Britain had recognized the CSA?

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HM Government's decision not to recognize the Confederacy as a nation entitled to status as a belligerent, etc., after Antietam/Sharpsburg has been touted by historians as the turning point in the war. So what if the government, as in majority in Parliament had extended recognition? How does that play out as far as the war AND as far as British domestic politics? What would be the advantage to the British? Yes, the source of cotton would be freed up, but would it? I suppose that cotton in British bottoms would be safe from interdiction, but would this cash have really helped? What the Confederacy needed was men.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
It depended mostly on how deeply involved in a continental war, thousands of miles across an ocean, Great Britain could afford, while just across the channel sat another Napoleon on the throne of France with Imperial ambitions and Prussia was busily building itself up as an rival Imperial Power on the Continent, by means of 'Blood and Iron'.


P.S. In India(The Jewel of the Empire) the embers of the Great Mutiny was still being stamped out. With no assurance it might not fare up again, or be the spark for other revolts in the Empire.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
It depended mostly on how deeply involved in a continental war, thousands of miles across an ocean, Great Britain could afford, while just across the channel sat another Napoleon on the throne of France with Imperial ambitions and Prussia was busily building itself up as an rival Imperial Power on the Continent, by means of 'Blood and Iron'.


P.S. In India(The Jewel of the Empire) the embers of the Great Mutiny was still being stamped out. With no assurance it might not fare up again, or be the spark for other revolts in the Empire.

We all tend to forget that the Civil War did not exist in a diplomatic vacuum. The French and British had lots of other fish to fry and worries to deal with in the early 1860s. Europe had lots of wars of its own from 1848 to 1870. The Prussians had several in that period (the Danes in 1848-51 and 1864, the Austro-Prussian in 1866, the Franco-Prussian in 1870-71). The French fought the Austrians in Italy in 1859. The British-French-Allies fought the Russians in the Crimea 1853-56. Italy was a series of small fights as the place was being united. The Balkans were ... well, they always seemed to be fighting somewhere down there, I think the Turks had four in the Balkans during that period, probably three with Montenegro -- and then the Turks were part of the Crimean War, which is also called the Eighth Russo-Turkish War.

Topping it all off, Europe almost exploded into a continent-wide war of its' own during the January Uprising in Poland in 1863. That little conflagration caused the Russians to send two squadrons of their best ships to "visit" the US, arriving unexpectedly in New York and San Francisco (i.e., the Russians didn't want them penned up in St. Petersburg and Valdivostok if the war started). The Lincoln administration was astonished when they arrived off New York in September of 1863.

The Europeans were going to do what was in their best interests. They had no desire to help the Confederacy by getting involved in a bloody and messy overseas war when it looked like they might have to fight closer to home.

Tim
 
Joined
Nov 3, 2012
HM Government's decision not to recognize the Confederacy as a nation entitled to status as a belligerent, etc., after Antietam/Sharpsburg has been touted by historians as the turning point in the war. So what if the government, as in majority in Parliament had extended recognition? How does that play out as far as the war AND as far as British domestic politics? What would be the advantage to the British? Yes, the source of cotton would be freed up, but would it? I suppose that cotton in British bottoms would be safe from interdiction, but would this cash have really helped? What the Confederacy needed was men.

Consequences would've been dramatic, though yes, the North would still eventually have won (it it continued the fight). The British would've thus broken the blockade, which even by mid-1862 was straggling the Confederacy (and the Royal Navy was light years ahead of the North in developing iron-hulled ocean-going vessels; they would've been able to defeat our ships in any open challenge with ease). The blockade lifted, cotton would've poured into Britain (16 % of its population worked directly in cotton textiles), and money (cotton was at $10 per bail in mid-1862) and supplies would've poured back into the South. The Confederate western armies always suffered horribly with second-rate equipment--it's not all Bragg's fault (!). Autumn 1862 was early enough that an influx of supplies could've significantly altered southern fortunes, especially in the West. Having said that, unless Britain proactively confronted the North on behalf of the South (i.e., blockaded northern ports--highly unlikely), I don't see the end result as changing. The war would've likely just lasted longer, still being settled by attrition of southern manpower. Those are my initial thoughts. Fun hypothetical!
 

