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Trump Card by Steve Payne

Author says: at the end of the Appomattox campaign, what if Ulysses S. Grant did wake up to hear that Robert E. Lee had fled to the hills to lead a guerrilla insurgency? Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).

In 1865, on April 9th Confederate General Robert E. Lee mounted his horse Traveler and with a deep sigh ordered the dissolution of the Army of North Virginia.

This informal cessation of hostilities between regular forces marked a new phase in the American Civil War. By ordering his troops to continue the fight as guerrillas in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the General had played the trump card that President Abraham Lincoln most dreaded.

"a little more blood more or less makes no difference now" ~ Lee's top military aidesBut in a sense, he was only following the orders of the fleeing Confederate President Jefferson Davis who had issued his own call for guerrilla struggle. In anticipation of that order, hundreds of Lee's men had already vanished into the hills on their own initiative. And yet Lee had not taken the decision lightly, he had convened a council of war in which he had been advised that "a little more blood more or less makes no difference now". Nevertheless events in Virginia would soon mirror those in Missouri, where a full-scale guerrilla war of terrifying ferocity had dragged the state into a whirlpool of vengeance.

"I was afraid every morning that I would wake up from my sleep to hear the Lee had gone .. and the war was prolonged" ~ Ulysses S. GrantIn his diary, Union General Ulysses S. Grant had noted "I was afraid every morning that I would wake up from my sleep to hear the Lee had gone .. and the war was prolonged". He was absolutely right, Even a cursory review of Lee's record indicates that he would never surrender to the abolitionists, despite his own fear that "we would bring on a state of affairs that would take the country years to recover from".

  • As a Brevet Colonel of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, shooting John Brown dead at the climax of the Harper's Ferry Raid
  • Refusing to honour the terms of his father-in-law's will which would have freed the slaves under his control
  • After entering Pennsylvania, permitting his men to round up many former slaves and free blacks and send them south into slavery
  • Refusing President Lincoln's offer of the Command of Union Forces at the outbreak of war

Having boasted that he could continue the war for another twenty years, his heart condition suggested otherwise (he suffered several mild heart attacks on the battlefields). Just five and a half years later "Marse Robert" died in the vastness of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a remote and harsh location which mirrored his own stubborness.

Author says the idea for this story originated from the source articles Jay Winik "Graceful Exit" published in American History, Winter Edition: 35 Decisive Moments in American History AND Daniel Marino, reader's letter in the April 2010 Edition of Civil War Times
To view guest historian's comments on this post please visit the Today in Alternate History web site.

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Steve Payne

Editor of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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