British whatif

MikeyB

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#1
What if, as a result of the Trent affair, UK decides to intervene. But what if their intervention is limited, not wanting to get into a messy ground war, they just commit the Royal Navy and effectively lift the Union blockade for the CSA.

If the CSA didn't have to worry about a blockade and was able to trade freely with Europe, is this enough to change the ultimate outcome?
 

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jgoodguy

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#2
Problems for the CSA. Even lifting the blockade means that insurance will be difficult to get for ships and cargo in a war zone. The South has no ports outside of New Orleans for large ships and New Orleans gets captured rather quickly. Then the British have to worry about a ground war in Canada, meaning how limited an action could be contained.

The CSA never lacked for war material'. Transportation of food was the big problem.

The lifting of the blockade would help, but how decisive it would be is an issue. I am inclined to think, not much.
 
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#3
What if, as a result of the Trent affair, UK decides to intervene. But what if their intervention is limited, not wanting to get into a messy ground war, they just commit the Royal Navy and effectively lift the Union blockade for the CSA.

If the CSA didn't have to worry about a blockade and was able to trade freely with Europe, is this enough to change the ultimate outcome?
Well its likely to greatly length the war, at least unless Lincoln comes to terms quickly. I'm assuming their lifting the blockade of the south as a bi-product of blockading the north as otherwise their leaving themselves open to union commerce raiders. In that case.

1) Down factors for the union, in no particular order:
a) Loss of a good bit of their navy, even more if it tries to challenge the blockade.
b) Loss of any pockets/enclaves in the south as their no longer supported.
c) Loss of overseas trade and also revenue from tariffs, which was the largest source of government revenue in peacetime. Doubt it will be a total blockade given the standards of the time and also Britain will find it useful to import grain from the US.
d) A serious run on the dollar due to even a limited war with the UK and what foreign loans are available being an a markedly higher rate.
e) Loss of access to European guns, powder and other supplies useful for the war.
f) Probably a lot of volunteers from Britain and Canada won't be coming and at least some of those in the union already will seek to return home. Also goods from Canada including a lot of horses are unlikely to be available.
g) Expect at least some union attacks on Canada as that's the only way the union can try and respond, other than calling uncle immediately. Even if they don't some forces will be sent north in case of a possible British attack and you might get some forts and warships built for possible conflict there. This all means men, guns and other resources will be pulled away from the war in the south.
h) Probably the loss of a lot of their merchant fleet and fishing fleet as its either reflagged to avoid the blockade or laid up. Insurance costs are likely to be a factor here as well.
i) Likely to see a significant drop in immigration to the union during the duration, which will reduce manpower for the military and general economy. This could be countered to a degree by people involved in maritime activities, many of whom will be losing their jobs if the blockade is prolonged.

All in all a significant drop in military potential and a serious economic and fiscal crisis, probably resulting in pressure to come to terms with Britain and/or the south. There is the possibility, especially if propaganda gets in the way that the union population could get very hawkish, in which case there is a more general war - as ultimately its not up to the UK on its own to decide their only going to have a naval war. This is likely to go badly for the union however unless the UK really, really fouls things up.

2) Pluses for the south
a) They can trade internationally, selling cotton, once the initial international surplus is gone, and more importantly getting the guns and other military equipment they have problems with OTL.
b) It also means the south can use coastal shipping to ease the pressure on their weaker railway structure, and also probably get more food from fishing activities.
c) Once the assorted enclaves are mopped up now their isolated the south can in theory send a lot more men, which are likely to be better equipped, to fight on the main northern fronts. Divisions between the states and the need to have some precautions if Britain and the union come to terms, exposing their coasts to attack again would require them to keep some reserves in the south but for a while at least their likely to have more manpower. Whether they use that effectively is of course another factor.
d) The lifting of the blockade and even a limited UK/union war is likely to boost both southern morale and the expectation it will win independence in the wider world, making it easier for it to get loans I suspect.
e) Depending on the timing you might not see Monitor being moved south from New York so how long before the Virginia/Merrimack can be opposed and what impact that might have?
f) This is only a possibility but given the UK/union tension someone, probably France, might decide to recognise the south which opens a serious problem for the union. IIRC Lincoln's government had the stance that such an action would be a casus bello but could they afford to do that in such a circumstance.

