What do you think the Confederacy did wrong?

Yeah I was pretty sure that was the case but I thought I'd ask anyways. The American Civil War isn't really my area of expertise.
It isn't really mine either so don't take what I say as Gospel. I'm just sorta thinking out loud. I'm doing some research in 19th Century US history for my timeline (cheap plug here!) but I still have a ways to go to match some of the knowledge other posters have on this topic. If anyone has other ideas feel free to jump in.
 
Invading the North was a mistake both times. Lee nearly lost his army twice, and did not stay long enough to give a relief to the farms and food stocks in Virginia

The invasion of Kentucky was also a mistake, I think. A far more important object would have been retaking Nashville in 1862; the Kentucky adventure didn't bring many advantages. Now, a serious invasion effort in 1861 might have been important in so far as making a puppet state gvt have more legitimacy, resources, etc

The riverine defenses near New Orleans were a tragic failure of imagination. They never should have given up such an important city so easily. The same applies for Memphis.

In 1863, the defense of Vicksburg was a doomed effort. In reality, the connection had already been severed as the Union controlled the other bank of the river. Pemberton never should have stuck his army in that death trap. Rather, linking up with Johnston earlier on might have made a difference.

At Chickamauaga, a real chance to win a decisive victory was lost with the dallying pursuit of Rosecrans

After that, the war was basically lost and not much would have swung it. The 1864 election was nothing to hang a hat for. McClellan wouldn't have gone all peacenik and had no intentions to. He might have ended the war earlier with slavery preserved but he wasn't going to recognize the Confederacy
 
Last edited:
Invading the North was a mistake both times. Lee nearly lost his army twice, and did not stay long enough to give a relief to the farms and food stocks in Virginia

The invasion of Kentucky was also a mistake, I think. A far more important object would have been retaking Nashville in 1862; the Kentucky adventure didn't bring many advantages. Now, a serious invasion effort in 1861 might have been important in so far as making a puppet state gvt have more legitimacy, resources, etc

The riverine defenses near New Orleans were a tragic failure of imagination. They never should have given up such an important city so easily.
Was holding New Orleans feasible in light of the Union's naval superiority?
 
Was holding New Orleans feasible in light of the Union's naval superiority?
Keeping Farragut out of the Mississippi River was not feasible, nor was keeping the coastal forts. But the city itself? Yes, I think so.

Farragut did not have a large land force contingent. The Confederates in early 1862 still had sizable sources of manpower in the region defending other coastal forts or in minor commands in the TransMississippi. A sizable enough land garrison or department could have made a serious defense of the city or at least forced the USN to retreat and come back with more land forces
 
Keeping Farragut out of the Mississippi River was not feasible, nor was keeping the coastal forts. But the city itself? Yes, I think so.

Farragut did not have a large land force contingent. The Confederates in early 1862 still had sizable sources of manpower in the region defending other coastal forts or in minor commands in the TransMississippi. A sizable enough land garrison or department could have made a serious defense of the city or at least forced the USN to retreat and come back with more land forces
Ah. I'll have to look more into that campaign. I wouldn't have expected New Orleans to have fallen to anything less than large naval and land forces.
 
Ah. I'll have to look more into that campaign. I wouldn't have expected New Orleans to have fallen to anything less than large naval and land forces.
The navy was very large, yes. But the ground forces were a bit over 18000 and were green troops led by the rather inept Ben Butler. The Confederates could have replaced troops sent north from other fortifications and from a more serious attitude on defending the city by levying state troops from nearby
 
The navy was very large, yes. But the ground forces were a bit over 18000 and were green troops led by the rather inept Ben Butler. The Confederates could have replaced troops sent north from other fortifications and from a more serious attitude on defending the city by levying state troops from nearby
Honestly though, the entire Western theater of the Civil War seems to be one Confederate disaster after another. Vicksburg being the most obvious. losing 30,000 men was a catastrophe for an already stretched Confederacy.
 
The navy was very large, yes. But the ground forces were a bit over 18000 and were green troops led by the rather inept Ben Butler. The Confederates could have replaced troops sent north from other fortifications and from a more serious attitude on defending the city by levying state troops from nearby
You make some very good points, but I understand the city surrendered from fear of bombardment. It's true the Union Troops were green, but were the Confederate Troops better trained? This was at the time that Albert Sidney Johnston was massing the Western Army to attack Grant, and Buell Armies. What kind of army was available to the defend New Orleans? With control of the river they could attack the city from ether side, and the fleet would be giving fire support. Was defending the city really a realistic option?
 
