Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, September 03, 2021

middle of the action
I’ve made brief (and not-so-brief) mentions here before about my hobbyist interest in the subgenre that is alternate history. And while Marvel Comics’ old “What If?” series first turned me on to the game-like concept of counterfactual historical divergences, there was another comic-book title, far more obscure, that cemented my fascination with fictional might-have-beens.

Captain Confederacy was a self-published little gem from Will Shetterly and Vince Stone. The writer and artist appear to be releasing this (presumably) long out-of-print series onto the Web in blog form. Which saves me from having to dig up my old back issues.

Even better, they’ve posted the boilerplate map that appeared on the inside cover of each issue. More than anything, this map (pictured above) captured my imagination and kept me with the series through its relatively short and erratic run. It’s obviously pretty crude — generated on a vintage 1987-era Macintosh, and following present-day state boundaries just a little too closely. But it was enough.

The original background history behind this alternate reality mapscape is, or will be, covered to some degree on the CC blog. Not everything was explained — Shetterly felt that leaving the development of a balkanized North America vague was part of the fun for readers (with which I agree). But I think I’ll provide my own alternate history explanations, as I recall them from the old Rebel Yell letters pages and with what I felt to be the most satisfying scenarios.

So, a country-by-country legend, according to the map’s numbers (which actually aren’t in an ideal order for my chronological-narrative purposes, but what the heck):

1. Confederate States of America (Caribbean and non-continental territories not shown). The chief action agent in this divergent history. Turned the tide of the War of Secession in 1862, when what became the Battle of Antietam in our history was instead — thanks to the non-discovery of Robert E. Lee’s written battle plans by Union troops — a successful Confederate seige of Washington DC.

Subsequent recognition of the CSA by Britain and France led to a peace treaty and some new international boundaries on the continent. The Confederate States would go on to add Cuba as a state (presumably in a Spanish-Confederate War similar to the factual Spanish-American War, minus the Pacific-Phillipines theater), and also annex Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and most/all of Central America. But not before some other territorial adjustments were made…

2. Louisiana Free State. The end of the War of Secession left various unresolved territorial and national-interest issues between the USA and CSA. In addition to persistent Confederate claims on Missouri and West Virginia, the US refusal to withdraw from New Orleans and southern Louisiana rankled Richmond, especially because it created a de facto safe haven for runaway slaves from adjacent Confederate states.

The United States insisted it needed to maintain its presence at the mouth of the Mississippi to protect its commercial interests on the river. Meanwhile, the growing influx of ex-slaves over the years fostered a volatile political and militant culture within the US-held enclave.

By the turn of the 20th Century, the United States and Confederate States would fight another war to settle their claims (prompted partly by the CSA’s strong victory during its recent war with Spain over Cuba, and colonial conquests in Mexico and elsewhere). In what came to be known as the Missouri War, the US successfully repulsed CS attempts to “liberate” Missouri and other previous slave-holding areas, and the CS managed to take coastal barrier islands the US had held since the end of their last war.

In the war’s New Orleans theater, while US and CS forces were locked in stalemate, radicalized blacks took the opportunity to declare the establishment of the Free State of Louisiana. The participation of Free State militias in the local fighting produced battle-hardened soldiers, and convinced the CSA that any reclaimation of southern Louisiana would come with an unwelcomed and protracted guerilla war.

Among other things, the end of the Missouri War brought a formal reliniquishment of CS claims to Missouri and West Virginia; the transfer of the Carolina barrier islands from the US to the Confederacy; US recognition of CS claims to Cuba and other Caribbean/Latin American colonies; and the international recognition of a new country, the Louisiana Free State.

Over the years, the LFS kept an uneasy co-existence with the bordering CSA. While officially not endorsing unrest among the Confederacy’s no-longer-enslaved (but still oppressed) black population, continued defections into Louisiana keep relations between the two countries edgy. The LFS maintains a balance of power through its extensive petroleum resources and the status of New New Orleans (formerly Morgan City, before the Mississippi River changed course through natural causes during the 1920s) as an international world-class trade center. A long-standing alliance with the United States is an additional keystone of LFS security.

3. United States of America (Caribbean and non-continental territories not shown). From its capital in Philadelphia, the USA has carved out a respectable regional power niche while surrounded by perennially-hostile neighboring countries (many on territories formerly held by the United States). To counteract the British-Confederate alliance on its northern and southern borders, the US has maintained a security linkage with the German Empire since the turn of the 20th Century. Also to check expansionist moves in Latin America by the CSA, the US established protectorates over the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and secured the Panama Canal Zone to check the CSA’s Nicaraguan Canal.