Overall the direct pluses for the south are probably less than the negatives for the north and a lot would also depend on how long the state of war with the UK lasts. Even say a couple of months, as well as a fiscal and economic shock for the union would allow the south to get a lot of imports in and if the union lost all its bases in the south resuming the union blockade would be markedly more difficult. A longer blockade, say six months or more would give the south a much stronger position that, unless they manage to waste this, will at the very least make the war markedly longer and costlier for the union before it can decisively crush the south. The obvious danger here would be if the situation is markedly worse for the union Lincoln loses the 64 election to a peace Democrat. If it became a full shooting war with the UK the conflict is unlikely to last that long and the union will suffer a clear defeat.

Anyway initial thoughts on the issue.
 
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#4
Problems for the CSA. Even lifting the blockade means that insurance will be difficult to get for ships and cargo in a war zone. The South has no ports outside of New Orleans for large ships and New Orleans gets captured rather quickly. Then the British have to worry about a ground war in Canada, meaning how limited an action could be contained.

The CSA never lacked for war material'. Transportation of food was the big problem.

The lifting of the blockade would help, but how decisive it would be is an issue. I am inclined to think, not much.
The south lost New Orleans from 25th April 62 whereas the Trent Incident occurred on 8th Nov 61. Its unlikely that if the latter went on that long war, or at least limited military action by Britain, would have happened several months before April so the OTL loss of New Orleans is extremely unlikely to occur before the union blockade is lifted/destroyed. Even if somehow it was moved forward that least another northern enclave isolated deep in the south. Since their potential sources of support/refuge for raiders you could even see the RN acting against such enclaves. Not losing New Orleans means, unless they get a chance to take it later, the union can only reach it overland, which would be a markedly harder task.

Insurance will be a problem but markedly less for the south than OTL as the union is going to have a lot less ships at sea to intercept southern shipping. This would change if/when Lincoln comes to terms with the UK but then the north will have lost many/all of its bases south of the Chesapeake which will make a renewed blockade more difficult.

Both sides suffered serious shortages of war material in the early stages of the war especially as they tooled up large inexperienced armies. This steadily grew worse for the south as they lacked the industrial base of the north and the blockade steadily grew tighter. the north by say 64/65 was increasingly self-supporting but in 61/62 a British blockade is going to cause it a lot of problems.

Britain does have to worry about a land war in Canada. Which is why, as I said in my eariler post, started before your reply was posted, its not totally up to Britain as to having a limited, naval only clash. I would expect the union to attack Canada as the only way it can respond other than to immediately concede to Britain's demands, which could be politically difficult, especially given the way Wilkes was lauded by elements in the north. However this is a further drain on the union, especially if it escalates into a serious shooting war, tying up men, equipment, supplies and funds the north can ill afford. Even if they have initial successes in Canada is going to be a very costly distraction. Plus an enlargement of the conflict could prompt the UK to escalate as well and if they start bombarding northern ports things get even worse.

A very short UK blockade probably wouldn't change the result of the war, although it could make it significantly costlier. 6 months or more is likely to make it a hell of a lot costlier or possibly resulting in a negotiated peace.

Steve
 
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#6
These are great posts and reading, thank you for the thoughts.
It helps being an Alternative History fanatic and reading a couple of good Trent War TLs on this very site. Shows me a lot of what problems occur for all sides.
 
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#7
Hope my big post above didn't kill this thread as it looked like some interesting discussion might come out it?
 

DaveBrt

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#8
The south lost New Orleans from 25th April 62 whereas the Trent Incident occurred on 8th Nov 61. Its unlikely that if the latter went on that long war, or at least limited military action by Britain, would have happened several months before April so the OTL loss of New Orleans is extremely unlikely to occur before the union blockade is lifted/destroyed. Even if somehow it was moved forward that least another northern enclave isolated deep in the south. Since their potential sources of support/refuge for raiders you could even see the RN acting against such enclaves. Not losing New Orleans means, unless they get a chance to take it later, the union can only reach it overland, which would be a markedly harder task.