One thing I can think of that might help the South is if Albert Sidney Johnston hadn't been killed at Shiloh. We'll never know for sure just how good he was as a senior army commander, since his life was cut short so early in the war, but he seemed to show great promise. He was considered the first soldier of the South, and had the confidence of Davis, and all other Southern Commanders. His initial maneuvers kept the Union Army off balance, and his plan to concentrate his forces to strike Grant before he could unite with Buell was classic Napoleonic Strategy. He gained both strategic, and tactical surprise, and came close to winning on the first day at Shiloh. If not for his wound, the resiliency of the Union Army, and the arrival of Buell he might have ended the careers of both Grant, and Sherman.
 
You make some very good points, but I understand the city surrendered from fear of bombardment. It's true the Union Troops were green, but were the Confederate Troops better trained? This was at the time that Albert Sidney Johnston was massing the Western Army to attack Grant, and Buell Armies. What kind of army was available to the defend New Orleans? With control of the river they could attack the city from ether side, and the fleet would be giving fire support. Was defending the city really a realistic option?
The city surrendered because it had no ground troops. Yes, it would have been bombarded, as Charleston was for years and as Richmond and Petersburg were for 9 months, but those cities put up a fight because they had ground troops entrenched inside. New Orleans seemed to have no real land force defense. New Orleans surrendered after Shiloh, I believe, so the troops had already been sent north. What was still in the department was not going anywhere. I think defense was a serious option if they made a priority of it and if Texas, Mississippi and Alabama sent state militia to New Orleans from their Gulf Departments.
 
So from all this the United States surrendered at the start of the War of 1812? No wait your talking about 1861, so obviously the Union would immediately surrender like they did in 1812? No wait they didn't surrender in 1812. The Union is much stronger in every measure in 1861, then in 1812, and is facing an existential threat, so maybe they won't surrender after all
I would like to know, how is Britain, whose 90% forces aren't needed in Europe anymore going to work out for the Americans. You are also completely ignoring the Economic aspects I gave. I wonder how American troops are going to fight without money, rifles or ammunition. By waving at the thin air and waving swords at rifles?
The British are so strong they'd win with ease, with virtually no losses, at sea, on land, or economically.
I would like to know where i stated the UK wouldn't have losses. I would sincerely like to know.
So they just told the Union to let the South go, and the Union wept, and said "OK". But no, when the pathetically weak American Mouse told the mighty British Lion Mediation would lead to war the British backed off
The entire definition of an intervention means......conflict. I don't think anyone has said that the US would just give up the moment UK/France enters the war. I don't get why you're bringing up tangents such as 'the mighty British lion'........
When they told them delivering Ironclad Rams to the CSN would lead to war the mighty British Lion once again backed off
I would highly advise you to read the Paris Congress of 1856, and the Foreign Enlistment Act of Britain. The stoppage of the ironclads to the CSA was in full agreement with both laws. I would advise you to read the book you quote so often.
1597129587352.png

1597129630188.png


Bulloch misdirected the British government as well which also forced the British to act on them; they had already done so even before the Americans asked them to.

But that makes no sense, the British had nothing to fear from the Americans, they couldn't even fight back. Resistance was futile.
See above

Even with the French with them they backed off, they wanted to do it, and this was their chance, but chickened out. This must be one of those inexplicable none events of history, why didn't they just do it, it would've been so easy, with no losses, why?
France offered intervention in mid-1862 after the Trent Affair had died down. By which point, the British didn't have any serious thoughts about intervention at all.

1597129951883.png

By 1863 the British had no wish to intervene at all, and it wasn't on the table at all.

What are these tangents on 'mighty lion' , 'irresistible', etc etc, you want to make a point, you can do so in a better manner using proper logic. Because your logic isn't backing up the facts. You have completely ignored the economic and military realities, and gone off into tangents. Argue in a neutral tone if you like, with proper debating decorum.
 
I would like to know, how is Britain, whose 90% forces aren't needed in Europe anymore going to work out for the Americans. You are also completely ignoring the Economic aspects I gave. I wonder how American troops are going to fight without money, rifles or ammunition. By waving at the thin air and waving swords at rifles?

I would like to know where i stated the UK wouldn't have losses. I would sincerely like to know.

