Biggest mistake of the war

CanadianCanuck

Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Maybe they didn't but the UK bought a lot of American grain more grain the cotton and the British had Mason on his proverbial hands and knees begging for Confedrate recognition and all he got in reply was" best of luck old boy". So we can put two and two together.
Leftyhunter

Well, during the Civil War the South was blockaded so the amount of cotton bought isn't exactly an indication vs the amount of wheat. Pre-war cotton was the most profitable export, not wheat. It also begs the question that if King Wheat was greater than King Cotton, why the Union never applied that as leverage during other diplomatic spats of the era.

During the Trent Affair (incidentally 1862 was the largest year in which US wheat found it's way into the British market) had this been true Lincoln could have informed Charles Adams to remind the British how precarious they might be without American wheat. During the Laird Rams affair they could have done the same. And Lincoln and Seward didn't threaten to cut off wheat supplies to any power that recognized the Confederacy, they threatened war. Each incident had a cost benefit analysis of how the force of arms might effect the other.

With that in mind, the logical conclusion seems to be that both sides thought war would be too expensive to be justified without a casus belli, and thus this would be why Britain was not prepared to intervene on the Confederates behalf.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
It also begs the question that if King Wheat was greater than King Cotton, why the Union never applied that as leverage during other diplomatic spats of the era.
I think to be honest one of the biggest signifiers of the relative importance of the two is simply that the British basically never talked about it. It wasn't completely unnoticed, but it comes up very rarely even in public debate and there is no mention of it in Cabinet discussions.

It is actually much more common for the cotton famine to be discussed, even on those occasions when wheat was brought up.


Wheat is brought up in House of Commons debates on 18 July 1862 and then not again until 30 June 1863. On those two occasions, which have been selected because wheat was brought up, the mentions of various factors were:

Debate of 18 July 1862
28,746 words total
'grain'/'corn'/'wheat'/'bread'= 0+2+1+1 = 4 mentions
'mob' = 4 mentions
'Canada' = 1 mention
'French'/'Emperor'/'Napoleon' = 8+6+0 = 14 mentions
'cotton' = 31 mentions
'slave'/'slavery' = 29+65= 94 mentions

Debate of 30 June 1863 (the next time wheat was mentioned in the House in reference to the American Civil War)
30,155 words total
'grain'/'corn'/'wheat'/'bread'= 1+4+0+0 = 5 mentions
'mob' = 0 mentions
'Canada' = 9 mentions
'French'/'Emperor'/'Napoleon' = 48+39+3 = 90 mentions
'cotton' = 31 mentions
'slave'/'slavery' = 24 + 56 = 80 mentions


So cotton was mentioned six to eight times as often as wheat, and Napoleon approximately twelve times as often.


As for the Cabinet:

'Adams found no reference to wheat in the memoranda or notes of British Cabinet officials, while cotton was frequently mentioned. Adams concluded that wheat played a negligible role in the British decision to stay neutral. Likewise, diplomatic historian Frank Lawrence Owsley concluded that Seward's comments about a wheat famine and possible war with Great Britain or France were pure propaganda: There was no evidence that a disruption in the wheat trade with the United States would have produced a wheat famine in either country.


And the economic consequences for the Union:

... Whether the wheat trade made much of a difference in relations to Great Britain is questionable, but the grain trade generated an estimated $265 million for the United States. Furthermore, the North exported large amounts of ham, bacon, pork, lard, corn and cornmeal to Europe... The income from these exports allowed the Union to acquire military equipment, supplies, and loans from abroad. This income also helped control inflation in the United States.'
 

atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
How deeply in debt to British creditors was the south at the start of war. If there was great debt the UK would have reason to ensure confederate victory to recover its money. Or is it a case of writing off your losses.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
How deeply in debt to British creditors was the south at the start of war. If there was great debt the UK would have reason to ensure confederate victory to recover its money. Or is it a case of writing off your losses.
As it happens, the specific period in question is one where the British are probably not inclined to do this (invasion to secure repayment of debt), precisely because they'd just done it in Mexico and France had turned it into an attempt to secure a client state.

But the South as an entity didn't exist prior to the start of the war, so by definition it was not in debt then anyway.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
I think to be honest one of the biggest signifiers of the relative importance of the two is simply that the British basically never talked about it. It wasn't completely unnoticed, but it comes up very rarely even in public debate and there is no mention of it in Cabinet discussions.

