In this timeline, Special Order 191 was not dropped, and thus never fell into Union hands. However, while this did somewhat strengthen the CSA’s position and denied the Union some valuable intelligence, the Confederacy failed to make significant use of their opportunities thus presented (not helped by the fact that the Union still held significant advantages), and the whole thing devolved into a bloody mess with victories and losses on both sides that nevertheless continued until 1865. The Democrats, having been elected after Lincoln was voted out one year prior, had attempted to finally do what he and his generals had failed to do and crush the nascent CSA, but after mixed results, military bungling on both sides and an increasingly hostile public sick of the slow progress, they decided that trying to reconquer and reintegrate the remaining Confederate territory would be too costly and finally sat down for negotiation.
However, while the CSA had achieved a chance for basic independence, the Union still held quite a bit of their border territories, and were not going to simply hand them back willy-nilly. In the end, the CSA had to accept peace at the cost of a severe neutering at the hands of the Union, who took back Arkansas, Tennessee and West Virginia, as well as New Orleans along with a strip of Mississippi along the titular river. There was some brief talk of turning the territory into a “black state”, but it never got beyond speculation; instead, the US decided, as part of the revised Homestead Acts, that they would specifically incentivise former slaves to settle in the west. The newly ratified Confederate States of America thus entered the world with a shrunken number of states, a worthless currency, a large amount of their infrastructure in ruins, a significant portion of their “workforce” having fled north, an increasingly antiquated economic engine, political strife up the wazoo and a passive-aggressive USA breathing down their necks. In short, not a good recipe for a new nation.
The United States, meanwhile, had fewer states than OTL to try and reintegrate, and did so through targeted investment and, with support from resentful northern politicians who had pushed for the US to take a hard line on post-war negotiations, positioning itself as a champion for the rights of former slaves, passing the equivalents of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments faster in the absence of southern influence (they also doubled as a middle finger to the still-slave-owning CSA). Infrastructure was rapidly built up, both in order to curry favour with the citizens of Reintegrationist states and to boost their military capabilities within said states in the event of a potential border war with the Confederacy.
Meanwhile, over in Europe, the CS secession was greeted with many a call of “I told you so” from anti-republicans, but these quickly waned as the US’ fortunes recovered despite their losses. Butterflies resulted in the League of Three Emperors lasting a couple of years longer, just long enough to coincide with an alternate Russian victory against the Ottoman Empire. During the Congress held in the aftermath, Austria-Hungary managed to burn one too many bridges with Germany, leading Bismarck to decide, in a partial reversal of his OTL position, that Germany could no longer fully count on them, and that Germany’s immediate future was safer being closer to Russia.
Almost immediately after this in 1878, Wilhelm I of Germany was assassinated by an anarchist group, forcing his son Frederick to take the throne. Frederick, an enthusiastic progressive, sought to bring Germany forward and put through significant reforms, but often butted heads with Bismarck, who disagreed with his liberal policies. Despite significant opposition, Frederick still managed to push through some of his ideas and lay the groundwork for a more focused, left-leaning Germany (fortunately, his death by cancer IOTL was butterflied).
The Scramble for Africa still occurred to some degree, but under different circumstances. Britain and France got together (begrudgingly) and managed to work out some of the finer details with regards to dividing the region, with the looming difficulty of a German-Russian alliance on the horizon and their lack of confidence in Austria-Hungary to pull its weight during a war. Britain became a sponsor of Ethiopia, and in turn tried to pull a “Raj” on the Horn of Africa, with mixed results. Germany, under the reign of a less expansionist ruler, didn’t pick up as much territory overseas, instead choosing to invest locally with most colonial aspirations being handled by private enterprise, while Italy, much like OTL, got the short straw, which only drove it further into the German-Russian camp.