The entire definition of an intervention means......conflict. I don't think anyone has said that the US would just give up the moment UK/France enters the war. I don't get why you're bringing up tangents such as 'the mighty British lion'........

I would highly advise you to read the Paris Congress of 1856, and the Foreign Enlistment Act of Britain. The stoppage of the ironclads to the CSA was in full agreement with both laws. I would advise you to read the book you quote so often.
View attachment 574303
View attachment 574304

Bulloch misdirected the British government as well which also forced the British to act on them; they had already done so even before the Americans asked them to.


See above


France offered intervention in mid-1862 after the Trent Affair had died down. By which point, the British didn't have any serious thoughts about intervention at all.

View attachment 574305
By 1863 the British had no wish to intervene at all, and it wasn't on the table at all.

What are these tangents on 'mighty lion' , 'irresistible', etc etc, you want to make a point, you can do so in a better manner using proper logic. Because your logic isn't backing up the facts. You have completely ignored the economic and military realities, and gone off into tangents. Argue in a neutral tone if you like, with proper debating decorum.
So your upset I used hyperbole, and a bit of sarcasm? I seem to recall during a thread on the War of 1812, and you saying that Jefferson, and Madison couldn't produce their citizenship papers on demand from the British Government. In this reply you said, "I wonder how American troops are going to fight without money, rifles or ammunition. By waving at the thin air and waving swords at rifles?" Do you think that's not a bit of Hyperbole? You talk about the economic facts, but counter arguments were made about alternate Union Sources of lead, and nitrates, that loss of reciprocal trade, and investment would hurt both sides, you ignore those facts. You also ignore the lack of popular support for a war with the union in Britain, France, or Canada. I'm sure Ireland would prove a great recruiting ground.

I find it hard to understand your argument. You say only during the Trent Affair was war likely, yet you keep talking about intervention later on, and that it would have been the death knell of the Union. You correctly point out building armed raiders for the CSN was illegal under British, and international law, yet they turned a blind eye to the Alabama, and other British built raiders. A little due diligence please, the British did lose the Alabama Claims Case. The U.S. also did warn the British Government about the Laird Rams, and they woke up in time to prevent delivery.

So what is your point? That British intervention would leave the Union no choice but to give up the war? It hard not to think that's what your saying. But my point was that Union warnings of war did deter both the British, and French. In your own above source the U.S. warning to France, and action in Texas deterred the French from recognizing the Confederates, for a Confederate recognition of Maximillian's regime. For countries that had nothing to fear from the United States they seemed reticent to go to war. Why?
 
Was holding New Orleans feasible in light of the Union's naval superiority?
Not really. Unless the Confederacy had, had time to put together a stronger and more competent naval force of their own, they weren't really going to hold it for long in the face of Union naval superiority. Even then, had they held out, it would have fallen probably by the end of 1863 with a march from the North taking Baton Rogue and finally New Orleans from the landward side. Union naval superiority was pretty much always going to tell in these cases.
 

CalBear

Moderator
Donor
Monthly Donor
So from all this the United States surrendered at the start of the War of 1812? No wait your talking about 1861, so obviously the Union would immediately surrender like they did in 1812? No wait they didn't surrender in 1812. The Union is much stronger in every measure in 1861, then in 1812, and is facing an existential threat, so maybe they won't surrender after all. The British are so strong they'd win with ease, with virtually no losses, at sea, on land, or economically. So they just told the Union to let the South go, and the Union wept, and said "OK". But no, when the pathetically weak American Mouse told the mighty British Lion Mediation would lead to war the British backed off. When they told them delivering Ironclad Rams to the CSN would lead to war the mighty British Lion once again backed off. But that makes no sense, the British had nothing to fear from the Americans, they couldn't even fight back. Resistance was futile. Even with the French with them they backed off, they wanted to do it, and this was their chance, but chickened out. This must be one of those inexplicable none events of history, why didn't they just do it, it would've been so easy, with no losses, why?
Play the ball. DO NOT do this sort of BS again.
 
