Grant continued to tighten his grip. Though supremely well protected by nature, the city's defenses were pushed by by a determined Grant one bog, stream, hill or swamp at a time. The Navy was routinely pummeling the city from the Mississippi while Grant's own artillery began to reach ever stronger positions to fire upon Vicksburg.
A series of captured rebels, deserters and escaped slaves all painted the same picture, one Grant had largely already assumed. The spirited defense by the Confederate artillery was slackening for wont of shells and powder. No harvest had been gathered due to Grant's rapid siege and the city was already hungry enough to slaughter every horse, dog and cat within her walls.
Though he loathed the expediency, Grant was willing to starve the city into submission rather than charge good men into a slaughter house. As best he could tell not a single cart or fishing boat of provisions could reach the city.
But that did not mean Grant was doing nothing. He had 60,000 men (not counting the naval forces and Marines). He dispatched 10,000 south under that idiot Banks to reinforce Baton Rouge, which had been harassed by rebel irregulars. By 1862, Grant knew a political General when he saw one. Banks was a popular Republican, a former Governor of Massachusetts and a big supporter of Lincoln. Thus the man could not be cashiered but Grant could stick him on some administration duty where he couldn't do any further harm. Ben Butler down in New Orleans wasn't much better. Grant shuddered to think what would happen if the British launched a full invasion of New Orleans and these two political hacks were in command. But that seemed unlikely given the intelligence reports he'd been receiving. Besides reinforcing Canada, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to British actions.
Declaring war out of a fit of pique was one thing. Having to come up with a strategy after putting yourself in a poor position was quite another. Grant was not surprised that the British seemed to have no idea what they were about.
But that wasn't his problem.
Grant still had 50,000 good troops doing not much of anything in besieging Vicksburg. As the nature of the Confederate defenses (and the 30,000 Confederate soldiers huddled in the city with an equal number of civilians) prevented any real chance of escape or breakout from the city, provided that the besieging commander wasn't the biggest idiot on planet Earth, Grant knew he could dispatch another 10,000 men to George Thomas.
The Virginian was a dynamo, no doubt the best fighting man Grant had, maybe the best the UNION had. But Thomas was stretched thin in central Alabama and would need reinforcements badly. Grant sent as many supplies as he could to his nominal subordinate. It was a hard decision. Grant hated being stationary while someone else fought for the Union.
Braxton Bragg was outraged at the resistance the state of Alabama's government made to appropriating soldiers, food and munitions. The governor had the temerity to claim that those goods belonged to ALABAMA not the Confederacy. Bragg thundered that his starving, barefooted troops in threadbare coats were actually attempting to preserve Alabama's existence as a state.
For god's sake, Birmingham had already fallen, did these idiots actually think Montgomery would not follow?
Bragg's problems grew greater when thousands of Confederates, particularly those from states under Union occupation, deserted en masse. In one notable instance, three regiments of Louisianans marched westward at night for home: whether to fight for Louisiana or just return home was never verified.
HIs army had collapsed by November to a nominal 35,000 men with few supplies. Realizing that he could not defeat Thomas in a standup battle for want of ammunition and artillery, Bragg turned north towards Georgia.
Of course, this meant that 5000 Alabamans in his army deserted to defend the Capital of Alabama from Thomas' 45,000 man onslaught. Even supported by local Confederate units and militia, the 10,000 or so summoned by the inept Governor of Alabama were promptly slaughtered by Thomas' advance columns.
Bragg thought about moving to flank the Blue-bellies but his hungry army was not fit to fight.
Augmented in late November by another Corps of men, Thomas turned northeast to pursue Bragg. In early December, he would cross the border into Georgia, hereto untouched by Union Armies. Here also, the remnant of Confederate government had raised its banner.
