For Civil War buffs:
July 4, 1863 wasn’t the death of the CSA but I have generally seen it as the day it received its mortal wound. In the west it was the day Vicksburg fell, making the Mississippi a completely Union river. In the north it was the day that the first of Lee’s troops reached the Rappahannock after their defeat at Gettysburg and the last time they would be on northern soil. In Tennlosing Gettysburg, never to have another major offensive. In Tennessee, it was the day the Union invested Chattanooga after pushing the incompetent Bragg 80 miles in a matter of days. It was the Frost Giants of the Dixiedammerung; I’ve usually thought there was absolutely no way they could have won after this date without a miracle.
However, while these were serious and potentially mortal losses strategically, the war was far from over and there was a whole lot of fight left in the Dixie lion. Suppose that—
Okay, REFRESHER COURSE for buffs who haven’t visited the timespan or western theater in a while:
Chickamauga was fought two months later- one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Bragg, brilliant man by most accounts but by even more half-crazed (conservative estimate) and incompetent and presiding over a general staff that, save for Forrest, wasn’t that stellar either (and most of whom hated him) manages to win the battle in spite of himself and in spite of bad moves and bad information and insubordination from his men due to the equal but opposite incompetence of Rosecrans and that stupid horrible blunder of plugging a hole that wasn’t there and then the chaos. It was expensive as hell in terms of men, but accidental it was one of the last great Southern victories south of Virginia.
Here’s what happened next:
The Union withdrew back to Chattanooga. In spite of his general staff and even enlisted men literally begging him to pursue them and in spite of Richmond flat out ordering him to pursue them, Bragg refused to mount an offensive greater than shelling the city (and even that incompetently). When he should have been driving them from Chattanooga he was contemplating his navel and rubbing shit in his hair, even doing some damned near psychotic things like dispatching his entire cavalry under Wheeler on futile suicide missions into Tennessee and ignoring a death threat from Forrest and sending Longstreet’s entire division to Knoxville under equipped when it was known the north was going to mount an offensive.
Meanwhile Rosecrans is replaced with Grant, invested Chattanooga attacks, the CSA armies are too scattered/exhausted/ill-equipped/grossly mismanaged to do much about it, and the South completely loses Tennessee. Soon Atlanta is the last great fallback, then the siege, then the fall of Atlanta, then Sherman’s March, and ultimately the surrender of Johnston.
Imagine if, somehow, Bragg had been killed immediately after Chickamauga- either fragged by Forrest (who gets away scot free) or his horse spooks and throws him, whatever- but Bragg (who Davis psychotically would not replace) is gone, no more, mort, an ex Bragg gone to sing with the minstrel show invisible. Now suppose the army is given a far more competent leader (use your own discretion if you wish- it can be Johnston [no Napoleon but not a total nutcase] or Longstreet [pretty much ditto] or Forrest [brilliant but not bloody likely he’d have ever been given infantry or really any command higher than he had], but whoever it is, they succeed, circa late September 1863, in completely girding Chattanooga and driving out the Union. They retake and they hold Chattanooga, and in the meantime build major fortifications around Atlanta and use Chattanooga as a base to strike at Knoxville, and ultimately soon succeed in retaking Knoxville. This conceivably could have happened.
In this event Grant would not have broken into Georgia anywhere near as soon, morale would have been much better, and the South would have retained possessions of some vital railroads and supply lines, all while the Election of 1864 is looming. Do you think it would have made much difference in the war?