So your upset I used hyperbole, and a bit of sarcasm? I seem to recall during a thread on the War of 1812, and you saying that Jefferson, and Madison couldn't produce their citizenship papers on demand from the British Government. In this reply you said, "I wonder how American troops are going to fight without money, rifles or ammunition. By waving at the thin air and waving swords at rifles?" Do you think that's not a bit of Hyperbole? You talk about the economic facts, but counter arguments were made about alternate Union Sources of lead, and nitrates, that loss of reciprocal trade, and investment would hurt both sides, you ignore those facts. You also ignore the lack of popular support for a war with the union in Britain, France, or Canada. I'm sure Ireland would prove a great recruiting ground.
So while it is hyperbole to suggest the US would have run out of money and weapons to fight with if Britain intervened, it doesn't detract from the very real issue that the Union faced in the historic Trent affair that the British slammed the valve for war materials the Union was buying in bulk shut on them in December 1861. This did cause a fairly large crisis because, as the article Dupont and the Nitre Crisis lays out, the Union had not actually gotten around to properly tooling up to support an army of 400,000 men in 1861-62 (and arguably didn't until 1863) because the amount on hand was judged adequate after the Mexican American War, a war which involved only some 70,000 troops and volunteers at the maximum. The DuPont company was the only large provider of Union powder during the war (not the only one, but they had the necessary industrial apparatus to churn the stuff out, their competitors were all smaller) and so they realized the problem first and told the navy, who then told the army, who then got the smart idea to actually make a centralized process to begin a centralized method for making the stuff, but they were still dependent on British sources for 1862-63 and by 1864 were arguably independent, but losing that supply they bought in December/January of 1861-62 would have been a colossal set back. While it's true they could have overcome the deficiency with things like nitre beds, those would take till roughly late 1863-64 to actually be productive which would have an adverse effect on their ability to wage the same kind of war they did historically.

The Confederacy overcame their deficiency by running the blockade with nitre from Britain, the Union wouldn't have the same options and would basically be dependent on importing from other European nations or a very convoluted buy around system.

That's just one complication. Another would be that, while the British not selling rifles to them wouldn't be the end of the world, the Enfields were pretty damn good rifles. They could buy French, Austrian, and Belgian rifles, and they did OTL in 1861-63, but they bought a lot of Enfields. And they can't just make up for that with Springfields either as the Springfield armory found itself in a very peculiar position of having to be reliant on British made iron for their machinery. Not using it involves a lot of dismantling and retooling their machines to use a different source which again takes time and is a big set back, and probably leads to inferior quality product. Not the end of the world, but a really bad set back if you have to fight a campaign against the South and Britain and try to expand your army at the same time.

Another complication is indeed the economic factor. There was a bank run in December 1861 which caused all the banks to stop issuing payments in gold (but that wasn't specifically because of the British, it did have an aspect that the war was becoming more expensive than people realized so they were afraid of not having cash to hand), and it took a lot of the brilliance of Salmon Chase to work out, But if the British went to war, much of the trade and government revenue which did supply the Union finances with stable currency to pad the printing of green backs would vanish almost overnight and cause economic shock. This would mean that the Union basically has to print money in 1862 to finance the war and that's not really great. They have a larger more diverse economy than the Confederacy yes, but that doesn't make them immune to inflation. The trade issue is problematic because Britain was America's biggest trading partner, the United States however, was not Britain's biggest trading partner, accounting for, roughly speaking, 16% of both imports and exports to Britain, which isn't an enormous economic investment. The war would hurt the US disproportionately in economic terms compared to the British, whose economy was, pre-war, already 3x larger than that of the US besides.

These issues alone, I think, just show that had Britain decided to put its military and economic weight into the conflict in Trent or even late 1862 after some huge Confederate victory, it would have been a pretty dire situation for the Union.

As for popular support against the war...well that's questionable. Certainly during the only actual war scare we find that support for war with the United States was pretty overwhelming, both in the government, the newspapers, and by all accounts, the streets. In Canada it was the same, and they were going to be the front lines. Granted, after the war scare the war fever died down, but pro and anti Union was, by all the accounts I can figure, pretty well divided.

I find it hard to understand your argument. You say only during the Trent Affair was war likely, yet you keep talking about intervention later on, and that it would have been the death knell of the Union. You correctly point out building armed raiders for the CSN was illegal under British, and international law, yet they turned a blind eye to the Alabama, and other British built raiders. A little due diligence please, the British did lose the Alabama Claims Case. The U.S. also did warn the British Government about the Laird Rams, and they woke up in time to prevent delivery.
Well, Trent was a direct war scare where the British believed they were being goaded into a casus belli by the Union. After that, intervention was punted around as an economic and political solution to the very real cotton famine that began to impact the French and British economies. Political and economic intervention by an Anglo-French diplomatic effort would have been rebuffed, but if the Anglo-French had really pushed the issue diplomatically and turned the economic screws, they could have made a very forceful gesture short of war for Lincoln to sit down and negotiate. Though it's more complicated than that as Britain wanted Russia to back their diplomacy in order to make it look less threatening, and Russia pointedly declined.

