Part I: Point of Divergence

  • Part I: Point of Divergence

    " is thus with great pleasure that I can report that our forces overwhelmed the Mexican forces by midday, after beginning our artillery assault upon the city of Puebla at dawn. Approximately 300 deaths were sustained by the enemy against a mere 23 of our own, and as I understand their bold commander, an admirable young man by the name of Zaragoza, has been wounded. Both forts atop both hills have fallen, and the battlefield is ours. The opposition acquitted itself well, but are in retreat.

    By the grace of the Almighty, Your Majesty, I hope to write to you next from the City of Mexico itself before long."

    Charles de Lorencez, head of French Expeditionary Forces in Mexico

    "The swift French victory in Mexico in 1862 marked a fundamental shift in the world order. Even more so than the upheavals of '48 and the victory in Crimea, it served as a signal that the balance of power not just in Europe but around the globe that had persisted since the Holy Alliance imposed the terms of the Congress of Vienna was coming to an end. This earthquake in world affairs - a robust French Empire that had learned the lessons of the first Napoleon and a Europe once again invested in the matters of the New World - would presage the dramatic changes that would follow but a half century later."

    Gerhardt Kleinman, The Cleavage of America (Heidelberg University, 2011)

    "With all due humility and deference, we write to you to offer you the crown of Mexico, to be declared Her Catholic Emperor, to rule this land in the fashion which your old and most noble house once did. A return to the correct order of things will place Mexico once more at the forefront of the New World, where she belongs - under your wise, guiding hand."

    Invitation from the Superior Junta of Mexico to Maximilian of Hapsburg, July 1862

    "...for that reason I am beginning to fear that my effort to persuade the Emperor is losing out to his own ambitions. Until recently I had maintained confidence that the work of myself and my counterpart at the Court of St. James were bearing fruit, especially in comparison to the fools the rebel traitors had sent overseas on their own; since His Majesty the Emperor's troops sacked Mexico City and hung President Juarez, however, there is a new energy in Paris and a new hostility to myself. The debacle with HMS Trent was already a close-run affair, and I fear now that the ambitions of the Bonapartists overwhelm their good sense. With our namesakes in Mexico fleeing into the mountains of the north and more French soldiers to be dispatched to our Hemisphere with this puppet Emperor they found in Vienna, the designs Paris has upon our continent have been laid plain. We must end this war with the traitors swiftly, less His Majesty the Emperor lose patience with our cause and make an aim to mediate this conflict to terms he prefers."

    Missive from William L. Dayton, Minister to France, to President Abraham Lincoln
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    Maximilian of Mexico
  • "...Maximilian consulted his brother first; unsurprisingly, Franz Josef was firmly opposed to the idea. The brothers were cordial but politically had seldom seen eye to eye; for all his conservatism and hatred of liberal ideals (it was, after all, what had cost Maximilian his viceregal post in Milan), the Emperor was skeptical enough of what the monarchist Conservative junta in Mexico had to offer that he advised his brother not to accept what was now their third attempt to foist a hypothetical Mexican crown upon him. Besides, Mexico was a war-ridden backwater, while in Europe Maximilian was second in line to the oldest, most prestigious dynasty on the continent. Their clashing visions of the old ways and the new would carry over to views of the potential of the New World against the secure reality of the Old.

    But events had of course changed on the ground. The previous offers of the crown had come at times in the War of Reform when the Conservatives needed a unifying figure to unite their disparate cause as they went through a musical chairs of caudillo presidents, spending as much time fighting amongst themselves as they spent fighting Juarez, Lerdo and Diaz and the other Republicans. France had seized Mexico City within two weeks of the intervention, however, marching rapidly up the plateaus between Veracruz and the capital, doling out disproportionate casualties and scattering Juarez's armies so fast the President had no time to flee and was hung by Lorencez's forces on the Zocalo. The Republican stronghold of Tampico had been shelled and seized earlier in August; Diaz had vanished into the vast, wild north of Mexico after it was untenable to stay in native Oaxaca, and Lerdo had fled Mexico entirely, slipping away from the siege of Guadalajara just begun by a young, talented conservative general named Miguel Miramon (a man who's fate would be intertwined with that of Maximilian and Carlota for decades to come). All it would take to get local caudillos to fall in line was a symbolic figure to rally around; Maximilian could be that man, and he could use Mexico as the fertile ground for this ambitions of governance that Europe would never provide.

    It was perhaps no accident that Maximilian returned to Miramare to tell Carlota he had decided to take the Mexican crown shortly after news arrived of Giuseppe Garibaldi's death at the hands of the Kingdom of Italy at Aspromonte. The battle, though inflaming Italian public opinion, only seemed to suggest that Italian nationalism was here to stay, and that Lombardy would never return to Vienna's hands. There was only an idle future left in Europe, while the new world promised a new challenge, one Maximilian knew would be dangerous and strange but also exciting. And so he and Carlota wrote to accept the offer, and set off - and what an adventure it would be..."