Eric Calistri

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 31, 2012
Location
Austin Texas
Folks always seem to conflate recognition and intervention. Massive British military presence in/ near the US does not necessarily follow immediately upon a formal exchange of diplomatic personnel. Dean Mahin's _One War at a Time_ is a good source for a historical look at British-USA-CSA diplomacy. Amanda Foremans _World on Fire_ is supposed to be thorough, but I have not (yet) read that one.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Central Ohio
I disagree on the assumption that British intervention = lifting of the blockade. While the majority of Union ironclads couldn't fight in a seaway, they were quite good in the littoral and the harbors; contrariwise, the British ironclads were deep-draft ocean cruisers and wouldn't have been able to confront the Union ironclads in the littoral. The Union would have resorted to a similar strategy vis-a-vis the British as the Confederacy did toward the Union: coastal defense and sending raiders to sea (which was the exact thought behind the construction of the Wampaoag, Madawaska, and sister vessels). Howard J. Fuller has a lot to say about this in his book Clad in Iron: The American Civil War and the Challenge of British Naval Power (Praeger, 2008), in which he argues that one of the primary motivations for constructing monitors were as a way of warding off (British-led) European intervention; this was even stated explicitly by designer John Ericsson when he proposed the name Monitor for the prototype.

The British also faced the probable loss of portions of or the entirety of Canada and the Maritimes, for which they were not adequately prepared. This wasn't 1812, with an upstart agrarian U.S. unprepared for war with primarily militia armies; the Union was already mobilized and constructing armaments at a furious rate, and Britain would have had to try to match that with a combination of homegrown Canadian resources and a long Atlantic supply line.* I'm not saying that the Union was unbeatable-- but it was a big enough threat to cause sleepless nights in the Foreign Office.

____________
* It's notable in this regard, too, that the additional troops sent from Britain to Canada after the Trent incident were forced to enter Canada by way of Maine. The St. Lawrence Seaway was iced up.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
I disagree on the assumption that British intervention = lifting of the blockade. While the majority of Union ironclads couldn't fight in a seaway, they were quite good in the littoral and the harbors; contrariwise, the British ironclads were deep-draft ocean cruisers and wouldn't have been able to confront the Union ironclads in the littoral. The Union would have resorted to a similar strategy vis-a-vis the British as the Confederacy did toward the Union: coastal defense and sending raiders to sea (which was the exact thought behind the construction of the Wampaoag, Madawaska, and sister vessels). Howard J. Fuller has a lot to say about this in his book Clad in Iron: The American Civil War and the Challenge of British Naval Power (Praeger, 2008), in which he argues that one of the primary motivations for constructing monitors were as a way of warding off (British-led) European intervention; this was even stated explicitly by designer John Ericsson when he proposed the name Monitor for the prototype.

Throw into this the fact that there wasn't a single dry-dock in the Western Hemisphere that could have handled the Black Prince or the Warrior. I think there were only two in the world that could, both in England. Any serious damage to the ships might have required their return to England for repair. (When the Black Prince and the Warrior came to Bermuda in 1869, they towed a floating dry-dock along with them.)

In open water, the Black Prince or the Warrior would probably get long odds because of their size and armament. However, the smaller Union ironclads would have had a major maneuver advantage if they could handle the seas ( the Black Prince or the Warrior had large turning circles). In tight quarters, Black Prince or Warrior would be at a substantial disadvantage trying to maneuver. However, British seamanship was pretty darn good and there might have been a whole series of interesting fights as a result.

The British also faced the probable loss of portions of or the entirety of Canada and the Maritimes, for which they were not adequately prepared. This wasn't 1812, with an upstart agrarian U.S. unprepared for war with primarily militia armies; the Union was already mobilized and constructing armaments at a furious rate, and Britain would have had to try to match that with a combination of homegrown Canadian resources and a long Atlantic supply line.* I'm not saying that the Union was unbeatable-- but it was a big enough threat to cause sleepless nights in the Foreign Office.

It would have been interesting. The Union can concentrate large forces against the Canadian front, but only by diverting them from the Confederate front or raising an even larger army than they actually did. If they divert troops, that offers the Confederates opportunities down in the Upper South or elsewhere. If the North can stave off big problems along the Confederate front while beating up on the British in Canada ... then get troops back before the Confederates achieve major success ...

