Colossal Ambitions: Confederate Planning for a Postwar Global Role
Author: Adrian Brettle (Pembroke 1991)
Publisher: University of Virginia Press
My book explores the Confederacy’s expansionist plans during the American Civil War and will break much new ground in placing the Confederacy, and the war in a broader sense, within a transnational context. It aims to describe what happened and what arguments were in play as to the Confederate future. Though the overarching demands of war caused Confederate leaders to abandon or suspend many of the southern antebellum plans for territorial extension, for example into Latin America, which have been well documented by historians, Confederate policy makers and articulators nonetheless subsequently in wartime engaged in a surprising amount of sustained, profoundly thoughtful, and often strikingly progressive and “expansionist” planning and discourse about their nation’s likely intentions and policies should it survive, as they expected, hostilities with the Union. The book therefore reconceptualizes the Civil War to include the defeat of the slaveholders’ republic (on its own the 5th largest economy in the world) and its attempt to establish an empire as well as saving the Union and ending slavery. For Confederates expected far more from their new polity than mere defensive preservation of slavery from Federal assaults. Rather, patriotic Confederates remained convinced virtually to the end of the Civil War that their nation would survive to implement progressive commercial, territorial, diplomatic, and racial programs envisioned and debated during the conflict. These proposals and expectations emanated from a variety of individuals, media, and settings. Moreover, the course of the war exercised a profound influence on these plans, as Confederates believed they addressed weaknesses and exploited opportunities exposed by the conflict.