droughts were troubling the CSA’s breadbaskets of Texas and Oklahoma as well as his quote:  “the presidency isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit,” though it is widely believed that “Cactus Jack” used much less delicate language.  Though Garner did not reach the pantheon of the most notable presidents of the CSA, he was probably the most irascible and quotable, and that’s saying something.

13. Huey Long [13]; Richard Russell [14] (1935-1941)

Huey “The Kingfish” Long of Louisiana was elected president of the Confederacy in 1935 on a populist platform to help the poor, but was assassinated before he could enact any of his proposals.  Long remains the only CSA president ever assassinated, an act which deeply troubled the law abiding nation which he represented.  His Vice President, Richard Russell Jr. of Georgia, son of the longtime Chief Justice of the CSA Supreme Court, and himself a leader of the Conservative wing of the CSA Congress, served the remainder of his term, finding a way to keep the CSA out of growing international problems while serving as a steadfast foe of civil rights legislation.  However, he is ironically enough known for his role in supporting the development of the Tennessee Valley region and the development of the CSA’s neglected Appalachian regions, long considered to be hostile and disloyal to the central government.  This development helped the CSA avoid the pitfalls of the Great Depression suffered elsewhere in the world and served to calm some of the South’s most fierce internal divides, even in an atmosphere of growing international tension.

14. Richard Russell (1941-1947) [14]

Richard Russell, through his election on his own to the presidency of the Confederacy, became the longest-serving president of the CSA as a result of his successful efforts to stem the Great Depression in the CSA, but his second term was not as pleasant as the first.  The surprise attack of the Japanese on the Confederate naval base in Pearl Harbor led to a declaration of war by the CSA against Japan, but after some initial and inconclusive fighting (thanks to the firm alliance of the CSA and Spain, which still held the Philippines, and was an ally of both Germany and Japan), Japan apologized for its assault and agreed to pay for damages, with the acceptance of the CSA as an ally.  Fortunate, the League of Nations was able to keep the fighting of World War II from getting out of hand, and the result was a status quo antebellum that led to the growth of independence movements around the world and to the continued importance of the CSA’s peacekeepers for the League of Nations in keeping hot spots from flaring up into active warfare.

15. Strom Thurmond (1947-1953) [15]

Strom Thurmond of South Carolina served as the fifteenth president of the United States, as the South once again turned to a known racist opponent of civil rights for its restive black minority in the aftermath of international crises that threatened white supremacy at home.  Despite the scandal of fathering a mulatto love child which was discovered late in life, Strom Thurmond succeeded in preserving the internal peace of the South as well as the admission of Puerto Rico as the CSA’s 23rd (and so far most recent) state, in 1950.  In foreign affairs the CSA surprised many international observers by quickly recognizing the nation of Israel, but such surprise vanished when the recognition served as an official encouragement for the CSA’s small Jewish minority to emigrate to Israel.

16. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. (1953-1959) [16]

It was little surprise to pundits and observers that Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. of Kentucky became the first son to succeed his father as President of the Confederate States of America, especially since he was the most notable hero of the CSA’s efforts in the Second World War.  The result of a noble pedigree and conspicuous acts of service in numerous foreign matters as a longtime general and Secretary of War made Buckner an easy choice in a time of great international conflict.  Buckner’s international expertise came in handy when he negotiated an armistice to the Korean War and a withdrawal of British, French, and Israeli troops from the Suez Canal, earning him two Nobel Peace Prizes for his efforts in 1954 and 1957, and the only man to ever win two such prizes.  At home, though, his presidency was marked by a growing desire among the blacks of the CSA to end segregation, efforts which had still not borne fruit by the end of his presidency, which is remembered fondly as a high water mark of CSA influence in world affairs.

17. Orville Faubus (1959-1965) [17]

Orville Faubus of Arkansas was yet another one of the stringent opponents of integration and vocal supporters of white supremacy to occupy the presidency of the Confederate States of America.  During his time in office, integration efforts were stopped by force by the National Guards of various states, with the full support of the Confederate government.  However, despite these internal troubles, which included riots in Montgomery, Richmond, and other cities, his presidency is surprisingly noted for the successes of Confederate astronauts in space, becoming the first people in space as well as the first to orbit the earth, during his presidency.  Given the prominent confederate space centers in Florida, Alabama, Texas, and Middle California, this ought not to be too surprising, but it was to many world observers who had expected the Russians or United States to take that honor.

18. Lyndon B. Johnson (1965-1971) [18]

As an aftermath to the troubled domestic times of President Faubus’ administration, President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas presided over a much more peaceful time where the “Great Society” initiative was established, though it was one which did not greatly lead to federal expenditures, as was feared, because the “war on poverty” that he promised was a warfare engaged by private businesses to develop the Confederacy as a whole.  Furthermore, the avoidance of Confederate involvement in the Indochina Problem allowed the Confederacy to bask in the glory of being the first nation to place a man on the moon.  Internally, the granting of limited suffrage to well-educated and law-abiding blacks and the granting of limited “home rule” in areas with black minorities served to remove the threat of civil war that had erupted during the last couple years of Faubus’ contentious presidency.

19. John Connally (1971-1977) [19]

John Connally of Texas, leader of the Conservative Party, succeeded the more “liberal” Johnson as president of the Confederacy, preserving fiscal integrity as well as domestic peace during a troubled time when most world economies suffered from “stagflation.”  As a result of this stability, the CSA not only preserved its reputation for military strength and peacekeeping when Connally brokered a peace in the Yom Kippur War, granting another status quo antebellum between Israel and its neighbors, but also had the most stable currency of the time, allowing the Confederate dollar to rapidly become the reserve currency of choice while the world (apart from the CSA) suffered terribly from oil shortages.  The resulting prosperity made the CSA a budding economic superpower to go along with its military and diplomatic reputation.