    - Maximilian of Mexico
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    September 9, 1862
  • September 9, 1862

    In an otherwise unremarkable drawing room in Paris, a meeting is held. Present are Count Walewski, Napoleon III’s Minister of State; Juan Almonte and Juan Hidalgo, representatives of the Mexican Superior Junta staying behind in Europe to continue building support for the nascent Second Empire; and John Slidell, unofficial “minister of the CSA” to France and one of the parties in the Trent Affair of the previous autumn. Pierre-Paul Pecquet, an unofficial spokesman for the CSA in France, had been invited but was unable to attend, partially due to his dislike of Slidell.

    Walewski presents Slidell with an intriguing proposition - if the CSA can continue to hold out and even win a victory over the Union, and pledges to recognize the Mexican Empire, Napoleon III will recognize the CSA in turn without waiting for Britain. Almonte and Hidalgo make the same pledge - a quid pro quo. Slidell hurries home to begin to put together a way to relay this message to Richmond.

    Outside his window, a butterfly flaps its wings.
    Letter from McClellan to Lincoln
  • “...the people of Fredericktown have been nothing but generous to our Army as we have made our base here. The enemy left towards south or west, the locals having an indeterminate sense of their numbers. But for empty abandoned camps and the signs of the rebel plunder, one would not know that they have scarred this Maryland ground.

    My scouts have been unable to ascertain the numbers General Lee has brought with him across the Potomac. I fear for our garrisons ar Harpers Ferry; but nevertheless, we will soon set out to pursue. I remain convinced we have the enemy to our west, and my Army shall stay between them and not only Baltimore but the Capital as well.


    General George McLellan, Army of the Potomac.”

    - Missive from McClellan to President Lincoln from Frederick, Maryland, September 13 1862
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    The Cleavage of America
  • “The events of the fall of 1862 would presage almost precisely the trajectories over the next half century of the two nations who benefited most directly. For Napoleonic France, it would typify a reckless, aggressive and independent approach overseas and eventually in Europe; as for the Confederate States, it disguised a profound, almost providential luck that would lead to inflated assumptions about the talent and competence of not only her diplomats and generals but the entire political and economic establishment.”

    Gerhard Kleinman, The Cleavage of America
    The Men Who Lost the Union
  • "...Harpers Ferry fell in the evening to General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson of the CSA, securing a key point for both railroad and river travel and forming up the rear of the Army of Northern Virginia. Later that night, Confederate forces under DH Hill set off explosions that badly damaged the Monocacy Aqueduct, emptying it into the river. Two crucial Union logistical points had been removed from the table, while McClellan remained in Fredericktown, with only one Corps moving west towards the pass at Crampton’s Gap in South Mountain. The gamble, as it were, would rely on tricking the Union, and hoping McClellan was as slow to react as he always had been in prior campaigns, and as poor a read of his tactical advantages..."

    - The Men Who Lost the Union
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    A Comprehensive Military History of the United States - The War of Confederate Independence
  • “...the engagements of mid-September were crucial in the eventual peace and then independence of the South. The divisions under Burnside, despite three days at battle, could not dislodge and inferior force in the passes of Small Mountain until McClellan at last moved from Fredericktown to at last drive DH Hill west. Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Bragg and Smith had won engagements outside the path of General Buell, giving them the ability to draw him into a pincer later. On both ends, Union military leadership that was slow, dithering and overly cautious - worried foremost about the Confederates having greater numbers than they did - were outmaneuvered by smaller, underequipped forces. The aggressiveness of CSA offensives into Union territory and the pressures of the Lincoln Cabinet to shatter the exposed armies was not matched by the vacillation of Union generals.

    More than anyone else, two men - McClellan and Buell - can be said to have been the ones who lost the Union.”

    - John Miller, “A Comprehensive Military History of the United States - The War of Confederate Independence.”


    Author Note: Ironically, Buell and McClellan were good friends
    Lincoln: A Biography of the 16th President
  • “...crucial to the debacle at Chambersburg on September 24, of course, was McClellan’s false belief that Lee’s strength was roughly equivalent to his, when in fact it was half as large. the second piece that led to McClellan’s decisive defeat (chalked up to the rawness of his recruits) and disastrous retreat - on friendly soil, no less - was that he chose to engage Lee on ground the Southerner chose. Thirdly, McClellan overestimated, once again, his logistic disadvantage in Pennsylvania, despite Lee’s army being effectively spent and most of his soldiers at that point shoeless.