Insurance will be a problem but markedly less for the south than OTL as the union is going to have a lot less ships at sea to intercept southern shipping. This would change if/when Lincoln comes to terms with the UK but then the north will have lost many/all of its bases south of the Chesapeake which will make a renewed blockade more difficult.

Both sides suffered serious shortages of war material in the early stages of the war especially as they tooled up large inexperienced armies. This steadily grew worse for the south as they lacked the industrial base of the north and the blockade steadily grew tighter. the north by say 64/65 was increasingly self-supporting but in 61/62 a British blockade is going to cause it a lot of problems.

Britain does have to worry about a land war in Canada. Which is why, as I said in my eariler post, started before your reply was posted, its not totally up to Britain as to having a limited, naval only clash. I would expect the union to attack Canada as the only way it can respond other than to immediately concede to Britain's demands, which could be politically difficult, especially given the way Wilkes was lauded by elements in the north. However this is a further drain on the union, especially if it escalates into a serious shooting war, tying up men, equipment, supplies and funds the north can ill afford. Even if they have initial successes in Canada is going to be a very costly distraction. Plus an enlargement of the conflict could prompt the UK to escalate as well and if they start bombarding northern ports things get even worse.

A very short UK blockade probably wouldn't change the result of the war, although it could make it significantly costlier. 6 months or more is likely to make it a hell of a lot costlier or possibly resulting in a negotiated peace.

Steve
Assuming the UK war would start in, say, January 1862, the only enclaves to clean up in the South are Pensacola, Henry and Donaldson, the entrance to the NC Sounds, and Alexandria. I don't see the need for the South to worry about any of them -- they just need to do their own thing and let the peace treaty clean up the minor stuff.
 
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#9
What if, as a result of the Trent affair, UK decides to intervene. But what if their intervention is limited, not wanting to get into a messy ground war, they just commit the Royal Navy and effectively lift the Union blockade for the CSA.

If the CSA didn't have to worry about a blockade and was able to trade freely with Europe, is this enough to change the ultimate outcome?
We also have to look at the negatives for the British.
1. The British were receiving vital grain imports from the Union. I have a thread on that something like " how vital were grain imports to the UK?.
The grain imports were indeed vital.
2. The US could issue Letters of Marquee to anyone to raid British commerce shipping.
3. During the ACW there was substantial trade with the US so lots of angry British merchants who will lean on their Parliamentary Representatives.
4. The US could use its own blockade runners to arm the Irish Catholic's to liberate their Emerald Land from English Tyranny.
5. The US could arm French Canadians to liberate Quebec.
There are many reasons why after the Trent Affair the British did not use military force to resolve their differences with the US.
Leftyhunter
 
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#10
Assuming the UK war would start in, say, January 1862, the only enclaves to clean up in the South are Pensacola, Henry and Donaldson, the entrance to the NC Sounds, and Alexandria. I don't see the need for the South to worry about any of them -- they just need to do their own thing and let the peace treaty clean up the minor stuff.
They might but do they know how long the UK will be at war with the union? If as is likely its a matter of Lincoln giving an unsatisfactory answer to the question of the Trent attack then it could be over fairly quickly if Lincoln then accepts that Britain is serious and accepts their demands.

Or clearing up those enclaves could be seen as benifiting the south by removing them as potential future problems and as a morale boosting set of victories. Especially local politicians in those regions might give a higher priority than Richmond and it removes them as potential later bases. Or as I said Britain might seek to remove some as potential sources for union raiders. Wasn't one of them somewhere in the Florida keys and possibly might need RN power to secure it?

They might be left but its a risky move for the south if Lincoln does make peace quickly with Britain as it leaves locations from which the union could support a new blockade.
 

DaveBrt

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#11
They might but do they know how long the UK will be at war with the union? If as is likely its a matter of Lincoln giving an unsatisfactory answer to the question of the Trent attack then it could be over fairly quickly if Lincoln then accepts that Britain is serious and accepts their demands.

