What if... Virginia Chose Neutrality?

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steve59p

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Kentucky, a slave state, refused Lincoln's call for volunteers and chose to remain neutral.
What if Virginia had followed Kentucky's lead?
Well materially the CSA is gravely weakened without its major industrial state. However it also means that the union has no overland access to the south east of the Mississippi unless it marches through either of those states, which would probably prompt both to join the south. Which might not matter militarily if neither state is prepared and the union has tooled up so to speak beforehand. Would Lincoln consider this if both states sought to stay neutral as it could have quite an impact on northern military plans.

One other possible point is that there are various level of neutrality. Virginia, or elements in it may swing towards either side. Thinking possibly there of some pro-south elements seeking to breach the blockade via stuff imported to Virginia and then being transported 'over the border' to N Carolina say.
 
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wausaubob

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Kentucky, a slave state, refused Lincoln's call for volunteers and chose to remain neutral.
What if Virginia had followed Kentucky's lead?
There would be a significant amount of negotiation. As long as Virginia allows the Treasury officers to collect the tariff, I think Lincoln decides to go around. Obviously there is some risk to the blockade effort if that happens, so there is plenty to argue about.
 

kevikens

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Interesting conjecture. Virginia and Kentucky both declaring neutrality would have put a crimp into anybody's war efforts. What intrigues more would have been what if the whole border area, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia , Maryland and Delaware had done the same and flat out refused to fight any other Americans. Maybe a truncated and chagrined South and a frustrated and more accommodating North. Too bad it was never tried.
 

Sgt.DedHed

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Any thought to the placement of the Confederate capitol in Richmond was to "help" Virginia go South?
 
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Mark Roth

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I think one of the following would happen. Either Southern sympathizers would work to form a rebelling counter-government al a Missouri and Kentucky. Taking all bets on whether Davis or Lincoln moves troops int VA in that scenario. The other possibility that I see is that the state manages not to split, and someone moves an army in that 'cancels' the state's neutrality.

I think the real question is, whatever happens to the states, does Lee remain in the army and does he accept a battlefield command while his state tries to sit out the war?
 

W. Richardson

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What if Virginia had followed Kentucky's lead?

I believe had Virginia chosen neutrality, North Carolina may have followed Virginia's lead, and without those two key states the Confederate States of America either collapses without a war or they fight a short (5 to 8 month) war. The C.S.A. just simply can not survive without Virginia and North Carolina. Both those states provided a huge amount of man power, resources, and material the C.S.A. could ill afford not to have.

Respectfully,

William

One Nation, two countries

Confed-American Flag.jpg
 

wausaubob

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If everything gets bogged down, perhaps the blockade and a tariff are enough to produce peace. And after some shouting, a huge discriminatory tariff on anything imported from a slave economy, directly or indirectly through Britain, is enough to produce reunion.
In that scenario the Republicans inform the middle south they have a few weeks to abandon neutrality before the FSA is eliminated and slavery is a goner in DC regardless.
Unless they want all whiskey, mules, hemp and hogs coming from Kentucky and Tennessee to Illinois and Ohio to pay a 25% tariff, they have a few months to rejoin because loyal farmers are going to get a tariff preference over neutral farmers.
Nobody wants to pay a big tariff premium on cotton textiles, but by June it becomes a patriotic fashion to wear linen, wool and silk.
Negotiations open with the Spanish empire and Brazil to abolish slavery and gain most preferred nation status.
Missouri finds out right away the neutrality means the Union Pacific begins at Rock Island or Davenport and builds straight west from there and the government is going to build the bridge at Council Bluffs on a contract basis.
 
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wausaubob

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The longer the claim of neutrality lasts, the more likely it is that the Whig economic sentiment in the 8 middle south states makes a persuasive argument that secession is a business disaster. Problems with mail, credit, port closures, enforcement of slavery make neutrality an extremely difficult proposition. The northern Democrats are the worst enemy of the so called neutrals.
 

steve59p

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If everything gets bogged down, perhaps the blockade and a tariff are enough to produce peace. And after some shouting, a huge discriminatory tariff on anything imported from a slave economy, directly or indirectly through Britain, is enough to produce reunion.
In that scenario the Republicans inform the middle south they have a few weeks to abandon neutrality before the FSA is eliminated and slavery is a goner in DC regardless.
Unless they want all whiskey, mules, hemp and hogs coming from Kentucky and Tennessee to Illinois and Ohio to pay a 25% tariff, they have a few months to rejoin because loyal farmers are going to get a tariff preference over neutral farmers.
Nobody wants to pay a big tariff premium on cotton textiles, but by June it becomes a patriotic fashion to wear linen, wool and silk.
Negotiations open with the Spanish empire and Brazil to abolish slavery and can most preferred nation status.
Missouri finds out right away the neutrality means the Union Pacific begins at Rock Island or Davenport and builds straight west from there and the government is going to build the bridge and Council Bluffs on a contract basis.
Isn't there a problem with such economic pressure potentially prompting those states to secede and join the existing rebels? Or possibly, if their being discriminated against by Washington they reject such tariffs and existing ones that heavily benefit the northern states by hindering the purchase of cheaper European goods. After all the high tariffs on imports was another big source of resentment from just about everybody outside the north east states.

