For five days Jackson had looked on Washington spread before him with the Dome of the Capitol in sight from his headquarters on the Georgetown Pike near 7th Street. Lee having recovered sufficiently from his wounds had resumed command of the army but had been summoned to Richmond by President Davis following overtures from ( Vice ) President Johnson to discuss common grounds for a peaceful settlement to the War.
Lincoln left the Capital for Canada, reluctantly, following pressure from Cabinet to avoid possible capture by the advancing Confederates who seemed unstoppable as the Union forces in and around Washington disintegrated into a disorderly rabble. Following his heroic retreat from Gettysburg Howard had been promoted to Lieutenant-General and assumed command of the defenses of Washington superseding Major-General S.P.Heintzelman who had very little combat experience. Howard had about 55,000 men but very little control and desertions were whittling this force away hourly.
The Federal army was totally demoralized and soldiers were going home as if it was all over, sensing the end was near.Grant had, after eventually capturing Vicksburg on the 4th July been ordered to evacuate and return control to the Confederates under Pemberton. This would be accomplished by the 12th and an uneasy peace would settle across the Western theatre as Lieutenant-General ( Old Pete) Longstreet entrained to take command of all the South’s western forces. Jackson chafed… aware that the Union forces were a spent force and there for the taking, his spies reported that the defenders had shrunk to 35,000 and if they waited for another couple of weeks Washington would be a ghost town. France had broken with England and recognized the independence of the Confederacy and England was expected to follow suit very soon.
In Richmond McClellan was leading the Union delegation and was pursuing a course of peace on reasonable terms. Basically, it had settled down to where the borderlines would be drawn. Davis was prepared to concede what was now West Virginia but wanted the Indian and Arizona territories. Robert E.Lee had been appointed commander of all the Confederate Forces and given a free hand in appointments and troop dispositions. Lincoln was under house arrest in Niagara, not because the British had anything against him but for his own safety as his popularity was zero and the British government didn’t want any untoward incident for which they could be blamed.Jackson had dispatched Jubal Early’s 1st Division into Washington to secure the vast warehousing complexes filled with supplies and after a couple of hours desultory fighting and aided by Hampton and Fitz-Lee’s cavalry brigades ( Stuart had escorted Lee to Richmond, in the hope of mending fences over his non-appearance and lack of intelligence at/over Gettysburg) had swept the railway sidings clear of Union troops and for the first time in months the Army of Northern Virginia was not only amply fed but clothed as well. Hundreds of wagons were being loaded and sent back to Richmond along the roadways covered by Ambrose Hill’s 111 Corps.
On the 15th, Jackson received word from Richmond that formal peace had been negotiated and that Howard was to surrender the City but to avoid looting and destruction but to occupy Washington post-haste. Thousands of southern troops lined the streets as Lieutenant- General Thomas “”‘Stonewall’ Jackson proceeded down Pennsylvania Avenue to set up headquarters in the White House. By the 15th of July 1865 the Civil War was effectively over. The South was, to all intent and purpose, now an independent country free to make its own way in the brotherhood of nations.The saving factor of the above story is the fact that it is fiction. Reality is that Jackson was dead before Gettysburg and the South was eventually defeated.
The what-if factor is could the South having won the War survived the peace? Slavery was a dinosaur and if the South had clung to it isolation by the major powers would have been inevitable, also the fact that divided America would have needed several armies to keep the borders of the protagonists secure. At some stage Texas and probably Utah and California would have wanted/declared independence resulting in a plethora of countries instead of one United States. Without the controlling influence the USA has wielded over the past century this world would be a vastly different place to live in.
From the romantic outlook a Southern victory would be the ideal but the reality is probably it was necessary for the North to be victorious. IN some circles it is the done thing to embrace all things anti – American and to abuse and try to damage that great country but as someone who has never been to USA I sincerely believe the way of life I am privileged to enjoy is in no small measure to the influence of the United States.