Or clearing up those enclaves could be seen as benifiting the south by removing them as potential future problems and as a morale boosting set of victories. Especially local politicians in those regions might give a higher priority than Richmond and it removes them as potential later bases. Or as I said Britain might seek to remove some as potential sources for union raiders. Wasn't one of them somewhere in the Florida keys and possibly might need RN power to secure it?

They might be left but its a risky move for the south if Lincoln does make peace quickly with Britain as it leaves locations from which the union could support a new blockade.
The only places we are talking about that would affect the blockade are Pensacola and the entrance to the Sounds. Both would be VERY costly for southern forces to take. I don't think either was in any danger from CS forces.
 
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#12
We also have to look at the negatives for the British.
1. The British were receiving vital grain imports from the Union. I have a thread on that something like " how vital were grain imports to the UK?.
The grain imports were indeed vital.
2. The US could issue Letters of Marquee to anyone to raid British commerce shipping.
3. During the ACW there was substantial trade with the US so lots of angry British merchants who will lean on their Parliamentary Representatives.
4. The US could use its own blockade runners to arm the Irish Catholic's to liberate their Emerald Land from English Tyranny.
5. The US could arm French Canadians to liberate Quebec.
There are many reasons why after the Trent Affair the British did not use military force to resolve their differences with the US.
Leftyhunter

Leftyhunter

1) Britain could look elsewhere for grain as the Balkans and Russia were significant exporters at this point. Or they could look towards Canada. Or simply exclude grain exports from the blockade list. Yes then the union can refuse to sell grain to Europe but that would upset a lot of farmers and with tariffs and gold from California cut off taxes on such exports are one of the few sources of revenue left to Washington. Note that the union won't have a lot of control on where the grain goes when it leaves their ports.

2) Such letter had become illegal to most of the developed world so such ships are unlikely to be welcomed in most ports and with only a relatively small coastline to blockade it would be difficult for the US to support them once their left. On the other hand the RN has a world spanning set of bases and contacts to help hunt down such raiders. Plus there is always the traditional answer of convoy in threatened areas. Albeit at some economic cost.

3) Yes a lot of economic interests will be angry but given the conflict was started by an illegal stopping of a British flagged ship this is likely to be directed at the people in Washington responsible for the conflict.

4) There is little chance of large scale unrest in Ireland even if somehow large amounts of arms, which the union would be seriously short of, could be shipped to Ireland. Also a lot of the recent Irish immigrants, who were not well treated in the union, hence their prominence in the draft riots, could be reluctant to fight against a British army which is likely to include significant numbers of their own kith and kin.

5) You do know why the French were happy to stay part of British North America and then Canada? They have much greater protection for their culture than they would have in the US.

There were plenty of reasons for Britain not to want war with the US but the primiary reason why the Incident didn't result in war was because Lincoln conceded to British demands for an apology and the release of the prisoners seized from the Trent.
 
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#13
The only places we are talking about that would affect the blockade are Pensacola and the entrance to the Sounds. Both would be VERY costly for southern forces to take. I don't think either was in any danger from CS forces.
OK in that case they probably would just leave them and risk it.
 
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#14
Leftyhunter

1) Britain could look elsewhere for grain as the Balkans and Russia were significant exporters at this point. Or they could look towards Canada. Or simply exclude grain exports from the blockade list. Yes then the union can refuse to sell grain to Europe but that would upset a lot of farmers and with tariffs and gold from California cut off taxes on such exports are one of the few sources of revenue left to Washington. Note that the union won't have a lot of control on where the grain goes when it leaves their ports.

2) Such letter had become illegal to most of the developed world so such ships are unlikely to be welcomed in most ports and with only a relatively small coastline to blockade it would be difficult for the US to support them once their left. On the other hand the RN has a world spanning set of bases and contacts to help hunt down such raiders. Plus there is always the traditional answer of convoy in threatened areas. Albeit at some economic cost.

3) Yes a lot of economic interests will be angry but given the conflict was started by an illegal stopping of a British flagged ship this is likely to be directed at the people in Washington responsible for the conflict.

4) There is little chance of large scale unrest in Ireland even if somehow large amounts of arms, which the union would be seriously short of, could be shipped to Ireland. Also a lot of the recent Irish immigrants, who were not well treated in the union, hence their prominence in the draft riots, could be reluctant to fight against a British army which is likely to include significant numbers of their own kith and kin.