* It's notable in this regard, too, that the additional troops sent from Britain to Canada after the Trent incident were forced to enter Canada by way of Maine. The St. Lawrence Seaway was iced up.

Wow! I never heard that before. This would have caused the British a lot of problems in winter campaigns and a long war.

Tim
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
I disagree on the assumption that British intervention = lifting of the blockade. While the majority of Union ironclads couldn't fight in a seaway, they were quite good in the littoral and the harbors; contrariwise, the British ironclads were deep-draft ocean cruisers and wouldn't have been able to confront the Union ironclads in the littoral. The Union would have resorted to a similar strategy vis-a-vis the British as the Confederacy did toward the Union: coastal defense and sending raiders to sea (which was the exact thought behind the construction of the Wampaoag, Madawaska, and sister vessels). Howard J. Fuller has a lot to say about this in his book Clad in Iron: The American Civil War and the Challenge of British Naval Power (Praeger, 2008), in which he argues that one of the primary motivations for constructing monitors were as a way of warding off (British-led) European intervention; this was even stated explicitly by designer John Ericsson when he proposed the name Monitor for the prototype.

Timing is important here.

In Jan '62 (i.e. intervention over the Trent) the US has zero ironclads.

In Nov' 62 (i.e. in response to the Emancipation Declaration) the US has three (Monitor, Galena and New Ironsides).

In Jul '63 (i.e. in response to Roebucks bill passing) the US has eleven (New Ironsides, Roanoake and 9x Passaic class).

Of these none are particularly powerful, and none is a match for HMS Terror already on the North America station.

____________
* It's notable in this regard, too, that the additional troops sent from Britain to Canada after the Trent incident were forced to enter Canada by way of Maine. The St. Lawrence Seaway was iced up.

They went overland via Labrador, using sledges.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
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Central Ohio
Of these none are particularly powerful, and none is a match for HMS Terror already on the North America station.

What is your source that the Terror was on the North American station?

ETA: Gotcha... station ship at Bermuda. But in No Need of Glory, author Regis Courtemanche states that there was no way Admiral Milne could have pulled Terror out of Bermuda (p. 56). She would not have been available for offensive operations.


In any case, it was a floating battery, built for the Crimean War in anticipation of bombarding Kronstadt in the Baltic in the same manner as the very similar Devastation, Lave and Tonnant bombarded Kinburn, and in no way was up to the challenge of a monitor, let alone the New Ironsides.

ETA: I see Terror as listed with 4" armor plate and armed with 16 68-pounder smoothbores. Given her limited maneuverability, I think a hypothetical Passaic-Terror matchup could have played out rather like the Weehawken and the Atlanta in Wassaw Sound... maybe not as quickly, but an armament of 68-pounder smoothbores would have been entirely inadequate to deal with Union monitors.

They went overland via Labrador, using sledges.

Not all of them. A portion went via Boston and then by rail to Montreal; and the Portland harbor and railway were offered for their use by Secretary of State Seward.

(Looking this up was interesting...I hadn't heard of the "sleigh ride" some of the troops took.)
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
What is your source that the Terror was on the North American station?

ETA: Gotcha... station ship at Bermuda. But in No Need of Glory, author Regis Courtemanche states that there was no way Admiral Milne could have pulled Terror out of Bermuda (p. 56). She would not have been available for offensive operations.


In any case, it was a floating battery, built for the Crimean War in anticipation of bombarding Kronstadt in the Baltic in the same manner as the very similar Devastation, Lave and Tonnant bombarded Kinburn, and in no way was up to the challenge of a monitor, let alone the New Ironsides.

ETA: I see Terror as listed with 4" armor plate and armed with 16 68-pounder smoothbores. Given her limited maneuverability, I think a hypothetical Passaic-Terror matchup could have played out rather like the Weehawken and the Atlanta in Wassaw Sound... maybe not as quickly, but an armament of 68-pounder smoothbores would have been entirely inadequate to deal with Union monitors.