Meanwhile, back in North America, the US and the CS had another war, this time over the issues regarding the connections between the eastern and western halves of the Confederacy. With the Mississippi under US control, the only land connection the CS had with each half was a rail line that was permanently manned by US officers, constantly making sure that the CS wasn’t transporting slaves across their territory. This didn’t help relations between the two nations, and the arrangement proved to ultimately be untenable as the slavery question began to rear its head once more. Certain states had already moved to clamp down on the practice, and the much-needed British investment that had allowed the nation to get on its feet was drying up as the Anti-Slavery International organisation over in Europe organised boycotts of Confederate-sourced goods. The British government, looking to drum up interest in Empire-sourced goods from India and Ethiopia, decided to ride on the wave of anti-slavery sentiment and promoted its own goods over Confederate goods (conveniently failing to mention that most of it was produced through indentured labour).
Anyway, in the late 1880s, the Union-Confederate War broke out, though it ended much more quickly than the last conflict between the two entities. The CS was brought to heel fairly quickly, but other than snatching up the whole of Louisiana, entrenching their position in the Caribbean, the US declined to incorporate the CS any further, having seen the consequences of trying to reintegrate the entire region only two decades before. The major consequence from this was the already independently-minded Texas broke away from the CS, the current governor angry with the growing anti-slavery sentiment in the eastern Confederate states, accusing them of having been overrun by “degenerate mulattoes”. The war also marked the beginning of the CS tradition of blaming the US for every little thing that went wrong in their nation.
The world trundled onwards until the First Total War in 1903, which played out largely as a culmination of the Great Game between Britain and Russia. A war ensued between the Britain-France-Austria-Hungary-Ottoman Coalition and the Germany-Russia-Italy-Bulgaria Alliance. Austria-Hungary fought valiantly, but ultimately fighting on four different fronts simultaneously combined with its internal troubles brought it down fairly quickly, and the Coalition was largely unable to recover from that. Germany proceeded to dismember Austria and integrate the German-majority bits into the Reich, along with Bohemia and Slovenia, out of sheer geographical necessity, obviously. The Ottoman Empire was dismantled and divvied up into territories and puppet states amongst the victors, while Britain managed to net themselves some territory in the southern Arabian Peninsula. Italy managed to attain some land from France, but denied the opportunity to take Slovenia for itself, they were placated with additional territories in Africa, while Germany managed to expand its Central African territories.
The next few decades were ones of rebuilding and consolidation. Decolonisation became a potent force outside of Europe, though it would be a much messier ride to the end, with the European powers being unwilling to let any of their subjects rule themselves. The US largely stayed out of conflicts such as these, choosing instead to stay within the orbit of the rest of the Americas, though it did trade across both the Atlantic and Pacific. Tanks were first developed during this time in their armoured carrier form, with their first use being that of suppressing uprisings (and thus gained the moniker of “crushers”). Radical politics came to the forefront not in Europe, but in their colonies as socialistic and fascistic sentiments began taking hold throughout Africa and Asia.
The flashpoint for the Second Total War in 1935 came in the form of the expansionist nation of Japan attacking Russian territory in the East, triggering a conflagration across Asia. Britain, who had previously opposed Russia over their support for Ethiopian independence, sided with Japan, and Germany was just sort of dragged along for the ride. This also coincided with a massive uprising across the world, as multiple colonies began engaging in full-blown rebellion to throw off their foreign oppressors.
In the end, the world lost more than it gained in the short run. The aftermath of the seven years of open conflict was the collective realisation that the current global system was inherently unsustainable, and that all nations would have to make substantial changes. Colonies were shed, or reformed into looser commonwealths, except for the ones which had already gone radical; there wasn’t very much that could be done about them. Most major nations scaled back their spheres of influence, and new treaties and conventions were signed to try and mitigate any chance of something like this happening again.
Following this long and painful process, a boom of science and technology emerged. Medicine, engineering and physics all took major leaps forward as cross-pollination of ideas between nations became the norm. This greatly helped the world in recuperating from all the damage that had been done, but with all the radical ideologies floating around and wars being fought by the newly independent and semi-independent nations of the world for resources and borders, the remaining half of the century was going to be a tricky one to navigate.