5) You do know why the French were happy to stay part of British North America and then Canada? They have much greater protection for their culture than they would have in the US.

There were plenty of reasons for Britain not to want war with the US but the primiary reason why the Incident didn't result in war was because Lincoln conceded to British demands for an apology and the release of the prisoners seized from the Trent.
Some valid points but there was a serious drought in the Ukraine and at least until 1863 only the US could supply needed cereal grand to the UK. We don't know how how a long term naval war would of ended between the US and the UK. Certainly the US could develop short range heavily armed Monitor type vessels that could do damage to the British Blockade vessels.
If given the opportunity it's difficult to say how reluctant the Irish Catholic's would be not to fight the British just because their relatives are in the British Army.
I do agree Lincoln did the right thing in backing down in the Trent Affair.
Leftyhunter
 
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#15
Some valid points but there was a serious drought in the Ukraine and at least until 1863 only the US could supply needed cereal grand to the UK.

We don't know how how a long term naval war would of ended between the US and the UK. Certainly the US could develop short range heavily armed Monitor type vessels that could do damage to the British Blockade vessels.

If given the opportunity it's difficult to say how reluctant the Irish Catholic's would be not to fight the British just because their relatives are in the British Army.

I do agree Lincoln did the right thing in backing down in the Trent Affair.
Leftyhunter
Leftyhunter

a) OK wasn't aware of the drought in the Ukraine. Thanks for that. If the US cut off exports to Europe or tried with a measure of sucess to prevent such exports going to Britain that would have been a difficult factor but a lot would depend on how much impact it would be and whether the British government could/would do anything to rectify it. While things had moderated somewhat since the Irish famine on the late 40's the dominant political ideology of the Liberal party in power at this period was still strongly laissez faire in character so 'would' is unfortunately an issue in the matter. :frown:

b) The monitors could have caused problems for a close blockade unless the RN produced a lot of its own armoured gunboats. However given their low speed and poor abilities in open waters their unlikely to pose a serious threat any further out. It would really need sea-going ironclads, which would be a lot more expensive in terms of money, time and resources and I suspect they wouldn't be produce in time and could well be heavily outnumbered if/when they entered service.

c) Some hard liners definitely would fight but agree its difficult to say how the bulk of the Irish migrants would react. Especially possibly if being 'British' to many Americans might see further hostility directed towards them, which is an unpleasant possibility for them.

d) Agree. :smile:

Steve
 

WJC

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#16
What if, as a result of the Trent affair, UK decides to intervene.
I think most would agree that the Trent Affair the best opportunity for Britain to intervene. They didn't. After that, there was no real reason for intervention.
The great unknown is how would Britain have intervened? We know that France was willing to intervene- but only along with Britain.
It seems a given that these two powers would attempt to break the blockade. But then what? Would Britain attack from Canada? Would France attack from Mexico?
I have never seen any plans that either power developed for a possible intervention: perhaps someone here has.
Throughout the period France was occupied in trying to hold on to Mexico with great difficulty. Britain was concerned with the 'Great Game' in India; both were discussing with Austria the possibility of intervening in the rebellion in Poland.
Given that larger picture, my sense is that if they intervened, they would have used their joint power to force some sort of negotiated settlement on the Lincoln Administration rather than risk a shooting war.
 

MikeyB

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#17
I think most would agree that the Trent Affair the best opportunity for Britain to intervene. They didn't. After that, there was no real reason for intervention.
The great unknown is how would Britain have intervened? We know that France was willing to intervene- but only along with Britain.
It seems a given that these two powers would attempt to break the blockade. But then what? Would Britain attack from Canada? Would France attack from Mexico?
I have never seen any plans that either power developed for a possible intervention: perhaps someone here has.
Throughout the period France was occupied in trying to hold on to Mexico with great difficulty. Britain was concerned with the 'Great Game' in India; both were discussing with Austria the possibility of intervening in the rebellion in Poland.
Given that larger picture, my sense is that if they intervened, they would have used their joint power to force some sort of negotiated settlement on the Lincoln Administration rather than risk a shooting war.
Just as an aside - how the heck did France get involved in Mexico? Did they depose Santa Anna? Did they swoop in after the Mexican/American War?
 