Britain though, wanted to wait for the Confederacy to win some great victory in order to have the 'established fact' that the Confederacy was capable of winning on its own so that diplomatic pressure could also pay off. That Confederate victory never came, and so British diplomatic intervention (backed by France which waited for Britain) never materialized.

As for things like the Alabama and the Laird Rams, well the US never actually threatened war over the issue. That would have been insane. Ambassador Adams did make the snarky comment that it the rams sailed it would be an unfriendly act, but outside diplomatic saber rattling the Union never said they would declare war on any European power which recognized the Confederacy. The British on the issue of warships built in Britain stuck pretty scrupulously to the law, for instance the Alabama was being built as a merchant supposedly, but with warlike accouterments. That wasn't illegal. Nor was it sailing from a British harbor illegal, since it got its guns outside British waters. Basically, the British followed the law and told the Americans 'prove it' when they claimed that the ships being built were privateers.

The rams were a pretty exceptional case because they were very much warships and in no way could they have the cover of being merchant ships. They were supposedly being built for the Ottomans, and the American diplomats forced Britain's hand when they contacted the Ottomans to prove they weren't being built for them. That finally prompted the Foreign Office to recognize that, yes, these are not going to be sold to a power not at war but directly to a combatant, which is illegal. Even had the British turned a blind eye to it, basically all the US could have done was wait until the ships left British waters and then ambush them.

After the war the British pretty much refused point blank to even consider the Alabama Claims. No matter what the Americans put forward the British rebuffed it. It wasn't until the British reached out about settling the Northwest Boundary Dispute (of Pig War fame) that the Americans maneuvered them into considering addressing the issue of the Alabama claims. It was only after that, and then a settlement at Geneva, that the British consented to pay a single penny.

In summation, the United States was never really able to compel Britain by threat of force to do anything regarding the Civil War, and even after it, they basically used canny legal scholarship and diplomacy to get Britain to play ball.

That too really, is another big mistake for the Confederacy as they really needed outside help to win. They were never able to use adroit diplomacy to get more from their successes. The Union on the other hand, very skillfully used diplomacy to maneuver around Britain and France to keep them out of the conflict.
 
One thing I can think of that might help the South is if Albert Sidney Johnston hadn't been killed at Shiloh. We'll never know for sure just how good he was as a senior army commander, since his life was cut short so early in the war, but he seemed to show great promise. He was considered the first soldier of the South, and had the confidence of Davis, and all other Southern Commanders. His initial maneuvers kept the Union Army off balance, and his plan to concentrate his forces to strike Grant before he could unite with Buell was classic Napoleonic Strategy. He gained both strategic, and tactical surprise, and came close to winning on the first day at Shiloh. If not for his wound, the resiliency of the Union Army, and the arrival of Buell he might have ended the careers of both Grant, and Sherman.
Of all the Confederate commanders, Albert Sidney Johnston was by far one of the most experienced having fought for 34 years in the Black Hawk War, the Texas Revolution, the Mexican-American War and the Utah War. There's a reason he's known as "Soldier of Three Republics" as a biography puts it best. Albert Sidney Johnston was in a very tough position given that Leonidas Polk idiotically occupied Columbus, Kentucky and got most of the state to side with the Union not to mention his men were fewer than 40,000 and spread out though then again he was able to launch raids that confused the hell out of William Tecumseh Sherman to the point of driving him to insanity and almost suicide. Not helping matters was that the generals he had such as Felix Zollicoffer and George B. Crittenden were not exactly the best and most talented people out there which led to the Union taking Mill Springs followed by Fort Henry and Fort Donelson as well as taking parts of Tennessee and Mississippi. He did show some technical prowess at Shiloh but his death basically changed everything and led to the Union winning the battle not the Confederacy. Then again, Robert E. Lee whom many of us consider to be a tactical genius (mostly) and the face of the Confederacy lost Fort Pulaski in Georgia though he did beef up Fort Jackson to defend Savannah from Union attack and he was bashed on by Southern press as "Granny Lee" when he replaced Joseph E. Johnston after the Battle of Seven Pines. So even if Johnston won Shiloh and lived given that the tactical situation of the West was completely different from the East as far as generals went he may or may not be able to turn the tide there if we consider his decades worth of experience.