    President Lincoln was outraged upon hearing that McClellan had lost three times as many casualties at Chambersburg as the Army of Northern Virginia, and that his general’s response was to turn tail and flee back to Frederick. The view of the Cabinet was more sanguine - with Lee’s victory, there was concern about Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington herself. Of course, none of them could have known Lee had no intentions of exposing himself even worse, but McClellan’s Retreat and the subsequent request for more soldiers from Kentucky would backfire once more, shortly thereafter.”

    - Robert Caro, “Lincoln: A Biography of the 16th President”
    The French Intervention
  • “..."every day, more dissidents throw down their arms and come over to join our Mexican brothers! All but the heart of the great city of Guadalajara are surrendered to us. With the impending fall of the city, I pray to the Almighty we will soon march to the redoubts of the Republicans on the coast and deliver a secure nation for Emperor Maximilian by Christmas."

    Though Lorencez took the credit, most of the fighting and work in the siege had been carried out by the young Miguel Miramon, who had acquitted himself ably in piercing the defenses. Lerdo had escaped, unfortunately, but with the fall of Guadalajara the worst threat to Conservative dominance in the central highlands was gone; by the spring of the next year, most Republican strongholds save for a scattered few in the far north would be secured. Of course, as Miramon feasted and thought of the end of the war rapidly approaching, he could not have known that twenty short years later, Guadalajara would become famous for an even more important, more legendary siege...”

    - The French Intervention (University of Ohio, 1992)
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    wikipedia.en - Battle of Campbellsville
  • Battle of Campbellsville

    The Battle of Campbellsville was a military engagement during the War of Secession, fought in Kentucky, CSA on September 27-28, 1862. Fought approximately concurrently with the Pennsylvania Campaign in the Eastern Theater, the battle was a tactical draw but strategic defeat for the United States, in which General Don Carlos Buell was caught in a pincer in central Kentucky by the forces of Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith. Though unsettled on the field, and with Buell's forces likely outnumbering those available to the Confederacy throughout the two days of fighting, reinforcements for Washington and Baltimore became necessary after Chambersburg and Buell could no longer risk his entire army in increasingly hostile Kentucky, which saw a swell of pro-Confederate sentiment as it seemed the tide of the war was turning. The battle marked the effective end of the Confederate Heartland Offensive, and fulfilled Bragg's strategic goals of distracting the Union from deploying against Vicksburg. Concerns over the exposure of the capital and the potential that Bragg would march on Louisville drew forces backwards from Tennessee and Alabama, thus giving up effectively a year's worth of gains by the Union and ended most of the campaigning in the West.
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    Letter from John Slidell
  • “...Paris has been surprised by the resignation of Édouard Thouvenel, the Emperor’s erstwhile loyal foreign minister. Count Walewski tells me this is good news, and that the Court is ecstatic about the news from Maryland and Kentucky...”

    - John Slidell, Confederate Minister to France
    A Comprehensive Military History of the Confederate States of America - The War of Confederate Independence
  • “...the sack of York in October was a consolation prize, of sorts, to Lee’s cavalry, carried out with Pennsylvania’s militia across the Susquehanna and Meade’s armies in retreat. While Lee had been convinced by Jackson and Longstreet that to attack Harrisburg with their supply lines thin and so deep into enemy territory would be foolish, nonetheless the events at York served as a second public embarrassment for the Lincoln Cabinet in the fall of 1862. News of the raid - with embellished atrocities included - spread just as Americans were about to vote in that autumn’s Elections. In that sense, York, at the conclusion of the Maryland and Pennsylvania Campaign, was the last decisive blow of the war.

    -John Miller “A Comprehensive Military History of the Confederate States of America - The War of Confederate Independence.”
    Maximilian of Mexico
  • “...the coronation of Maximilian was a grand affair, the importation of European monarchy into the New World. The Imperial couple held a grand banquet at their home in the Chapultepec to celebrate the occasion, inviting almost all of Mexican high society and even some dignitaries from overseas for the occasion. To the conservatives toasting their new Emperor; it was nothing short of the proper order at least restored, the mestizo democracy overthrown with the betters once more in their right place, and the wars that had plagued the nation for close to a decade seemed to finally be at their end. Of course, no one - liberal or conservative, Republican or Monarchist - would ever say they were fully satisfied with Maximilian...”

    - Maximilian of Mexico
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    Diary of Abraham Lincoln after Sack of York
  • “I thank the Lord Almighty that the rebels did not besiege Harrisburg and cut the Union in two by seizing it; even with disaster in Pennsylvania, it could have been worse. My plans to issue my proclamation to the Cabinet are for now shelved - now I fear whether I can ever break the rebellion by cleaving those in bond from them.”