Given how protectionist the north was at the time and how dependent Washington was on income from such tariffs I doubt it will make favourable deals with external nations. Especially since many of their productions are primary ones and hence likely to be in competition with US producers.
 
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steve59p

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I believe had Virginia chosen neutrality, North Carolina may have followed Virginia's lead, and without those two key states the Confederate States of America either collapses without a war or they fight a short (5 to 8 month) war. The C.S.A. just simply can not survive without Virginia and North Carolina. Both those states provided a huge amount of man power, resources, and material the C.S.A. could ill afford not to have.

Respectfully,

William

One Nation, two countries

View attachment 193165
Think that would be a big blow if N Carolina also stayed inside the union, [technically] even if neutral. Coupled with the loss of Virginian resources than would mean in the longer term the rump south would lack the manpower and resources to put up much opposition once the north managed to build up the navy and infrastructure to project power against it.
 

steve59p

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Interesting conjecture. Virginia and Kentucky both declaring neutrality would have put a crimp into anybody's war efforts. What intrigues more would have been what if the whole border area, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia , Maryland and Delaware had done the same and flat out refused to fight any other Americans. Maybe a truncated and chagrined South and a frustrated and more accommodating North. Too bad it was never tried.
I think the problem was that the question of slavery would have to be resolved sooner or later, both for economic and social reasons as well as political. If the deep south manages to break away as a result, without a bitter war to prompt a significant degree of sense of unity and the pressure for political change to markedly reduce the power of the planter bloc its going to be an extremely disfunctional region. Whereas the status of the [in this case larger] north is likely to see more progress on questions of slavery but is going to continually face questions on its relationship with its southern neighbour.

I doubt all the 'upper' south would have gone for a unified neutrality, not without a lot more political organisation than what seemed present anywhere in the US at the time. Also Maryland, as it would threaten, combined with Virginia, to totally isolate Washington DC, which I think would be politically unacceptable to the north.
 

wausaubob

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Isn't there a problem with such economic pressure potentially prompting those states to secede and join the existing rebels? Or possibly, if their being discriminated against by Washington they reject such tariffs and existing ones that heavily benefit the northern states by hindering the purchase of cheaper European goods. After all the high tariffs on imports was another big source of resentment from just about everybody outside the north east states.

Given how protectionist the north was at the time and how dependent Washington was on income from such tariffs I doubt it will make favourable deals with external nations. Especially since many of their productions are primary ones and hence likely to be in competition with US producers.
Not much risk. The northern states were a railroad economy. The economy was rapidly becoming self sufficient. The northern states were in a position to take off, with territory in Nebraska, Colorado and the Nevada mining towns ready for development.
The deep south did not need the northern states immediately but the businessmen in the middle south states needed to stay connected to the northern states.
Further the United States was already involved in economic imperialism in Hawaii. Just extend the model to Santo Domingo and the threat is there. The British were already thinking about how to keep the cotton money within the empire.
With respect to economics, the northern states were in the financial and railroad drivers seat. Cotton was a very valuable commodity, to be certain. But the mills can adapt.
International boundaries mean tariffs. And the United States was going to protect its farmers and capitalists and make cotton imports pay. The money probably was going to be used for militarization.
 
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diane

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Kentucky's neutrality wasn't much respected by either side, and many battles were fought inside it. Both Kentucky and Virginia were very strategic and full of resources both sides needed - key states. Also, many Kentuckians still picked sides, despite their state's neutrality. That would have happened with Virginia. Virginia was going to be fought over or through no matter what, and this would have made it impossible for Lee or many other Virginia officers to be neutral. They would have found, as the Kentuckians did, that neutrality was not an option.
 
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Joshism

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Based on what we saw in KY, VA would have been hard pressed to maintain neutrality. Probably secession is only delayed.

Some VA officers still go CSA despite their state not seceding, ala Breckinridge. Probably lots of VA regiments in exile, and uneasy times in VA. Maybe even a minority uprising against the state government?

Probably a greater emphasis on the Mississippi River. If KY still abandons neutrality while VA holds on, TN becomes the main theater of war instead of VA.
 

wausaubob

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The problem with neutrality is that the US then picks an Iowa route for the national railroad, and if the US concedes division, moving the capital becomes imperative. Maryland loses out. Without any obstruction from southerners, the free line with respect to escaping slaves. moves immediately from the Canadian border to the Ohio river.
International borders meant tariffs in that era. Since the US was going to need a much stronger military, tariffs start rising and neutral states face being on the outside of tariff wall.
A large neutral section in which the Confederates can smuggle tariff free goods into the US would never have been accepted.
 
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