In a scenario where Kentucky and/or Missouri fell to the Confederate States whether in an early Civil War or if they're more lucky in 1861, Albert Sidney Johnston would be much more lucky and gain more men to join his army not to mention he would be happy to be in his home state defending from the Union.
 
Last edited:
So while it is hyperbole to suggest the US would have run out of money and weapons to fight with if Britain intervened, it doesn't detract from the very real issue that the Union faced in the historic Trent affair that the British slammed the valve for war materials the Union was buying in bulk shut on them in December 1861. This did cause a fairly large crisis because, as the article Dupont and the Nitre Crisis lays out, the Union had not actually gotten around to properly tooling up to support an army of 400,000 men in 1861-62 (and arguably didn't until 1863) because the amount on hand was judged adequate after the Mexican American War, a war which involved only some 70,000 troops and volunteers at the maximum. The DuPont company was the only large provider of Union powder during the war (not the only one, but they had the necessary industrial apparatus to churn the stuff out, their competitors were all smaller) and so they realized the problem first and told the navy, who then told the army, who then got the smart idea to actually make a centralized process to begin a centralized method for making the stuff, but they were still dependent on British sources for 1862-63 and by 1864 were arguably independent, but losing that supply they bought in December/January of 1861-62 would have been a colossal set back. While it's true they could have overcome the deficiency with things like nitre beds, those would take till roughly late 1863-64 to actually be productive which would have an adverse effect on their ability to wage the same kind of war they did historically.

The Confederacy overcame their deficiency by running the blockade with nitre from Britain, the Union wouldn't have the same options and would basically be dependent on importing from other European nations or a very convoluted buy around system.

That's just one complication. Another would be that, while the British not selling rifles to them wouldn't be the end of the world, the Enfields were pretty damn good rifles. They could buy French, Austrian, and Belgian rifles, and they did OTL in 1861-63, but they bought a lot of Enfields. And they can't just make up for that with Springfields either as the Springfield armory found itself in a very peculiar position of having to be reliant on British made iron for their machinery. Not using it involves a lot of dismantling and retooling their machines to use a different source which again takes time and is a big set back, and probably leads to inferior quality product. Not the end of the world, but a really bad set back if you have to fight a campaign against the South and Britain and try to expand your army at the same time.

Another complication is indeed the economic factor. There was a bank run in December 1861 which caused all the banks to stop issuing payments in gold (but that wasn't specifically because of the British, it did have an aspect that the war was becoming more expensive than people realized so they were afraid of not having cash to hand), and it took a lot of the brilliance of Salmon Chase to work out, But if the British went to war, much of the trade and government revenue which did supply the Union finances with stable currency to pad the printing of green backs would vanish almost overnight and cause economic shock. This would mean that the Union basically has to print money in 1862 to finance the war and that's not really great. They have a larger more diverse economy than the Confederacy yes, but that doesn't make them immune to inflation. The trade issue is problematic because Britain was America's biggest trading partner, the United States however, was not Britain's biggest trading partner, accounting for, roughly speaking, 16% of both imports and exports to Britain, which isn't an enormous economic investment. The war would hurt the US disproportionately in economic terms compared to the British, whose economy was, pre-war, already 3x larger than that of the US besides.

These issues alone, I think, just show that had Britain decided to put its military and economic weight into the conflict in Trent or even late 1862 after some huge Confederate victory, it would have been a pretty dire situation for the Union.

As for popular support against the war...well that's questionable. Certainly during the only actual war scare we find that support for war with the United States was pretty overwhelming, both in the government, the newspapers, and by all accounts, the streets. In Canada it was the same, and they were going to be the front lines. Granted, after the war scare the war fever died down, but pro and anti Union was, by all the accounts I can figure, pretty well divided.



Well, Trent was a direct war scare where the British believed they were being goaded into a casus belli by the Union. After that, intervention was punted around as an economic and political solution to the very real cotton famine that began to impact the French and British economies. Political and economic intervention by an Anglo-French diplomatic effort would have been rebuffed, but if the Anglo-French had really pushed the issue diplomatically and turned the economic screws, they could have made a very forceful gesture short of war for Lincoln to sit down and negotiate. Though it's more complicated than that as Britain wanted Russia to back their diplomacy in order to make it look less threatening, and Russia pointedly declined.

