Britain had recognized the CSA?

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Something it's worth pointing out is the massive rate of fire discrepancy between a monitor and a frigate. In a hypothetical match between a Passaic and a "51" then the rate of fire of the Passaic's guns is going to be about one shot every 7-10 minutes per gun (of which the 15" isn't aimed, but there you go). So about one ball every five minutes.

The 51, on the other hand, is going to be using... let's say it's HMS Liffey.
The main deck has 30 8" shell guns (so 15 per side)
The upper deck has 20 32-pounder guns (so 10 per side)
And the pivot is a 68 pounder capable of endangering the Passaic's armour in a single hit.

The 32 pounder guns have a ROF of ~2-3 shots per minute, so let's say 2; the 8" and 68 pounder guns have a ROF of at least one shot per minute.

So in the time the Passaic fires two balls the Liffey will reply with 200 32-pounder shots, 150 8" shells and 10 68-pounder shots.

This ROF disparity also applies to ironclads. A Passaic versus the Terror (or another Crimean ironclad) would be facing 8-10 68 pounder balls per minute, so a rate of fire 40-50 times that of the Passaic.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I think the most likely scenario for European intervention is French:

- the Union annoys the British for some reason or another (maybe the crimping gets to be too much for them)
- the British tacitly agree not to intervene if the French decide to do so
- Napoleon III recognizes the Confederacy and throws his ships etc. behind the Confederates, sends a corps etc.


Of course, a Trent War isn't an intervention but it'd feel pretty similar to the Union.
 

steve59p

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
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.

I would suggest a couple of other points.
5) Recognition of the south - or anything that causes conflict between the north and the UK would also have a big impact on union finances and loans while a British blockade would impact on coastal shipping, fishing and other such activities.

6) As well as a new front in the north there's a potential one in the east, along the union coast. Even if Britain never launches a single attack on a union port or fortification the fear of such is likely to mean a lot of states, governors etc being less willing to send troops, guns, powder etc to the land fronts, which would intensify shortages resulting from a British entry into the war.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
6) As well as a new front in the north there's a potential one in the east, along the union coast. Even if Britain never launches a single attack on a union port or fortification the fear of such is likely to mean a lot of states, governors etc being less willing to send troops, guns, powder etc to the land fronts, which would intensify shortages resulting from a British entry into the war.
And it's pretty likely that Britain would attack forts etc. along the coast. They did it in their most recent previous war and have dozens of ships built specifically for the purpose.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
So I tried estimating the scale of troops that would be needed to divert away from the Union's fighting front.


Firstly, the scale of force in Canada. Pretty much at will and limited only by shipping (of rifles and men) the British will be able to create five army corps of regulars in Canada (four in Canada and one in the Maritimes), supplemented by a planning figure of ca. 60,000 Canadian troops (volunteers and mobilized militia) and 10,000+ in the Maritimes.

So there's upwards of 100,000 British troops in Canada, though fairly dispersed at first. Corps locations for regular corps (i.e. highly elite formations of 12,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 40+ breechloading rifled artillery pieces) would be Sarnia, Niagara, Montreal, Quebec and the Maritimes. There's also scope for British-built gunboats and ironclads to get onto Lake Ontario (easily) and Erie (via the Welland Canal).

As against this, I think the minimum requirement is to have 10,000 men each at Detroit, Buffalo, along the Erie coast, along the Ontario coast, along the lower St. Lawrence, at Plattsburgh, and in Maine. This is actually really minimal because if the British decide to advance they're toast, so bear that in mind; it's nevertheless 70,000 men.


Secondly coastal defence. I think the vital points that need to be defended are basically Portland, Portsmouth, Boston, the northern part of Long Island Sound, New York, Pittsburgh and Baltimore (which is another 70,000 men if you use 10,000 for each). In most cases not doing this would lead to the possibility of losing something pretty major, like a shipyard.
Or a state.
Or the Union's biggest powder mill.
Or Springfield Armoury.
 

UKMarkw

Sergeant
Joined
Dec 6, 2012
Location
Portsmouth, England
This is an amazing discussion and I thank you all for the input. I am not convinced that recognition and war would go hand in hand. If a recognition had occurred it may have been limited to politics and offers of negotiation. To fight a war today 1000s of miles from home is hard enough so I would imagine the logistics of 19th century transport would have exacerbated the issue. Also is there an argument that recognising a country that is fighting to maintain an institution that Great Britain had already abolished some 30 years earlier?
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
To fight a war today 1000s of miles from home is hard enough so I would imagine the logistics of 19th century transport would have exacerbated the issue.
Actually, fighting a war at that distance from Britain is something Britain had already managed the previous decade. Getting the supplies thousands of miles by sea was the easy bit; the difficult bit was getting it inland.

