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One of the most popular questions of modern times is: what if the South had won? Dozens of books, essays, and documentaries have explored this concept, many of them are only very brief, while others explore a world that is still very different as far forward as world war II. The popular points of divergence are a victory at Antietam and Gettysburg. Our point of divergence is 1862, near a town called Sharpsburg, and near a small creek, called Antietam.
1862-1882: The Guns of Virginia
Our alternate history begins when Robert E. Lee's battle plan, plan 191, is found by a Union soldier. This was given to General George McClellan, and the Battle of Antietam was won by the North. Yet in our timeline, the plan is picked up by a patrolling Confederate Soldier. McClellan never discovers the plan, and the Army of the Potomac, the main Union army in the west, is ambushed and destroyed at the decisive Battle of Sharpsburg (known to northerners as the Battle of Antietam).
McClellan and the remnants of the army (now barely able to call itself a Corps) flee to Washington D.C. Lee's other forces join up and the 50,000 strong Army of Northern Virginia attacks and breaks through Washington's defenses. Lincoln is forced to accept defeat.Britain and France recognize the South and force mediation between the two nations. The South forces the Union to cede Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Missouri. These are slave states, and the loss of them leads the Union to abolish slavery in its states.
At the same time, the territories that supported the South were also given to the CSA, many confederates pushed for Southern California as well, wanting a Pacific port, though the Confederate Congress voted against it.
However as both Maryland and Virginia held major cities, the two competed for the title of confederate capital. Knowing of Virginia's importance, Congress chose Richmond. This alienated Maryland, and the state continued to hope for a return to the US.