4. Republic of Texas (southern boundaries not shown). Upon achieving independence, the Confederate States of America stretched from the Atlantic in the east to the Colorado River at its extreme western border (thanks to its modest military success in New Mexico, effectively laying claim to the southern half of that Territory).

By the dawn of the 20th Century, expansionist impulses in the CSA inspired military invasions into Latin America. Using revolutionary unrest and border incursions as pretext, the Confederacy launched a war of conquest into Mexico. Thanks to proximity, this Mexican campaign was led largely by Texan troops. By the time Mexico sued for peace, the CSA had overrun the northern part of the country and the Yucatan, and subsequently annexed them.

The immediate post-war period brought discontent among factions of Confederate society who favored the annexation of all of Mexico. In particular, Texas felt it had contributed a disproportionate share of the war effort, only to end up with an incomplete result. Added to this was anxiety over the continued US occupation of nearby southern Louisiana, and the perception that Richmond wasn’t doing enough to resolve that situation. In part due to these internal pressures, and also due to emboldened confidence from recent military successes, the CSA embarked upon the Missouri War soon afterward.

The result of that war — essentially a blunting of growing Confederate power, if not an outright defeat — led to an acceleration of dissatisfaction in Texas. Another unfulfilled military outcome, made even worse with the establishment of the black-governed Louisiana Free State on the state’s border, brought to the fore calls for Texan secession from the CSA. Popular sentiment supported political maneuvers in this direction, and within a couple of years of the end of the Missouri War (circa 1910), Texas formally seceded from the Confederate States and re-established the Republic of Texas.

In a move that surprised the world stage, the Confederacy acceded to Texas’ actions. The sentiment in Richmond, especially with Confederate President Woodrow Wilson, was that a country founded upon the principles of secession couldn’t justify military action against that enshrined legal right. Pragmatic reasons also factored in: A war with Texas invited intervention by the United States, possibly leading to a permanent US-Texan alliance. Additionally, the blossoming Confederate Caribbean empire was already stretching the country’s resources. Parting with Texas on friendly terms seemed the safest course.

Texas embarked upon an existence as an independent nation-state, under certain conditions. Contingent upon its divorce from the CSA, it granted the Confederacy naval port leases on the Gulf and Pacific coasts in exchange for undisputed sovereignty over New Mexico and the newly-conquered Mexican territories. It also agreed with the CSA to preserve the remnant rump state of Mexico, chiefly as a buffer between Texan territory and Confederate holdings in Yucatan/Central America.

Throughout the rest of the 20th Century, Texas benefited from its vast petroleum resources, leveraging them into a role as a power-broker in North America and beyond. Despite its early-history hostility toward it, Texas developed close ties with Louisiana Free State, both as a buffer versus the Confederate States and through their mutual membership in OPEC.

5. Great Spirit Alliance (northern boundaries not shown). A consequence of the Anglo-French brokered end to the War of Secession was the creation of a British-backed Native American independent state. Ever since the War of 1812, Great Britain had been seeking such a buffer nation as protection for its British North American holdings, and it seized upon the opportunity to set one up on the Great Plains.

Initially composed of the Plains tribes indigenous to the area, the so-called Indian Territory was supplemented by forced and unforced relocations of other North American tribes from British North America and the Confederate States (but not from the United States, which wasn’t inclined to boost the population of a hostile country).

Eventually, elements in the Indian Territory, encouraged by independence movements elsewhere, formed the Great Spirit Alliance, a tribal-based governing system mutually allied against surrounding states. The GSA spearheaded independence from British influence, allied itself with the metis settlers in the Canadian prairies for a push to the north, and established itself as a Native American homeland in the heart of North America. Mistreatment of Natives elsewhere in the Americas keep Great Spirit relations with neighboring countries frosty.

6. Deseret. The end of the War of Secession took huge chunks out of the United States’ pre-1860 boundaries, but still left the country with contiguous territories from the Atlantic to the Pacific. However, that integrity hung by a thin reed.

In Utah Territory, embittered Mormons considered the success of the Confederate States in achieving independence. Having had their own clashes with the Federal government since before their exodus to the Great Salt Lake Desert, Mormon leaders saw the establishment of their own independent government as the surest means toward preserving their isolation and way of life.

For its part, the United States now saw Utah as an essential overland bridge to California and the Pacific Coast. Following the war, Philadelphia placed renewed priority on completing the Trans-Continental Railroad, framing it as a lifeline to holding what remained of the country together.

