In essence, Gone with the Wind is neither completely historically verifiable nor completely unverifiable, as all really good romantic novels tend to be. Some aspects are undeniably true. There were plantations in Georgia. Cotton was grown with the help of slave labor on these plantations. It was commonplace for the daughters of the plantation owners to marry in haste before the war began. Many of the newly married young men were killed by disease and many wives became widows. Atlanta was a bustling center of industry and a vital part of the South, and Sherman did indeed burn Atlanta. His soldiers were often quartered in the homes of Georgians. The natives of Georgia saw their homes and the homes of their neighbors burned by Union soldiers while they grieved for their dead husbands, fathers and friends. Likewise, their crops were destroyed and with no slaves to work the fields they were often forced to do so themselves or starve. Women often made undesirable matches to help their families survive in the new reality of life. Following the war, taxes were high as the government tried to punish their defeated enemy. The Reconstruction process and the persisting occupation of Georgia are also matters of record. The beginnings of the Klu Klux Klan are legendary, as are some of their more infamous raids and their association with the Democratic Party in the South.
However, that is where the facts end. Margaret Mitchell does a remarkable job in making the rest of her story seem plausible. There may very well have been half-Irish, half-French young lady would married quickly and became a widow at sixteen. This same lady may have moved to Atlanta to be with her husbandís family only to leave upon Shermanís taking of the city. She may have returned home to find her mother dead, the crops ruined and no money to buy food. She may have endured unimaginable hardships and married again to escape them. Her husband may well of been a founding member of the Klu Klux Klan and he may have died defending her honor. She may have remarried yet again to a man bent on getting in to the good graces of the town elite for the sake of his family.
This sequence of events is plausible and is made more so by the historical accuracy of the setting. Likewise a woman, or the descendents of a women whose experiences mirrored these would have probably stepped forward to claim the prestige of being the Scarlett OíHara.
Practically speaking, Gone with the Wind is probably not the autobiography of a woman who wished to remain anonymous and to forget the war. However, no small part of the intrigue and continued popularity of Gone with the Wind lies in the possibility that Scarlett is out there somewhere waiting to be discovered.