Today, in 2017, the world is largely at peace. The wars over borders and extremist ideologies have largely ended, with only minor embers flaring up every now and then. The world is divided into a few major power blocs (it being a more level playing field than OTL), with no outright “superpowers”, but the current nature of world trade and global interests force them to do battle through negotiation and diplomacy rather than outright warfare.
Germany is still the top dog in Europe, but even that is proving a challenge. The Kaiserin today is basically a figurehead in the vein of the OTL British monarchy, and German is widely spoken throughout much of Europe, but European nations are growing less and less enthusiastic about subserving themselves to Vienna (the hub of the EU-equivalent, although this one is a bit more democratic and with a bit more bite). The French-speaking citizens now residing in German territory are making more of a splash than usual lately, and have become a model for those who dislike German hegemony. Granted, German overlord-ship has resulted in the longest period of peace that Europe has seen for quite some time, as well as a wide-reaching progressive social-democratic state with a high standard of living, but still.
Russia, meanwhile, having been more closely integrated to Europe earlier on through their alliance with Germany, remains close to the West. Despite a right-wing government briefly taking over via coup-d’etat in the aftermath of the STW (their final invasion of Japan was brutal), things swung back fairly quickly afterwards and Russia found a new sense of stability. It is far more industrialised than OTL Russia and has a more diverse economy, as well as a higher population (thanks to no Soviet-style purges). While not quite as wealthy as OTL Russia is, it has a higher rate of growth, a much better relationship with the rest of the world and is a vigorous trader, although Russian nationalists are quite wary about all the foreign crap that has flooded the market locally, and some have begun a Neo-Tsarist movement for the “Reclaimation of Russia” (the previous Tsar died at the hands of the aforementioned coup). However, at present, they are basically a fringe radical group that do little but shout slogans and bicker.
Britain has had a bad time, as they suffered the worst out of the nations who entered the STW. They entered with one of the largest colonial empires in the world, and emerged with almost none of it. Ethiopia was taken over by a religious fanatic and attempted to do to East Africa what Japan was doing to East Asia, with Egypt and the Sudan soon following. India, conversely, was overthrown by a radical left-wing group, but didn’t do nearly as well as Ethiopia, and the ramshackle arrangement splintered quite fast, with India falling back into a series of bickering states, never managing to pull itself back together again. Australia… well, Australia and New Zealand were already on the fence about the whole “British Empire”-thing, the FTW having not worked out very well for them. So when the STW rolled around, when Britain came knocking and looking for soldiers, many former soldiers from the FTW who were, by now, politically powerful in their home countries, basically said “nope”, and set about forming their own path, working towards a closer union with the Americas.
By today, even Ireland has broken away in its entirety from Britain (the consequence of a right-wing British coup in the 50s not unlike Russia’s by people who did not like the Irish). Politically, Britain is now comparatively stable, but exerts next-to-no actual influence in the world, increasingly being drawn into the German camp where Ireland firmly resides. Bottom line: their major issue in the modern world is their inability to reconcile their former status as a global power with their utter lack of power nowadays.
Japanese nationalism took longer to die down than OTL, especially after the aforementioned invasion by Russia, but nowadays is doing okay, especially considering China remains fragmented largely thanks to the fact that the forces who want to reunite it cannot agree as to where to unite it from. Korea next door is about as wealthy as Japan is, though Korea is closer to Russia, while Japan is closer to the US, which has a much higher Japanese population thanks to a larger number of immigrants from during and after the war. Neither of them have any significant influence over the world either economically or culturally; they’re largely just seen as “that weird corner of Asia with the islands”.