Then you need to explain how USS Dacotah nearly opened fire on HMS Terror (mistaking her for CSS Sumter) in Nov '61: http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/c...o=ofre0001;didno=ofre0001;view=image;seq=0273

Terror wasn't reduced to a base ship until ~ 1869. In 1861-5 she's Commissioned guard ship of Bermuda, but cruised extensively.

Terror is a tough ship, the first ironclad with rolled rather than forged armour (her builders invented armour rolling for her). Her armour is much tougher than Atlantas and no vitals (like steering chains) are exposed. She's faster than Passaic and can hardly be less maneuverable than Passaic.

In guns the US 11" isn't going to pierce. There is a better chance with the 15" depending on charges used and range. However no US 15" really got a full penetration of any CS ironclad so it's doubtful (several cases exist where CS ironclads armour rejected the 15" round, but broke plates and caused splintering).

The 68 pdr with 16 lbs is a better AP piece than the US 11", firing a heavier charge with a smaller ball. A general index of the ability to punch is the charge/ diameter which is:

US 11": 1.36
UK 68 pdr 95 cwt: 2
US 15" (35 lb charge): 2.33
UK 68 pdr 112 cwt: 3 (withdrawn from sea service as too heavy, an objection that might be overcome)
US 15" (50 lb charge): 3.33
UK 100 pdr Somerset: 3.58
US 15" (60 lb charge): 4

However, the US guns are crippled by not having an armour piercing shot for any of their guns in this timeframe, seriously undermining their performance against armour.

Terror:

Expired Image Removed


Not all of them. A portion went via Boston and then by rail to Montreal; and the Portland harbor and railway were offered for their use by Secretary of State Seward.

(Looking this up was interesting...I hadn't heard of the "sleigh ride" some of the troops took.)

Seward offered, but it was not taken up. The results have become confused since.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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I disagree regarding Terror's capabilities; I think you're giving her more credit than she's due. Ditto regarding the 68 pounder versus the heavy Dahlgrens. (Personally, I'd rather have a big Brooke Rifle than either one...)

But the more important point here is not whether Britain could have theoretically defeated the Union: that can be argued endlessly. (One thing I'm sure of is that it would have been a lot harder on the Union than Harry Harrison thought...) The point is that, regardless of the outcome, it would have been a substantial challenge for Britain, one that was much better off avoided in the view of the British government.
 

67th Tigers

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Joined
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I disagree regarding Terror's capabilities; I think you're giving her more credit than she's due. Ditto regarding the 68 pounder versus the heavy Dahlgrens. (Personally, I'd rather have a big Brooke Rifle than either one...)

In 1861 the 68 pdr 95 cwt was the best anti-armour weapon afloat, although with steel shot ISTR penetration was 4"+ of high quality rolled iron (perforations of the Warrior target were achieved, but only with steel shot at close range). Against Monitors turret, each shot would shatter 4-6 plates* (of 8, later 11 after uparmouring post Hampton Roads) and the sheer weight of fire would quickly break through even though a single shot would not punch. Remember that Terror fires 75 rounds for every one coming back.

As to the rifles, they all suffered from an interesting problem. As the projectile exited the barrel because of gravity the base slapped the bottom of the barrel and the round often flips over and goes downrange *backwards*. Because of the shape and location of the driving band I'd guess the Brooke was one of the worst for this.

Stress that steel or similar shot is needed because cast iron projeciles fail as illustrated here: http://archive.org/stream/cu31924030753440#page/n23/mode/2up

But the more important point here is not whether Britain could have theoretically defeated the Union: that can be argued endlessly. (One thing I'm sure of is that it would have been a lot harder on the Union than Harry Harrison thought...) The point is that, regardless of the outcome, it would have been a substantial challenge for Britain, one that was much better off avoided in the view of the British government.

However, whilst best avoided, once war is started best to win it....

* Arguably at below 200 yards, with steel shot and battering charges, the 68 pdr might make a full penetration of Monitors turret. Stress the "might".
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Remember that Terror fires 75 rounds for every one coming back.