Britain though, wanted to wait for the Confederacy to win some great victory in order to have the 'established fact' that the Confederacy was capable of winning on its own so that diplomatic pressure could also pay off. That Confederate victory never came, and so British diplomatic intervention (backed by France which waited for Britain) never materialized.

As for things like the Alabama and the Laird Rams, well the US never actually threatened war over the issue. That would have been insane. Ambassador Adams did make the snarky comment that it the rams sailed it would be an unfriendly act, but outside diplomatic saber rattling the Union never said they would declare war on any European power which recognized the Confederacy. The British on the issue of warships built in Britain stuck pretty scrupulously to the law, for instance the Alabama was being built as a merchant supposedly, but with warlike accouterments. That wasn't illegal. Nor was it sailing from a British harbor illegal, since it got its guns outside British waters. Basically, the British followed the law and told the Americans 'prove it' when they claimed that the ships being built were privateers.

The rams were a pretty exceptional case because they were very much warships and in no way could they have the cover of being merchant ships. They were supposedly being built for the Ottomans, and the American diplomats forced Britain's hand when they contacted the Ottomans to prove they weren't being built for them. That finally prompted the Foreign Office to recognize that, yes, these are not going to be sold to a power not at war but directly to a combatant, which is illegal. Even had the British turned a blind eye to it, basically all the US could have done was wait until the ships left British waters and then ambush them.

After the war the British pretty much refused point blank to even consider the Alabama Claims. No matter what the Americans put forward the British rebuffed it. It wasn't until the British reached out about settling the Northwest Boundary Dispute (of Pig War fame) that the Americans maneuvered them into considering addressing the issue of the Alabama claims. It was only after that, and then a settlement at Geneva, that the British consented to pay a single penny.

In summation, the United States was never really able to compel Britain by threat of force to do anything regarding the Civil War, and even after it, they basically used canny legal scholarship and diplomacy to get Britain to play ball.

That too really, is another big mistake for the Confederacy as they really needed outside help to win. They were never able to use adroit diplomacy to get more from their successes. The Union on the other hand, very skillfully used diplomacy to maneuver around Britain and France to keep them out of the conflict.
Thanks for your reply. You provided some very interesting data about Dupont, and the Springfield Arsenal . It sounds strange that Springfield would be dependent on British Iron, considering that Britain was basically the only power the U.S. had any plans of going to war with. No other power presented a serious threat. You provide a figure of 400,000 men for the size of the army that the Union could sustain in the 1861-62 timeframe, but it seems the army was larger then that.

Comparative Strength
Date
Union Total
Union Present
Union Absent
Confederates
Present
for Duty
Confederates
Aggregate
Present
Confederates
Present
& Absent
Confederates
Absent
Jan. 1, '6116,367
Regulars
14,663
Regulars
1704
Regulars
July 1, '61186,751183,5883163
Dec. 31, '61 209,852258,680326,76868,088
Jan. 1, '62575,917527,20448,713
Mar. 31, '62637,126533,984103,142
June 30, '62 169,943224,146328,049103,903
Dec. 31, '62 253,208304,015449,439145,424
Jan. 1, '63918,191698,802219,389
Dec. 31, '63 233,586277,970464,646186,676
Jan. 1, '64860,737611,250249,487
June 30, '64 161,528194,764315,847121,083
Dec. 31, '65 154,910196,016400,787204,771
Jan 1, '65959,460620,924338,536
1865 125,994160,198358,692198,494
Mar. 31, '65980,086657,747 322,339
May 1, '651,000,516

Granted the Union bought many small arms from the UK, and other European Powers, but loss of small arms in action, and need to replace old with more modern weapons created a veracious apatite for small arms. I think it would be hard to argue the Union war effort would fail without English Enfield sales.

War in 1862 would no doubt put the Union in a desperate situation, but the Trent Affair was resolved by handing 2 men over to Canadian Officials. After that Britain had little interest in a war with the United States. Yes the Americans never threatened war over recognizing the Confederacy, but they never did because it would strain relations, with the U.S. and gain them little. Selling warships would lead to serious repercussions. To argue that the British were maneuvered into the Alabama Claims belies the fact they were guilty of what the American accused them of. By willful negligence the British were selling warships to the Confederacy.
 
