How Egypt Won the War

One of the things I love about history is the ripple effect: One splash in America’s pond leads to ripples that extend North to Canada, South to Mexico, and apparently even East to Egypt.

In less than a year’s time, Southern cotton exports would plummet by more than 50 percent and the European superpowers needed to quickly find a new source. It was then that the Ottoman Governor of Egypt, Said Pasha (who supported the Union and would follow the Ottoman policy of barring Confederate ships from Ottoman waters), saw an opportunity and ordered that his vast holdings of land in the Lower Nile be turned towards the production of cotton. Washington, delighted by the prospect, went so far as to send an official to Egypt to urge Said Pasha to produce even more cotton. Egypt, which previously accounted for only 3 percent of cotton exports to Europe, saw its profits boom from $7 million to $77 million in just four years. With Egyptian cotton flooding the European market, the demand for Southern cotton disappeared, as did European support for the Confederacy that was based, in part, on a need for the South’s cotton. This, in turn, crippled the Southern wartime economy that relied heavily on a demand for cotton, thus hastening the end of the war.

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