It is actually much more common for the cotton famine to be discussed, even on those occasions when wheat was brought up.


Wheat is brought up in House of Commons debates on 18 July 1862 and then not again until 30 June 1863. On those two occasions, which have been selected because wheat was brought up, the mentions of various factors were:

Debate of 18 July 1862
28,746 words total
'grain'/'corn'/'wheat'/'bread'= 0+2+1+1 = 4 mentions
'mob' = 4 mentions
'Canada' = 1 mention
'French'/'Emperor'/'Napoleon' = 8+6+0 = 14 mentions
'cotton' = 31 mentions
'slave'/'slavery' = 29+65= 94 mentions

Debate of 30 June 1863 (the next time wheat was mentioned in the House in reference to the American Civil War)
30,155 words total
'grain'/'corn'/'wheat'/'bread'= 1+4+0+0 = 5 mentions
'mob' = 0 mentions
'Canada' = 9 mentions
'French'/'Emperor'/'Napoleon' = 48+39+3 = 90 mentions
'cotton' = 31 mentions
'slave'/'slavery' = 24 + 56 = 80 mentions


So cotton was mentioned six to eight times as often as wheat, and Napoleon approximately twelve times as often.


As for the Cabinet:

'Adams found no reference to wheat in the memoranda or notes of British Cabinet officials, while cotton was frequently mentioned. Adams concluded that wheat played a negligible role in the British decision to stay neutral. Likewise, diplomatic historian Frank Lawrence Owsley concluded that Seward's comments about a wheat famine and possible war with Great Britain or France were pure propaganda: There was no evidence that a disruption in the wheat trade with the United States would have produced a wheat famine in either country.


And the economic consequences for the Union:

... Whether the wheat trade made much of a difference in relations to Great Britain is questionable, but the grain trade generated an estimated $265 million for the United States. Furthermore, the North exported large amounts of ham, bacon, pork, lard, corn and cornmeal to Europe... The income from these exports allowed the Union to acquire military equipment, supplies, and loans from abroad. This income also helped control inflation in the United States.'
Seems there was one thing in both debates mentioned far more than either wheat or cotton.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Seems there was one thing in both debates mentioned far more than either wheat or cotton.
Indeed. Though don't forget that those raw mentions could amount to "well, we are told the South has slavery, but I see the North has slavery" (a point often made at the time in Britain being that the North hadn't taken the opportunity to outlaw domestic slavery in the Border states).


Here for example is Mr. Lindsay's opening remarks in which he mentions slavery about 15 times:


But, while these assurances were given in the most solemn manner, the Northern States were secretly preparing a great naval and military expedition, which had for its object the reinforcement of Fort Sumter, and which actually sailed while the Commissioners were kept waiting at Washington in the hope and under the promise of "a peaceable settlement of all difficulties." As soon as the news of this expedition reached the Confederate States—and that was only three days before it arrived off Charleston—the people rose to a man; and it was not surprising that they did so. When they found that the answer to their appeals for justice, their remonstrance against oppressive taxation, and their prayer to be relieved from it—the prayer of 5,500,000 people (for that was the population of the States which had at that time seceded)—was to be an answer from the cannon's mouth, there was one shout of execration throughout the Southern States? It was then that the people of Charleston were obliged in self-defence to lay hold of Fort Sumter. If it had been reinforced, the harbour of Charleston would have been at the command of the Northern States, and the city at their mercy. Immediately afterwards President Lincoln issued his first proclamation for 75,000 men, to subdue what he called the rebellion of the South. Driven to desperation by these unconstitutional and extraordinary measures, six other States resolved to follow the example of the seven seceding States and withdraw from the compact. North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, and Virginia followed the other States in rapid succession; and thus this lamentable war commenced. Though there had been an outcry on the part of a small section of the people of the North against slavery in the South, the suppression of slavery had very little, if anything, to do with the civil war. If it had, the North would have received more sympathy from the people of England. But the word "slavery" during the last Presidential election was used by a large majority of the people of the North as a mere political cry, and for party purposes. It had no reality. In fact, President Lincoln, in his inaugural Address on the 4th of March, 1861, said— "I have no intention to interfere, directly or indirectly, with the question of slavery where it exists. I do not think I have a right to do so legally, and I am by no means inclined to do it." Such was the policy of President Lincoln, and the majority of his Cabinet. Moreover, he acted upon that policy; for when General Fremont issued a proclamation freeing the slaves in Missouri, he was immediately recalled from his command. Again, when General Hunter issued a proclamation giving freedom to all the slave population of Beaufort and the three neighbouring districts under his control, his proclamation was disavowed by the Government at Washington. So also when Mr. Cameron the Secretary for War, in his report to the President, stated that one of the objects of the war was the suppression of slavery in the South, Mr. Lincoln ordered that clause to be struck out, and the report appeared without it. The Government at Washington would not admit that the suppression of slavery in the South was even one of the objects of this unhappy war. So much for the avowed policy of the Executive; but what said the people? The opinion of the New York Herald might not be worthy of great consideration, but the proprietor of that journal printed it to sell, and must therefore write so as to suit the taste of his readers. When he was himself at New York, some fifteen months ago, the average circulation of that newspaper was about 120,000 daily. Reviewing very recently the sermons preached on the day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer observed in the Northern States, the New York Herald distinctly stated that negro slavery was part of the Constitution, and that the attempt to abolish it by the Congress or the Executive would be a violation of the Federal compact, and would, moreover, be an imputation on the character of Washington and the other founders of the Republic, who agreed by a solemn league and covenant that the rights of the Southern slaveholders should be guaranteed for ever. The writer, representing the opinions of a vast majority of his readers, disowned entirely that slavery had anything to do with this war, and combated the argument that slavery was a sin. In the North there was not, perhaps, one person out of ten who desired to see it abolished. But however repugnant to our own feelings the institution of slavery, we must look at the question as practical and not altogether as benevolent men. How was this ancient institution to be dealt with in a summary manner? The slaves of the South constituted a property of the value of five hundred millions sterling; and where was that money to come from, and what was to become of the slaves if they were all emancipated at once?
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I think to be honest one of the biggest signifiers of the relative importance of the two is simply that the British basically never talked about it. It wasn't completely unnoticed, but it comes up very rarely even in public debate and there is no mention of it in Cabinet discussions.

It is actually much more common for the cotton famine to be discussed, even on those occasions when wheat was brought up.


Wheat is brought up in House of Commons debates on 18 July 1862 and then not again until 30 June 1863. On those two occasions, which have been selected because wheat was brought up, the mentions of various factors were:

Debate of 18 July 1862
28,746 words total
'grain'/'corn'/'wheat'/'bread'= 0+2+1+1 = 4 mentions
'mob' = 4 mentions
'Canada' = 1 mention
'French'/'Emperor'/'Napoleon' = 8+6+0 = 14 mentions
'cotton' = 31 mentions
'slave'/'slavery' = 29+65= 94 mentions

Debate of 30 June 1863 (the next time wheat was mentioned in the House in reference to the American Civil War)
30,155 words total
'grain'/'corn'/'wheat'/'bread'= 1+4+0+0 = 5 mentions
'mob' = 0 mentions
'Canada' = 9 mentions
'French'/'Emperor'/'Napoleon' = 48+39+3 = 90 mentions
'cotton' = 31 mentions
'slave'/'slavery' = 24 + 56 = 80 mentions


So cotton was mentioned six to eight times as often as wheat, and Napoleon approximately twelve times as often.


As for the Cabinet:

'Adams found no reference to wheat in the memoranda or notes of British Cabinet officials, while cotton was frequently mentioned. Adams concluded that wheat played a negligible role in the British decision to stay neutral. Likewise, diplomatic historian Frank Lawrence Owsley concluded that Seward's comments about a wheat famine and possible war with Great Britain or France were pure propaganda: There was no evidence that a disruption in the wheat trade with the United States would have produced a wheat famine in either country.


And the economic consequences for the Union:

... Whether the wheat trade made much of a difference in relations to Great Britain is questionable, but the grain trade generated an estimated $265 million for the United States. Furthermore, the North exported large amounts of ham, bacon, pork, lard, corn and cornmeal to Europe... The income from these exports allowed the Union to acquire military equipment, supplies, and loans from abroad. This income also helped control inflation in the United States.'
Neutrality produced the wheat imports, the imports had little affect on neutrality. The price of US wheat was low. The British pound was strong. The wheat was shipped on railroads in the US and Canada with British owners. It provided return cargoes for US and British ships departing from New York. It worked for both sides. And it ended quickly in 1865 as the US dollar strengthened and Britain began to buy US cotton again.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Neutrality produced the wheat imports, the imports had little affect on neutrality. The price of US wheat was low. The British pound was strong. The wheat was shipped on railroads in the US and Canada with British owners. It provided return cargoes for US and British ships departing from New York. It worked for both sides. And it ended quickly in 1865 as the US dollar strengthened and Britain began to buy US cotton again.
Do you... have a point here? Obviously in the absence of a strong reason for war then trade happens, but the issue is what happens if a strong reason for war arises.
 