The British could supply any conceivable army with a few supply ships a month.
 

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
I am not convinced that recognition and war would go hand in hand. If a recognition had occurred it may have been limited to politics and offers of negotiation.

It would be out of Britain's hands. The American minister to Britain, Charles Francis Adams (son and grandson of presidents), had made it very clear to the British that recognition of the Confederacy would result in a declaration of war by the United States. He obviously wouldn't have done this without the express authorization of Lincoln and Seward. So if Britain recognized the Confederacy, the Union might have been placed in a position where it had little choice but to declare war on Britain.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
It would be out of Britain's hands. The American minister to Britain, Charles Francis Adams (son and grandson of presidents), had made it very clear to the British that recognition of the Confederacy would result in a declaration of war by the United States. He obviously wouldn't have done this without the express authorization of Lincoln and Seward. So if Britain recognized the Confederacy, the Union might have been placed in a position where it had little choice but to declare war on Britain.
Which ironically would have made the situation much worse for the US than recognition alone.
 

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
Which ironically would have made the situation much worse for the US than recognition alone.

But having thrown down the gauntlet so clearly and publicly, could the United States back down? From a practical point of view, it might deter other nations (France being the most important) from extending recognition as well.

On the other hand, Lincoln isn't stupid and is never motivated by a fear of looking weak (one of his great gifts as a statesman), so perhaps he would do the smart thing and merely severe diplomatic relations. In the long run, however, war would be likely no matter what. After all, suppose the British declare that the Union blockade is, legally speaking, a "paper blockade" and therefore illegitimate. What happens when a Union warship fires on a British vessel coming into Charleston?
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
But having thrown down the gauntlet so clearly and publicly, could the United States back down? From a practical point of view, it might deter other nations (France being the most important) from extending recognition as well.

On the other hand, Lincoln isn't stupid and is never motivated by a fear of looking weak (one of his great gifts as a statesman), so perhaps he would do the smart thing and merely severe diplomatic relations. In the long run, however, war would be likely no matter what. After all, suppose the British declare that the Union blockade is, legally speaking, a "paper blockade" and therefore illegitimate. What happens when a Union warship fires on a British vessel coming into Charleston?

I do not think the British would actually declare a blockade illegitimate unless they had good reason to do so - (to whit, they had tested it with a warship and not been approached or challenged). Historically they did do those tests but did not actually report on the results, they just kept them in mind.


It is in the interests of the British for the blockading power in a war to have precedent on their side, because in any conceivable war invoving Britain the British will be the blockading power. However, there are plenty of other things the British could do without actually violating neutrality.

They could:
- Repeal the Foreign Enlistment Act, allowing for the legal construction of explicit warships and their sale to the Confederates.
- Prohibit the Union or Confederacy from recoaling at British possessions, dramatically weakening the Union blockade and their cruisers.
- Alternatively, allow prizes from commerce raiders of both sides to be run into British ports.
- Cut down on powder sales to the Union such that both sides are getting the same amount of powder, in the interests of balance.
 

Dead Parrott

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
I think the most likely scenario for European intervention is French:

- the Union annoys the British for some reason or another (maybe the crimping gets to be too much for them)
- the British tacitly agree not to intervene if the French decide to do so
- Napoleon III recognizes the Confederacy and throws his ships etc. behind the Confederates, sends a corps etc.


Of course, a Trent War isn't an intervention but it'd feel pretty similar to the Union.

I always thought French intervention a more likely (even if still implausible) event, given their interest in creating a co-dependent Latin Empire in the southern hemisphere. Alignment with the CSA would make more sense to them than Britain. All speculation, of course...
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I always thought French intervention a more likely (even if still implausible) event, given their interest in creating a co-dependent Latin Empire in the southern hemisphere. Alignment with the CSA would make more sense to them than Britain. All speculation, of course...
There's an interesting case to be made that in the event of the CSA becoming independent, even in the Trent war, the US would eventually come to align with Britain (rather than implacably hostile to Britain or a Britain which is focused on propping up the CSA as allies). British alliance with the CSA only really makes sense in the event of the USA already being a pre-determined hostile to the USA.
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2019
But having thrown down the gauntlet so clearly and publicly, could the United States back down? From a practical point of view, it might deter other nations (France being the most important) from extending recognition as well.
Be interesting if anyone has exact wording of Charles Francis Adams' actual warning. As if directed by Seward it would likely have left the USA with some wiggle room. Without such wiggle room, I would suspect Mr Adams of having improvised in the spur of the moment.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
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.
Regarding your point no. 2, the Du Pont company was instrumental in procuring enough to last through 1862. Lammot Du Pont went to London and was able to buy 2,000 pounds - held up for a few weeks by the Trent affair - and then the company bought up another large load by having its agents in Calcutta make several purchases on the commercial market. Ultimately, the US figured out that it needed a more reliable supply source
 

Dead Parrott

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
There's an interesting case to be made that in the event of the CSA becoming independent, even in the Trent war, the US would eventually come to align with Britain (rather than implacably hostile to Britain or a Britain which is focused on propping up the CSA as allies). British alliance with the CSA only really makes sense in the event of the USA already being a pre-determined hostile to the USA.

