29 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2007 Last revised: 29 Jul 2010
Date Written: November 2007
Historians have long wondered whether the Southern Confederacy had a realistic chance at winning the American Civil War. We provide some quantitative evidence on this question by introducing a new methodology for estimating the probability of winning a civil war or revolution based on decisions in financial markets. Using a unique dataset of Confederate gold bonds in Amsterdam, we apply this methodology to estimate the probability of a Southern victory from the summer of 1863 until the end of the war. Our results suggest that European investors gave the Confederacy approximately a 42 percent chance of victory prior to the battle of Gettysburg/Vicksburg. News of the severity of the two rebel defeats led to a sell-off in Confederate bonds. By the end of 1863, the probability of a Southern victory fell to about 15 percent. Confederate victory prospects generally decreased for the remainder of the war. The analysis also suggests that McClellan's possible election as U.S. President on a peace party platform as well as Confederate military victories in 1864 did little to reverse the market's assessment that the South would probably lose the Civil War.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Weidenmier, Marc and Oosterlinck, Kim, Victory or Repudiation? The Probability of the Southern Confederacy Winning the Civil War (November 2007). NBER Working Paper No. w13567. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1027186