Assuming she's facing a single monitor. :wink:

ETA I saw some discussion of this elsewhere... some of it would have been left up to chance, insofar as a monitor was an awfully small target, with most of its vitals below the waterline; on the flip side, a monitor had little reserve buoyancy, no room for redundant systems, and only a limited capacity for damage control... so we can expect fewer telling hits, but if any vital systems are hit, the monitor is out of the game.
 

carson_reb

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Giving formal recognition to a political nation as a sovereign country is one thing; but deciding to side with it and/or support it is another matter entirely. I'm not so sure the Brits would have thrown their support behind Jeff Davis and the Confederate government even if they had recognized the South as its own independent nation. Great Britain had a lot to balance politically and economically around the world. To sacrifice relations with the USA, rapidly becoming an industrial giant of its own, in favor of a small, agrarian country like the CSA just to get a good price on cotton seems like too much. England had much to lose if relations between it and the USA were to break down. GB probably couldn't afford to fight another war any more than the USA could afford to fight two enemies and two wars. The Brits had just come home from the Crimean War about five years before the guns at Fort Sumter went off. I imagine the notion of going to war against the USA would not have been too appealing to most Britons. Plus, slavery was very much out of fashion in England, and the feeling was spreading throughout Europe. Doubtful that popular sentiment would have supported a political decision to recognize the CSA as a sovereign country.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I tend to think the following is the case:

- the UK does not generally recognize a nation as independent unless it has actually achieved independence. British recognition is recognition of an apparent fact, unless there are significant advantages in terms of preventing bloodshed and in geopolitical terms for doing so (e.g. Belgium).

- multilateral intervention is more likely than unilateral recognition, and neither are likely.

- the slavery issue is a major blocker, though not insurmountable as the Union also holds slaves.

- recognition does not mean co-belligerency and it does not mean any kind of actual military or financial assistance. It may however come hand in hand with the British adopting a more strict (instead of pro-Union) neutrality.

- actual British support for the Confederacy on a military level means the CSA becomes independent, pretty much inevitably. That's whether this happens in 1861, 1862, 1863 or 1864 - the strategic impact of British help is utterly transformative and the Union has no real way to counter it.
 

JeffBrooks

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Manor, TX
A few things that haven't been mentioned:

1. Breaking the blockade would only be one aspect of British naval intervention. The other would be the rapid cleansing of the seas of United States merchant vessels by the Royal Navy. This would be devastating to the Northern economy.

2. British India was the major source of saltpeter for the Union armies. Although they obviously would have been able to switch to different sources and/or expand their own production, it would not have been quick, easy, or cheap to do so.

3. In the event of war, an entire new front would be opened up along the Canadian border. While the prospect of a successful British invasion of Union territory would be remote, every regiment deployed along the Canadian border is one less regiment deployed against the Confederacy.

4. In the event of British recognition, global confidence in Confederate government bonds would have been vastly increased, tremendously easing the fiscal troubles of the Confederacy. As I like to say, the Civil War was won on the floor of the bond market as much as on the battlefield.
 
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Assuming she's facing a single monitor. :wink:

ETA I saw some discussion of this elsewhere... some of it would have been left up to chance, insofar as a monitor was an awfully small target, with most of its vitals below the waterline; on the flip side, a monitor had little reserve buoyancy, no room for redundant systems, and only a limited capacity for damage control... so we can expect fewer telling hits, but if any vital systems are hit, the monitor is out of the game.

Well there is the rub. As most wooden ships in the Royal Navy carried at least a single 68 pounder on a pivot mount, so unlike the USN wooden ships confronted by the Virginia they have at least some come back. Indeed the British had armed at least one frigate entirely with 68 pounders by 1861, likely because of the anticipation of having to deal with ironclads in the future.

Again as most posters point out recognition does not equal intervention but it was not from fear of the Monitor.

Nor was it fear of the French, Napoleon III was actually rather pro-Confederate and interested in persuading the British to join him in an intervention rather than ride to the US's rescue.

Then again historically successive British government were leery of supporting rebellions, even ones like in South America that were economically advantageous to Britain. Government supported interventions were more usually on the side of the government of the nation in which in which the intervention took place, cf the British Legion in Spain and the Ever Victorious Army in China. Thus it would be equally apt to discuss the British arming and training a Union force of some description. As noted above British 'neutrality' was distinctly pro-Union.
 
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