Seeing an opportunity to destabilize the US further and expand its North American influence, Great Britain (and to a lesser extent, the CSA) dispatched agents among the Mormons to encourage revolt and promise support. Encouraged by this, Mormons openly rebelled against US authorities, and by the end of the 1860s declared an independent state of Deseret. With British support, Deseret claimed Nevada and the western portion of what remained of US-held New Mexico Territory, along with Utah.

Despite the obvious consequences — the cutting off of the Pacific coast from the rest of the country — the United States was largely forced to accept the breakaway of Deseret. War with the Mormons, coming on the heels of the massive losses from the War of Secession, was too much for a weary American public to accept. Popular sentiment was that Mormon country wasn’t worth a war to keep, especially if it led to a wider conflict with the British and Confederates.

Deseret thus managed to establish its freedom. The country, while denying accusations of being a theocracy, nonetheless has been dominated by the leadership of the Church of Latter-Day Saints for its entire existence. Relatively resource-poor, it has relied upon extensive trade agreements with neighboring countries.

7. People’s Republic of California (southern boundaries not shown). The establishment of Deseret to the east cut off California from the rest of the Union, exacerbating already-existing feelings of disassociation. With the lack of direct rail or other overland routes with the US, California declared itself a republic in 1875. The new country was immediately recognized by the Confederate States, Great Britain, France and other powers, and while relations were strained with Philadelphia, California managed to gain independence without warfare.

California grew slowly over the next couple of decades. Wary of foreign influences, the country forged alliances with France and Russia as bulwarks against the CSA and Britain. It also began to establish an informal sphere of influence over neighboring Baja California in Mexico; this led to the formal annexation of the peninsula during the CSA invasion of Mexico in the early 20th Century.

California’s preoccupation with continental affairs left it unprepared for a new challenge from across the ocean. Seeing California as an ideal trans-Pacific base for its growing empire, Japan exerted military influence over the North American country beginning in the 1910s. By the end of that decade, Japanese naval bases were established in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and California was effectively a puppet state. A Japanese-sponsored People’s Republic was declared in the 1920s.

In the years since, Asians (particularly Chinese expatriates from other parts of the Japanese Empire) have become the dominant population group in the People’s Republic. While nominally independent, California remains firmly within Japan’s sphere of influence.

8. Pacifica (northern boundaries not shown). Along with California, Oregon Territory was cut off from the rest of the United States when Deseret achieved independence. While California opted for independence, British agents induced settlers in the Pacific Northwest to join British North America. Threatened by the newly-formed Indian Territory to the east, and not expecting substantial protection from Philadelphia, the residents in sparsely-settled Oregon opted to place themselves under British protection, becoming an extension of British Columbia.

The proclamation of the Great Spirit Alliance in the former Indian Territory, and its subsequent northward expansion, prompted British Columbian action. The remote British North American province declared independence under the name Pacifica.

Pacifica has maintained good regional relations. It has particularly close ties with its northern neighbor Alayeska, supporting the displaced Tsarist regime against its rival Soviet government in Russia.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/03/2021 11:23:17 PM
Category: Creative, History, Publishing
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5 Feedbacks »
  1. Ah, the “Rebel Yell!” letters column is back!

    Well, in a 2006 internet way. The sort of thing I loved about the old letter column has just happened here: CAPTAIN CONFEDERACY MAP OF CENTRAL NORTH AMERICA Population Statistic

    It’s always embarrassing when your readers know more than you do. But…

    Trackback by Captain Confederacy — 09/04/2021 @ 07:31:28 PM

  2. Captain Confederacy

    Captain Confederacy is an alt-history comic set in a world where the American South won their independence. Really good stuff, potent, thoughtful and, at times, painful. Via Population Statistic

    Trackback by OOKEE.com — 09/06/2021 @ 10:33:41 PM

  3. MOVING THE MISSISSIPPI

    In the middle of my narrative rumination on an alternate political destiny for North America if the South had won the Civil War, I inserted a casual geographical development:
    The [Louisiana Free State] maintains a balance of power through its extensive…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 09/19/2006 @ 11:21:00 PM

  4. i love this! It really helped me! thanks!you’re great!

    Comment by Casey — 09/26/2006 @ 09:09:28 PM

  5. Better late to the party than never? You and I had the same inspiration for our interest in alternate history maps- I saw Captain Confederacy’s and started drawing my own ideas- on a 1987-era Mac. I’m betting you also read Tommy Gehring’s Confederation of American States history, which is sadly gone from Yahoo, and even sadder, has problems being retreived from the Web Archive. Still here’s a link to his CAS history. I’ve got some of these things saved; I’ll send you an email to give you contact info.

    Comment by Tar Heel In Texas — 04/15/2008 @ 12:47:23 AM

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