However, the real star of Asia is Indonesia, which has managed to become an economic and cultural powerhouse across the Pacific in the ‘70s, its relative lack of aggressiveness throughout recent history has allowed it to become the major go between for Asian nations that otherwise could not stand each other. Not only that, its reach also extends beyond, going as far as Europe and the Americas, its cultural melange of Muslim, Chinese and Indian cultures proving to be an exotic and intriguing attraction across the world. It may still only be a second-tier power, but it’s gaining pretty fast on some of the first-tier ones.
Africa is doing a bit better than OTL. While the STW left quite a few lasting scars, the place is overall more peaceful, thanks to better resources, more investment and better infrastructure to handle issues that need to be resolved. Germany’s Central African Empire (or “Mittelafrika” to laymen) remains largely intact, and is incorporated into Germany through an economic and political commonwealth system that gives it a wide berth to make its own decisions (and you know it’s a weird universe when Germany does a better job of handling colonial incorporation better than Britain). The remains of Italy’s colonial empire are also loosely administered in conjunction with Mittelafrika. Ethiopia is still a concern, having never given up its dream to swallow East Africa, the Middle East also now being part of that to-do list (it also had an upheaval that helped work out their European-drawn border issues), but despite being more industrialised and militaristic than OTL, they’re not particularly good at conquering places.
The Americas, meanwhile, only recently emerged from out of their geopolitical cocoon, the US (itself more left-wing than OTL and on largely equal footing with the other powers) maintaining their belief in the Monroe Doctrine a lot longer. To compensate for the loss of a large-ish segment of their agricultural land, the US has made contact with certain other Latin American countries and formed multiple trade and political agreements with them, resulting in the staple American diet becoming highly influenced by South America. Mutual uneasiness caused by the Confederate situation resulted in a lot of dual-Mexican-US action; in fact, Mexico is considerably more stable and wealthy than OTL, as opposed to Canada, which had a socialist uprising that, in response to an attempt to stamp them out, turned into a low-key terrorist movement that lasted a few decades and did considerable damage to that country’s prestige.
Texas is basically a banana republic, desperately trying to convince themselves that they aren’t merely an appendage of US oil interests.
World culture is vastly different than OTL. The world is overall more progressive and left-leaning; no hard left states have come about and lasted long enough to discredit the idea of left-wing utopianism. As a result of differing periods of invention and scientific advancement, the atomic bomb was never actually used in aggression, and with the way things are going, it’s unlikely to ever be. Giant monster movies are a rarity, but on the other hand the animation age ghetto never existed and animation is considered a perfectly valid medium for all ages and genres. Science is trusted far more, thanks to both the tech boom of the ‘50s and the fact that most people associate the STW with the anti-science backlash that occurred following the FTW, accusing the anti-rationalists of the day of fostering an environment whereupon a new Total War could come about. As an additional result of this different attitude, the “mad scientist” trope is basically nonexistent in fiction.
Then there’s the CSA, the little nation that couldn’t. The CS has had a long and storied history, having constantly veered between oligarchy, military rule, theocracy and autocracy (sometimes several at the same time). The tradition of blaming their problems on the US has not done wonders for their ability to actually deal with their issues: their African-American population currently has rights about equal to that of Apartheid South Africa, with most of them leaving for greener pastures up north; their industrialisation has proceeded at a glacial pace, and most of it is dedicated to military applications. Their foreign excursions have largely gone nowhere, and the ultra-individualistic nature of the population means that the government constantly faces an uphill battle to get anything done. The only thing that most of the CS population can generally agree on is “the US is definitely coming to get us”, and as such almost all of them are constantly armed, and go to bed wondering if tomorrow will be the day that the Yankee scum will be coming for their women and children.
Which is especially amusing to the actual US population, who, by now, have so gotten used to the CS’ presence that they barely notice it anymore, and have little-to-no desire to invade or annex a backwater like it. While the CS largely thinks of the US as “the Great Satan to the North”, the US largely thinks of CS as “that third-world breakaway known mostly for its hilariously low-budget knock-offs of popular films”.