4) And of course slavery, which is always something s liability are war. Not so much that slave powers can’t win wars obviously, but in the South’s case they would have been better off figuring out some way to make better use of the military potential if their enslaved population but that would have required some ideological concessions it wasn’t willing to make even if it could have mostly preserved its racial caste system.
I decided to look up the legal and public opinion barriers and they were formidable. In Virginia it took the better part of a year for the governor and high ranking Virginia officers to rally the press from being divided on the topic to being on board.

The state legislatures of virtually all the southern states had laws banning blacks from bearing arms. Virginia undid their ban, but most state legislatures in the South did not and many criticized the move as a threat to the social order and an infringement of their rights as states.

That body had already defeated a bill calling for the involuntary enlistment of 200,000 black men, and would likely have defeated the Barksdale bill had not Virginia's two senators, R. M. T. Hunter and Allen T. Caperton, changed their votes due to instructions from the General Assembly. The Senate, by a one-vote margin, approved a slightly amended version of the Barksdale bill on March 8; Davis signed it into law on March 13, 1865.

In the intervening days, the [Virginia] General Assembly passed a law explicitly allowing black men to carry rifles, which state law previously had prohibited. North Carolina's elected officials, by contrast, published their objections to the measure in a series of legislative resolutions.
The South Carolina press raged that the push was an affront to their right as a state and the reason they seceded from the Union.

The Charleston, S.C., Mercury raged on Jan. 13, 1865, “It was on account of encroachments upon the institution of slavery ... that South Carolina seceded from that Union. It is not at this late day, after the loss of thirty thousand of her best and bravest men in battle, that she will suffer it to be bartered away.”
In Virginia the typical path of the debate for newspapers in opposing the idea such as the Richmond Enquirer started out mildly negative and when critical mass in the state started being brought to the table hedged and then gave it their conditional support as black soldiers were being paraded around Richmond.

The troops seemed a curiosity to people in Richmond, judging from an account in the Richmond Enquirer.

“The appearance of the battalion of colored troops on the Square, yesterday afternoon, attracted thousands of our citizens to the spot, all eager to catch a glimpse of the sable soldiers,” the Enquirer wrote on March 23, 1865. “The bearing of the negroes elicited universal commendation. While on the Square, they went through the manual of arms in a manner which would have done credit to veteran soldiers, while the evolutions of the line were executed with promptness and precision. As an appropriate recognition of their promptness in forming the first battalion of colored troops in the Confederacy, we suggest to the ladies of Richmond the propriety of presenting the battalion with an appropriate banner.”

After months of debate and a personal appeal by Lee, the Confederate Congress had voted to authorize its president “to ask for and accept from the owners of slaves, the services of such number of able-bodied negro men as he may deem expedient, for and during the war, to perform military service in whatever capacity he may direct.” Confederate President Jefferson Davis signed the bill on March 13, 1865. Among the first black recruits were hospital workers at Camps Winder and Jackson who were quickly called out to help man the fortifications surrounding Richmond.

https://richmond.com/black-soldiers-in-the-civil-war-who-did-they-fight-for-and-why/article_317568c2-1ba4-5f88-a18a-45d24a900a22.html
Its difficult to see the same trajectory occurring in North Carolina, South Carolina, and many points South where elite opinion was much more solidly opposed or at very least it would take a fair bit longer for opinion to start to change.
 
Last edited:
Was there a reason he constantly overestimated the forces arrayed against him? That has always seemed like one of his major problems.
Pinkerton started by assuming an unusually large average size for Confederate regiments (700 IIRC). Pinkerton then added a fudge factor to account for his agents not finding all Confederate regiments. IIRC, Pinkerton generally assumed his agents had found around 50% of Confederate regiments when they typically had found over 90% of Confederate regiments, leading to Pinkerton nearly doubling his already inflated estimates. The problem is that McClellan treated Pinkerton's numbers as underestimates.

The best coverage is probably Edwin Fishel's The Secret War For the Union. Fishel's sources included the operational files of the Bureau of Military Intelligence, more of the BMI's reports in Hooker's papers, plus over 1000 pages of Pinkerton reports in the McClellan papers. Fishel worked for US intelligence services for several decades. Between 1958 and 1996, Fishel was published in American Intelligence Journal, Civil War History, Foreign Intelligence Literary Scene, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, and Studies in Intelligence.
 
Top