Wilmington, North Carolina
P.T. Beauregard did not hesitate for a moment. Rather than defend the indefensible, he ordered his collection of invalids he called a garrison south as the Union army under Kearny advanced forward. Polk made but one attempt to engage, a fast, fierce battle north of Fayetteville. Failing to control his own army, two full Corps of Confederate troops sat about while their compatriots were pummeled. By that point, the battle was lost.
Beauregard knew Wilmington was next and he saw no real to get his own men slaughtered. He ordered them south.
North Carolina was effectively abandoned.
At the same time, Sheridan was approaching Charlotte near the southern border and burned it to the ground, Longstreet still pursuing but lagging behind.
Large elements of Polk, Longstreet and Beauregard's forces began deserting in droves. Men from Virginia and North Carolina saw no reason to keep fighting as their own states had fallen. Others were just tired of not being paid or fed. Yet more saw no reason to keep fighting as the war was plainly lost.
The firebrands of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and the rest.....they were about to discover what the "middle south" had been facing for nearly two years. Since the formation of the Confederacy, Georgia and Alabama's governments had been miserly in their support for their comrades facing Yankee wrath. They would find few others willing to fight for them now.
In early, December, Union troops were entering Georgia and South Carolina.
The government of London was enduring a firestorm of abuse by the opposition. The astounding humiliation of the Chesapeake and the litany of Southern defeats would lead the fickle public to start questioning just what the hell Palmerston and Russell had gotten them into. Schemes to undermine a potential future enemy by dividing it were all well and good.....as long as those schemes WORKED.
Now, there seemed only a dismal situation getting worse by the moment. Accounts of mass jubilation among the freedmen were welcomed in some quarters while American newspaper estimate that freed slaves alone in Union Army uniform would, by New Year's DOUBLE the total number of British soldiers expected to be stationed North America. Throw in the other 1,000,000 or so white men in uniform....and things did NOT look good.
Ministry supporters rarely made speeches in Parliament. When they did, words like "honor" would be used in place of expected benefits to the nation. The cotton was being burned in Confederate warehouses by the retreating rebels or seized by the Union (who were unlikely to sell it to the British).
Loans made by British banks to both Union and Confederates were....naturally....not behind honored.
With two continents at war, trade was naturally down.
The British were a proud people. Sometimes, a bit on the stupid side of proud, but usually this was a good thing. When the British suffered loss after loss in the Napoleon Wars and the 7 Years war, they bounced back by sheer determination and usually made tangible gains for the future of the Empire.
When THIS war started over "pride", there seemed to be little benefit in the long run....and very, very much to lose.
Privately, any member of the government would have been happy for the matter to be over immediately, preferably never to be spoken of again. But the defeat in the Chesapeake was something that could not be buried. And who knew if America would even FORGIVE this transgression?
Palmerston and Russell, the two men most responsible for the state of affairs somehow doubted that the Americans, with a huge army in the field, would not take the opportunity to seize Canada. The two discussed the matter and came to the same conclusion.
"If we attempt to settle now," Russell opined over a sherry in his private study, "it will be seen as an act of weakness by the opposition, by the public and, most importantly the Americans."
Palmerston nodded, "Only fear of our Navy has stayed America's hand against Canada this past decade, well that and the fact that most Americans didn't care much about Canada given the huge swathes of empty land they acquired from Napoleon I and later Mexico. In 1776 and 1813, the Americans were stymied by remoteness of Canada from their population centers and lack of functional army. Now, the huge population of America has a dozen railroads to carry men to the border in days, not months, and a battle-hardened army at its disposal."
"Our gamble had failed rather spectacularly," Russell admitted. "I'm not sure how we extricate ourselves from this fiasco."
"We must do what our Government has done for centuries.....rely upon the Navy," Palmerston determined. "The Americans got lucky in the Chesapeake. The Warrior was struck by a mine, not felled by an enemy vessel. The Black Prince in New York will do better. The Naval commander will be ordered to not just step on the throat of America's primary port but slit it. Let Lincoln march across the south. America's economy will collapse soon enough. A big enough victory will allow us to claim we've honored our insulted flag and return to the status quo ante bellum."