Joined
Nov 15, 2019
Biggest mistake of the war was creating so many regiments, each side had too many under strength regiments making command and control more difficult.
What do you think is biggest mistake of the war.
Riding forward between battle lines with your staff during battle in the woods to reconnoiter, oh yeah it was dark too.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Riding forward between battle lines with your staff during battle in the woods to reconnoiter, oh yeah it was dark too.
That's at least understandable in terms of someone wanting to get more information, though I agree the position of a corps/wing commander is behind the lines where possible. It happened a lot anyway though, especially to personally aggressive commanders - Mansfield, Reno, Reynolds and Kearny spring to mind just off the top of my head!
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
How about David Hunter retreating from Early's smaller army far into West Virginia and leaving the path to Washington wide open?
Which did not result in anything significant. At best Early diverted Union forces but Early most men and accomplished nothing in return. Early admitted in Battles and Leaders Washington DC defense's were to strong to size by force.
Leftyhunter
 

19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
At best Early diverted Union forces
Leftyhunter
That was his purpose. His attack on Washington (Fort Stevens) was a feint to draw Union troops away from Richmond. The mission was a success.

A lot of phony credit is given to Lew Wallace for "saving Washington" - but Early never intended to capture Washington.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
That was his purpose. His attack on Washington (Fort Stevens) was a feint to draw Union troops away from Richmond. The mission was a success.

A lot of phony credit is given to Lew Wallace for "saving Washington" - but Early never intended to capture Washington.
Not sure how sucessful Early's feint was as Richmond was still being starved to death and eventually Richmond fell anyway. It was just dumb luck that the Crater attack failed due to not using the USCT trooper's that were trained to lead the attack. Conventional wars aren't won by clever feints but by siezing and holding enemy territory.
Leftyhunter
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
How about David Hunter retreating from Early's smaller army far into West Virginia and leaving the path to Washington wide open?
Was Early's force smaller than Hunter's? How should Hunter have retreated given their relative position at the time?

Hunter had left Sigel with several thousand men at the north end of the Shenandoah to obstruct the path to Washington, but Sigel panicked and withdrew to Harpers Ferry and Early went around him.
 

Stone in the wall

2nd Lieutenant
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
Joined
Sep 19, 2017
Location
Blue Ridge Mountains, Jefferson County WV
Was Early's force smaller than Hunter's? How should Hunter have retreated given their relative position at the time?

Hunter had left Sigel with several thousand men at the north end of the Shenandoah to obstruct the path to Washington, but Sigel panicked and withdrew to Harpers Ferry and Early went around him.
According to the NPS about 17,000 to 14,000, another source 16,643 to about 14,000. Confederate numbers may be even lower due to straggling as the moved fast and beat Hunter to Lynchburg. Hunter shouldn't have had to retreat, but Hunter rested a full day 16th of June, only the cavalary forces of McClausland and Imboden were already there. Early was not far behind. Sheridan was supposed to help Hunter, but was forced back at Trevilian Station by Fitzhugh Lee and Hampton.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
That was his purpose. His attack on Washington (Fort Stevens) was a feint to draw Union troops away from Richmond. The mission was a success.

A lot of phony credit is given to Lew Wallace for "saving Washington" - but Early never intended to capture Washington.
It's not really a success if a feint doesn't do much . Richmond was still besieged.
Leftyhunter
 

Stone in the wall

2nd Lieutenant
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
Joined
Sep 19, 2017
Location
Blue Ridge Mountains, Jefferson County WV
yIt's not really a success if a feint doesn't do much . Richmond was still besieged.
Leftyhunter
The reason Richmond was still besieged was because of Grant and a big Union military intelligence blunder. It was almost 3 weeks before Grant was aware Early had slipped out and was headed down the valley. Even then it was Halleck on July 3rd who had to informed Grant, who was still clueless. Grants famous reply from City Point "Early's corps is now here" as Confederates were again turning the Shenandoah into the valley of humiliation for the Union.
 
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