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Victory or Repudiation? The Probability of the Southern Confederacy Winning the Civil War

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  • Marc D. Weidenmier
  • Kim Oosterlinck

Abstract

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

  • Marc D. Weidenmier & Kim Oosterlinck, 2007. "Victory or Repudiation? The Probability of the Southern Confederacy Winning the Civil War," NBER Working Papers 13567, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13567 Note: DAE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Irwin, Douglas A., 2003. "The optimal tax on antebellum US cotton exports," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 275-291, August.
    2. Cumby, Robert E. & Pastine, Tuvana, 2001. "Emerging market debt: measuring credit quality and examining relative pricing," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 591-609, October.
    3. Marc D. Weidenmier, "undated". "The Market for Confederate Cotton Bonds," Claremont Colleges Working Papers 1999-12, Claremont Colleges.
    4. Willard, Kristen L & Guinnane, Timothy W & Rosen, Harvey S, 1996. "Turning Points in the Civil War: Views from the Greenback Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 1001-1018, September.
    5. Richard C. K. Burdekin & Marc D. Weidenmier, 2001. "Inflation Is Always and Everywhere a Monetary Phenomenon: Richmond vs. Houston in 1864," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1621-1630, December.
    6. Brown, William O. & Burdekin, Richard C. K., 2000. "Turning Points in the U.S. Civil War: A British Perspective," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(01), pages 216-231, March.
    7. Bordo Michael D. & Kydland Finn E., 1995. "The Gold Standard As a Rule: An Essay in Exploration," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 423-464, October.
    8. Kim Oosterlinck & Loredana Ureche-Rangau, 2004. "Entre la peste et le choléra: le détenteur d'obligations peut préférer la répudiation au défaut," Working Papers CEB 04-021.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    9. Weidenmier, Marc D., 2000. "The Market for Confederate Cotton Bonds," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 76-97, January.
    10. Marc D. Weidenmier, "undated". "Turning Points during the U.S. Civil War: Views from the Grayback Market," Claremont Colleges Working Papers 1999-24, Claremont Colleges.
    11. Davis, George K. & Pecquet, Gary M., 1990. "Interest Rates in the Civil War South," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(01), pages 133-148, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tobias A. Jopp, 2014. "How did the capital market evaluate Germany’s prospects for winning World War I? Evidence from the Amsterdam market for government bonds," Working Papers 0052, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    2. Paul Hallwood, 2017. "Comment: Betting on Secession: Quantifying Political Events Surrounding Slavery and the Civil War," Working papers 2017-07, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N2 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions
    • N21 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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