    - Diary of President Abraham Lincoln
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    Electoral History of the United States, 1851-1901
  • "...the 1862-63 United States congressional elections were an absolute disaster for the young Republican Party, particularly in much of the Midwest. Reduced to a single House seat in Ohio, three in abolitionist Pennsylvania and two in President Lincoln's home state of Ohio, as well as having their seats in Democratic New York cut from 21 to 7 - a reduction of two thirds in the Union's most critical state - was nothing shy of a death blow for the Lincoln administration. Public outrage over the vast changes to federal power in service of a war effort that had not only failed to earn the speedy promised victory but instead been marred by outright incompetence by Union generals followed by a harrying raid in Pennsylvania that greatly alarmed much of the country. Incumbent Speaker Galusha Crow was defeated for reelection and a number of Lincoln's critical allies in Congress followed him out the door. Ohio's Samuel "Sunset" Cox would succeed him as Speaker, giving Democrats the Speakership back after only a brief hiatus. Democrats would have 99 out of 184 seats when the new Congress was sworn in, a small but workable majority.

    Beyond the House, the results for Democrats were mixed. Though they gained 3 seats in the Senate thanks to success in the state legislatures, the coalition of Republicans and Unconditional Unionists still enjoyed a healthy majority of 34 Coalition to 14 Democrats. Here, the secession of uniformly Democratic states at the beginning of the war truly hampered Democratic efforts, though it - and the losses of several state legislatures and Governorships to the Democrats - was a further blemish for the Lincoln Cabinet."

    - Electoral History of the United States, 1851-1901
  • "...Lincoln's poor position was dramatically worsened by the new reality of Speaker Cox in 1863, creating substantial domestic problems for him as well. A Democratic House and a reduced Senate majority meant more obstacles to his program to execute the war, and even threatened the unthinkable - Copperhead Democrats negotiating directly with the Confederacy behind Cox's back. While many Democrats were sanguine on the Confederacy itself, they were appalled by Lincoln's expansion of Presidential powers and the corresponding incompetence of the Union Army, despite its numerous advantages of the rebels. Any crack in the armor was an opening for rebel diplomats to exploit - and not long after news of Lincoln's drubbing reached European courts, sympathetic ears began listening more intently..."

    Robert Caro, Lincoln.
    Military History of the United States
  • “...the autumn of misfortune for Lincoln was not at an end, alas. Seeking to regain momentum after the embarrassments of September, in mid-November - having sacked McClellan - he tasked Ambrose Burnside with an aggressive campaign to attack Richmond, assuming correctly that Lee was short in supplies and men after a long fall. As was now commonplace in the Union Army in both the eastern and western theaters, Burnside’s March was marred with incompetence, delay and squabbling among senior officers. The ensuing Battle of Fredericksburg was nothing short of a slaughter, with Burnside suffering three times the casualties as the rebels as he attempted to cross the Rappahannock. Behind Chambersburg it is one of the worst defeats in American Military History; Ambrose’s retreat to Washington would punctuate a disastrous fall of failures for the Union and would be the last major offensive campaign against the Confederacy.”

    - Military History of the United States
    The Cleavage of America
  • " would be an understatement to say that the reactions in Washington and Richmond to the Fifth of January French declaration of diplomatic recognition to the Confederate States were polar opposites. To Jefferson Davis, it was vindication - of his patience and the relentless efforts of his diplomats in Europe to find a sponsor, any sponsor, among the Old World's great powers... Washington, it was nothing short of betrayal. Secretary of State Seward had made clear through his Ministers that recognition of the rebel government would be seen as a formal declaration of war upon the United States; however, with only two months until a Democratic House was seated, the Lincoln Administration was without much recourse; the sitting Congress was reluctant to declare war upon a Great Power in the midst of the rebellion, especially with so many Republicans about to leave Washington in the wake of their election loss. It was well known that to-be Speaker Samuel Cox, though no Copperhead, sought an end to the war, preferably a settlement that would bring the seceding states back into the Union. As such, Emperor Napoleon III's decision to throw in with the Confederacy threw Washington only into further chaos; the autumn of disaster had evolved into a winter of deepest discontent."

    - Gerhard Kleinman, The Cleavage of America
    Diplomatic Recognition of CSA by Mexico
  • “...His Excellency Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico and Defender of the Catholic Faith in the Americas, does hereby recognize the sovereignty of the Confederate States of America over those territories which they claim, and maintains the United States is engaged in an occupation of those territories... for a Congress in the European fashion to be called, at a neutral location and venue, to determine the resolution of this most bloody conflict between brothers...”

    - Mexican Recognition of CSA Independence, January 24th, 1863