All speculation on my part, but I think there was an opportunity there (however faint) for a French-CSA alignment.

First, France had proven it would 'go it alone' without other European powers (at least where it thought it might be successful). In 1862 England and Spain backed off their military intervention (which France used as a cover), but France continued with its invasion of Mexico anyway.

Second, though France itself was anti-slavery, it did not object to Maximillian reconsidering slavery to attract defeated CSA soldiers. The Mexican Conservatives certainly had no qualms about its re-institution. It's not impossible to imagine an earlier alignment on this point as part of an alliance - perhaps including the taking of Cuba in the deal.

Third, if France had any real hope of holding onto it's fantasy Latin Catholic Empire in America, it would have to have a compliant ally on its northern border to be successful. A USA with its proximity, industrial strength and Monroe Doctrine would make any such empire precarious at best. And no scenario envisioned French troops being employed there forever.

Of course against this possible alliance, one could argue that 1.) it required the CSA to actually be WINNING the war; 2.) Maximillian had a liberal streak in him, to his Conservative supporters' regret, that held off any suggestion of re-imposing slavery until his situation became militarily desperate: 3.) how much resource would\could France be willing to commit to assist CSA independence; 4.) how would European countries react; and 5.) the CSA seemed to remain rather cool towards France overall, even offering (again late in the war while losing) to ally with the USA to enforce the Monroe doctrine against France!

So any such early alliance remains firmly in the world of What Ifs. But I could imagine a possible way such an early alliance MIGHT have played out, to both nation's favor, at least initially.

Imagine The Latin Catholic Empire, a co-dependent ally of France and the newly independent CSA!

Cool what-if wargame potential, anyway.... :TinyCS1Nat:🇲🇫 🇲🇽
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Regarding your point no. 2, the Du Pont company was instrumental in procuring enough to last through 1862. Lammot Du Pont went to London and was able to buy 2,000 pounds - held up for a few weeks by the Trent affair - and then the company bought up another large load by having its agents in Calcutta make several purchases on the commercial market. Ultimately, the US figured out that it needed a more reliable supply source
Though I believe it took a long old time for the reliable supply source to emerge, and that one did still turn out to require sealane control.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
That was Chile, and by late Fall 1863 Du Pont had begun large volume manufacturing using that source.
For a given definition of "large volume manufacturing"; it relied on Chilean guano and potash imported mostly from Canada. Neither are available in the event of a war with Britain and a consequent blockade and embargo, of course.

Furthermore, the production by the end of the war was on the order of 2.1 million lbs (1862-5 contracts by the New Haven Chemical Company). By contrast the imports from British sources were on the order of 60 million lbs over the same period (1862-5).

It's not nothing, but it doesn't remotely keep up with the Union's actual powder needs, notwithstanding that this domestic source involves product from Canada and Chile.
 

CanadianCanuck

Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
But having thrown down the gauntlet so clearly and publicly, could the United States back down? From a practical point of view, it might deter other nations (France being the most important) from extending recognition as well.

On the other hand, Lincoln isn't stupid and is never motivated by a fear of looking weak (one of his great gifts as a statesman), so perhaps he would do the smart thing and merely severe diplomatic relations. In the long run, however, war would be likely no matter what. After all, suppose the British declare that the Union blockade is, legally speaking, a "paper blockade" and therefore illegitimate. What happens when a Union warship fires on a British vessel coming into Charleston?

I think that is one of the biggest dangers in this scenario. This really was an era where nations could not "lose face" as it were. Lincoln, by very publicly and prominently throwing down the proverbial gauntlet would be backed into a bit of a corner. Either fight to make sure US policy means something, or be seen as lacking resolve.

It was what made the Trent affair so dangerous. Britain was under no circumstance going to take an American refusal to defuse the crisis on their terms. The problem then is that the British seemed to rely on a strategy which boils down to "hit first, hit hard" that would undoubtedly cost a lot of American lives.

I've seen arguments that Lincoln would decide to go on the defensive, but I don't think there's a situation where Lincoln can do that which doesnt amount to political suicide on his part. If Britian intervened, that would draw the Union into an invasion of Canada and, as you very aptly put it, those are soldiers, rifles and bullets which aren't putting down the rebellion.
 
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