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If the South Had Won the Civil War - A Review

I love to scrounge around on my bookshelves or through old boxes to discover books that have gotten “lost” and forgotten about. So many jewels can be found that way. A few weeks ago I was looking through my bookshelf to clean some things off. I discovered a small, old book called If The South Had Won The Civil War by MacKinlay Kantor. You could tell from the cover it was old. In fact it was near fifty years old. It was a very small book, so I decided to give it try. I discovered something very interesting.

For someone who is familiar with history, this book might prove to be a difficult read. I was reading along and finding myself frowning what really happened was not displayed in the book. I had to keep telling myself that this was a piece of fiction and was exploring a “what if” scenario. It really got to be frustrating.

When I managed to get through the small book, I was highly impressed at how well the author was able to set aside history and create a whole new timeline. He showed how the nation split as well as Texas. Robert E. Lee, no surprise, became a Confederate President. Everything I knew as history changed. One act, the death of a strategic general, changed all of history. What if the South really had won the war?

So many things would be different. The author really got me thinking about other events. What if one small act had changed the outcome of elections, wars, disasters, and so forth? We might not recognize the world at all.
I found this book to be very short, yet full of such detail that it leaves your head spinning. Kantor adds footnotes and writes the entire book not as a typical fiction novel, but as a fictional historical report. That is why it can become confusing to one who knows their history.

In researching a little more on the book, I really found it interesting that it began as a piece in a 1960 magazine. It garnered so much attention that the book was not long in coming out. Many people began to wonder what would have happened. Debates and speculations began over whether Kantor’s “history” could really have come about.

You will not find this to be a typical fiction read as I have stated earlier. Go into this telling yourself to forget the history you have learned. Otherwise, it will be a little difficult to fully grasp. If you are in an adventurous mood, give this short book a try. It could spark some really good conversation.

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