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#18
I think most would agree that the Trent Affair the best opportunity for Britain to intervene. They didn't. After that, there was no real reason for intervention.
The great unknown is how would Britain have intervened? We know that France was willing to intervene- but only along with Britain.
It seems a given that these two powers would attempt to break the blockade. But then what? Would Britain attack from Canada? Would France attack from Mexico?
I have never seen any plans that either power developed for a possible intervention: perhaps someone here has.
Throughout the period France was occupied in trying to hold on to Mexico with great difficulty. Britain was concerned with the 'Great Game' in India; both were discussing with Austria the possibility of intervening in the rebellion in Poland.
Given that larger picture, my sense is that if they intervened, they would have used their joint power to force some sort of negotiated settlement on the Lincoln Administration rather than risk a shooting war.
WJC

Not sure of that. If Britain declared war because Lincoln didn't concede on the Trent Incident I think it would have to be war. Intervention is probably the wrong word because I suspect that Britain wouldn't initially at least directly aid the south or even recognise it as its not in our interests to do so.

That would involve holding defensive positions on the Canadian border using troops sent across during the winter and by boosting the Canadian militia while mopping up as much of the union fleet and imposing a tight blockade on the union coastline. This will seriously impact the union war machine, especially since at this stage its still pretty fragile and heavily dependent on imports. If this was accompanied by attacks on union harbours this could see some RN losses but is likely to do further damage.

I think it must be remembered that if war breaks out over the Trent seizure then the existing south/north conflict will be very much a side issue for London, although it will be aware how much that will limit Washington's options.

Steve
 
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#19
Just as an aside - how the heck did France get involved in Mexico? Did they depose Santa Anna? Did they swoop in after the Mexican/American War?
MikeyB

The French along with Britain and Spain took action to blockade Mexican ports after Mexico defaulted on its debts. Santa Anna wasn't involved. However the other two lost interest when they realised that France was intent on establishing a new government in Mexico. They successfully persuaded Maximilian, the younger brother of Franz Joseph of Austria to accept the position of emperor in an attempt to restore the Mexican empire.

He did gain some support but had a catch 22 problem. He could have probably established a stable regime as he was pretty liberal and wanted to improve the lot of the ordinary people but was dependent on the French for initial support and they relied largely on conservative/reactionary elements. As such he was never really able to get a broad support base, although some Mexicans were won over and the situation was unstable. After the defeat of the south the US put pressure on the French and send arms to the Mexicans opposing the empire and the French were pressurised into withdrawing.

See
for a basic introduction to the situation.

Hope that helps.

Steve
 
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#20
Leftyhunter

a) OK wasn't aware of the drought in the Ukraine. Thanks for that. If the US cut off exports to Europe or tried with a measure of sucess to prevent such exports going to Britain that would have been a difficult factor but a lot would depend on how much impact it would be and whether the British government could/would do anything to rectify it. While things had moderated somewhat since the Irish famine on the late 40's the dominant political ideology of the Liberal party in power at this period was still strongly laissez faire in character so 'would' is unfortunately an issue in the matter. :frown:

b) The monitors could have caused problems for a close blockade unless the RN produced a lot of its own armoured gunboats. However given their low speed and poor abilities in open waters their unlikely to pose a serious threat any further out. It would really need sea-going ironclads, which would be a lot more expensive in terms of money, time and resources and I suspect they wouldn't be produce in time and could well be heavily outnumbered if/when they entered service.

c) Some hard liners definitely would fight but agree its difficult to say how the bulk of the Irish migrants would react. Especially possibly if being 'British' to many Americans might see further hostility directed towards them, which is an unpleasant possibility for them.

d) Agree. :smile:

Steve
We can't discount the possibility of US Commerce Raiders. Even in the American Revolutionary War John Paul Jones was able to do a fair amount of damage to British commerce and managed to sink a British warship. The US had a lot of manpower and ship building capability. It is not a given that the RN and British commercial shipping would not suffer serious damage.
Leftyhunter
 



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