"Let us hope so, Palmerston," the Foreign Secretary replied. "We have yet to make many correct calls lately and the opposition sharks are circling."
The Prussian troops, as expected, bogged down in the hilly terrain of Bohemia. Split between two fronts (the French in the west and Austrians in the east), the German Confederation appeared stretched to the brink.
Even the Danes had somehow found the courage to counter-attack into Holstein (though that attack was repulsed and the Danes thrown back).
A war expected to last a few months at the outside was now looking to be long and expensive. Prussians don't like long and expensive. They like short, cheap and victorious.
Now even the Russians were massing on the borders of Prussia and Austria. Despite diplomatic entreaties, both warring parties had received little information regarding the Czar's intentions.
The diplomatic team dispatched by Secretary of State Seward would arrive in the border-town on the Rio Grand. For the past year and a half, the Confederacy had used this as a entrepot for trade though the utility was limited given the remoteness of the location from the centers of Confederate power. Still, large amounts of gunpowder, armaments and other goods had exchanged hands in this region. The arrival of General John Pope in eastern Texas had altered this state of affairs.
His initial 10,000 man force augmented by 5000 reinforcements sent in the fall from Kansas and another 10,000 or so local Unionist or freedmen, Pope retained a stranglehold on east Texas to the Mississippi River.
He made it to the border of Mexico and took Brownsville two months after seizing Galveston island. Vast amounts of goods fell into his hands and he summoned naval ships from Galveston to carry off huge amounts of cotton, hides and other goods. His army had lived well off the land of East Texas with plenty of beef and grain to be had and huge numbers of horses to carry off. Virtually every many in Pope's army could now be classified as a cavalryman or dragoon (at least) as most had their own mounts.
The French invasion of Mexico had pushed the Juarez government north into Chihuahua and Monterrey. Juarez dispatched patriots to "regain control over Matamoros trade" and attempt to solicit help from the Union. As luck would have it, Seward had sent an embassy to Galveston the previous month. Learning that Pope had marched upon Brownsville, the diplomats sailed south and discovered, to their luck, the President himself across the river in Matamoros pleading with Pope to march south to Mexico City.
In 1860, Juarez had just come off yet another vicious civil war, the type of which had plagued Mexico since her inception. Utterly bankrupt, Juarez had no capacity to make interest payments on loans from Britain, France, Spain, America and other nations.
Seward, in 1861, would offer to assume many of these debts in return for mining rights to northwest Mexico with several states and territories being used as collateral should Mexico fail to pay. Juarez, desperate, was willing to accept but it was the American Congress who voted the Treaty down as America's own impending war was deemed a better use of resources.
Having been forced from the capital, Juarez was in an even worse position than in 1861. Seward, true to his nature, gave nothing away for free. He offered to "buy" the debt of Britain and Spain (not France, as Juarez repudiated this debt when France invaded), write off any debts to America, cover any debts to individual Americans, pay Mexico 3 million in gold (within 2 years after the war) and provide a nearly unlimited supply of arms to Juarez.
In return, Juarez would immediately turn over largely unpopulated Baja California to America in perpetuity and use Sonora and Chihuahua as collateral. Juarez negotiated Chihuahua out of the agreement but had to sign up for the other provisions.
He attempted to entice a Federal Army but America could not yet promise this.
The American negotiators brought with them 20,000 Springfield muskets, 30 cannon, huge quantities of shot and a moderately large amount of powder (powder being the limiting material in America at the moment).
Juarez was able to reassemble an offensive force and dispatch his Patriots southward. Over the next few months, tens of thousands more American weapons flowed through the border. Naturally, Seward did not hesitate to assume control over Baja California. Before Congress even approved the Treaty, the United States Government arranged for General Fremont in California to assume control over Baja California.