The Fortunes of War: Confederate Expanionist Ambitions During the American Civil War

Brettle, Adrian, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Gallagher, Gary, Department of History, University of Virginia
Varon, Elizabeth, Department of History, University of Virginia

Southern and then Confederate politicians and business leaders possessed and implemented expansionist ambitions during the Civil War Era from State Secession in late 1860 until the final collapse of the Confederacy in the first half of 1865. The Confederacy exhibited both formal ambition in the desire to annex additional territory and informal expansion through either a pursuit of commercial exploitation or fostering the fragmentation of neighboring states. Although the pursuit of expansion was integral to the formation of mid-nineteenth century nation states, for southerners, the experience of both secession and of fighting a war acted as a stimulant for such ambitions.
I chart these ambitions held for the Confederacy in terms of slavery expansion, the nature of its future international relations, commercial growth and territorial extent. I have identified numerous leading individuals−planters, farmers, lawyers, merchants, politicians and soldiers−who both held these opinions and sought to persuade others. I track the opinions and actions of these persons throughout the war, and demonstrate that these aspirations changed over time, as did the resulting measures taken at the time by Government and businesses to achieve their ultimate fulfillment.
The objective of my research is to build up an understanding of the postwar expectations, held during the war, of Confederates located across the Confederacy itself, the Border States and stationed abroad. Therefore I consulted a range of printed and manuscript sources at archives across the U.S. The breadth of my research enables me to prove that expansionist ambitions varied across the Confederacy together with demonstrating that policy enacted in Richmond was often the result of intense lobbying from the provinces. The result is to show the Civil War in its true wider context, that the participants at the time consistently saw its outcome as a Confederate nation with international and even global implications. At the same time, the nature of the planned country changed, according to the progress of the Civil War. The pursuit of expansion was certainly both a rhetorical and nostalgic exercise, but it was also a practical part of nation building and preeminently important for a new country dependent on slavery.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Confederacy, Civil War, expansion, imperialism, nationalism, political economy
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