20. Jimmy Carter (1977-1983)

Jimmy Carter of Georgia was elected the next president of the United States thanks to his prestige in negotiating the end of the Yom Kippur War.  His presidency served as a holding pattern, as the Confederacy muddled along (though it did not crash) despite his concern about “malaise” and despite his successes in foreign policy, where he managed to earn a Novel Peace Prize for negotiating the Camp David Accords, which regularized the relationship between Egypt and Israel, and also managed to resolve the Ogaden War between Ethiopia and Somalia in his spare time, allowing for the cession of Somali areas to Somalia, which became a much looser federation and no longer a threat to its neighbors over irredentist claims for the return of Somali territory.  Additionally, the CSA alliance with Chile and Great Britain managed to lead to an Argentine defeat in the Fauklands War, which was credited internationally to his leadership.  President Carter ended his term a president beloved around the world (except maybe in Argentina), but to which his own people were somewhat indifferent.  Not surprisingly, he chose to focus on international matters after leaving the presidency.

21. Jesse Helms (1983-1989) [21]

Jesse Helms of North Carolina, of the Conservative Party, continued the “seesaw” between the Conservative and Liberal parties that had taken place for the last few decades.  Helms continued the fragile peace over racial relations that had developed during the last few terms, and managed to prevent an AIDS crisis from developing in the Confederacy due to his harsh stand against homosexuality and his extradition of those caught engaging in such immoral activities to the United States, where such activity was condoned.  Despite international concern over his “quarantine” policy, he stuck to it to the wide support of his people, and even managed to secure an alliance with the white-dominated Republic of South Africa as well as the new state of Southwest Africa, which was forming towards the end of his term.

22. Pat Robertson (1989-1995) [22]

Pat Robertson of Virginia, of the Conservative Party, became the first religious figure to be elected to the Presidency of the Confederacy, a sign of the power of the Southern Baptist voting bloc that had supported President Helm’s quarantine efforts to prevent the spread of AIDS within the CSA.  Robertson’s efforts in mobilizing the South’s population in favor of those moves seems to have made him the natural candidate of the “moral majority” of the South, and a direct repudiation of the moral chaos in other Western nations that the CSA strove to avoid.  During his term the fall of Communism gave great prestige to the developing Theonomy movement, which showed how optimistic eschatology led to national success, which few international observers could deny was the case with the CSA, whose prestige at the time was unquestionable.

23. Bill Clinton (1995-2001) [23]

Despite winning the presidency as a member of the “Liberal” Party, Clinton was definitely a law-and-order liberal, refusing to end the policies of his immediate successors while focusing his attentions both on foreign affairs–including a peaceful end to the Bosnian and Kosovo Crises–as well as domestic affairs, including a workfare program that sought to drastically reduce the poverty rate of blacks, which had become an embarrassment over the last few decades.  As can be expected, Clinton’s solicitous concern for the well being of blacks was not particularly popular among the Conservative Party, but he was popular enough to push through greater suffrage for blacks in his term, though the later part of his term was dominated by his sexual scandals as well as publicity over his support of Free Trade, which led to the passage of NAFTA with Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

[24] Al Gore (2001-2007) [24]

President Clinton’s Vice President Al Gore managed to succeed him as President of the CSA after a tough election battle decided in Florida, an often-forgotten part of the CSA, despite an election campaign marred by a dispute over supposed claims to have invented the internet during his time as CSA Senator.  His term was marked by a major effort of the CSA to support nations  that suffered from a catastrophic tsunami, as well as efforts to make the CSA the cutting edge of the “Green” Revolution over a concern with Global Warming, a stand more popular around the world than it was with his own people, though the wind farms off the Gulf Coast of Florida and in the Appalachian Mountains and its solar farms in Texas and Arizona surprisingly became tourist destinations as the CSA became the world-recognized leader in the development of wind and solar technologies.

25. Rick Perry (2007-201?) [25]

The current president, Rick Perry of Texas, of the Conservative Party, won the presidency on a promise to develop a “super corridor” within the South to increase its transportation infrastructure and make it an even larger trade power, as well as his support of efforts to counteract illegal immigration through “boots on the ground.”  His support of the sovereignty of states and intelligent design also earned him the support of a conservative populace that was in favor of further economic development, was proud of the CSA’s being on the forefront of the harmonious relationship between science and religion, and continuing concerns over law and order.  So far Perry’s term has not been overly distinguished by the standards of presidents, but the economy has remained strong and the CSA remains and peace, and as a result his people remain content.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Davis

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_C._Breckinridge

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Stephens

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Longstreet

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_E._Johnston

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Buckner

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitzhugh_Lee

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Tillman

[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Sharp_Williams

[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodrow_Wilson

[11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Bilbo

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nance_Garner

[13] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huey_Long

[14] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Russell,_Jr.

[15] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strom_Thurmond

[16] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Bolivar_Buckner,_Jr.

[17] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orville_Faubus

[18] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyndon_B._Johnson

[19] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Connally

[20] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Carter

[21] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Helms

[22] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Robertson

[23] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Clinton

[24] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Gore

[25] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Perry

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, American History, History, International Relations, Military History and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Presidents of the Confederate States of America: An Alternate History

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  5. gino dorsainvil says:

    Thank you for this information it was really helpful towards my homework

  6. Fabian Voigt says:

    Nice piece. It helps great with a roleplay game (Space 1889). Greetings from Germany.

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