Could have France broken the Union blockade?

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Saphroneth

Captain
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Feb 18, 2017
I have to admit, I hadn't expected that the Union government would be quite that duplicitous as to acede to a treaty and then openly threaten to break it.
However if they did go through with privateering I still don't think it would be worth it:

Firstly they'd suffer from the significant diplomatic harm it would cause (as the US had declared they would abide by the Treaty of Paris and would now be explicitly going back on that, thus demonstrating that the Union abides by treaties only for the short period of time that they protect but do not bind it)
Secondly they'd gain little actual benefit as privateering would be so difficult (as there were no neutral ports to run ships into). Very little scope of actually profiting from the affair!


I've identified the ship being referred to as the CSS Alexandra. It looks like the timing of her seizure is less caused by the details of when the US began saber-rattling and more caused by the fact that it was when Adams actually secured evidence she was intended for the Confederate government; notably in court this evidence was found to be insufficient.
 

DanSBHawk

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Location
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I have to admit, I hadn't expected that the Union government would be quite that duplicitous as to acede to a treaty and then openly threaten to break it.
However if they did go through with privateering I still don't think it would be worth it:

Firstly they'd suffer from the significant diplomatic harm it would cause (as the US had declared they would abide by the Treaty of Paris and would now be explicitly going back on that, thus demonstrating that the Union abides by treaties only for the short period of time that they protect but do not bind it)
Secondly they'd gain little actual benefit as privateering would be so difficult (as there were no neutral ports to run ships into). Very little scope of actually profiting from the affair!


I've identified the ship being referred to as the CSS Alexandra. It looks like the timing of her seizure is less caused by the details of when the US began saber-rattling and more caused by the fact that it was when Adams actually secured evidence she was intended for the Confederate government; notably in court this evidence was found to be insufficient.
I imagine the threat to license privateers would not have been necessary if the British had not been building Confederate warships that sank Union shipping.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I imagine the threat to license privateers would not have been necessary if the British had not been building Confederate warships that sank Union shipping.
That's not really how this works.

There was no internationally agreed law against building warships for a belligerent power, but there was one against privateers. The British undertook to not build warships as part of an Act of Parliament; that is to say, they went above and beyond the requirements of international law as they existed at the time.

The vessels constructed for the Confederacy were all private concerns (i.e. the Confederates commissioned them) and the CS agents went to a significant amount of trouble to conceal this fact; even so, however, what were built were often carefully limited so as to be merely "vessels designed to be easily converted into warships" rather than true warships. This was part of an effort by the British shipbuilders to avoid notice by the Admiralty as much as possible, because what they were doing was a legal grey area and they wanted to not be noticed. Where what was being built was a true warship (such as the Laird Rams) the intended destination for the ships was what was disguised.

When the British actually did notice one of these ships, they had them seized on suspicion, and what followed was a court case in which the Government attempted to prove that the ships in question did in fact violate the provisions of British neutrality. This was sometimes quite difficult because there was nothing illegal about building an unarmed vessel which happens to be strengthened in certain ways, or indeed building a warship honestly intended for (e.g.) Egypt.
(The number of ships which got seized throughout the duration of the war should serve notice that the British were doing their best.)

Thus, the British endeavoured to comply as fully as possible with the principle of neutrality, even when their own private citizens endeavoured to avoid this.


'the laws of the United States do not forbid their citizens to sell to either of the belligerent powers articles contraband of war or take munitions of war or soldiers on board their private ships for transportation; and although in so doing the individual citizen exposes his property or person to some of the hazards of war, his acts do not involve any breach of national neutrality nor of themselves implicate the Government.'
-Franklin Pierce, 1855.





The Union, on the other hand, declined to acquiesce to the Paris Declaration because they wanted to reserve the right to use privateers. Then they said they would abide by Paris for the duration of the war so as to avoid the Confederacy using privateers on them... then, as soon as it seemed convenient, officially (as in, official acts of the government) went back on this decision to abide by Paris even though the war was not yet over.


One of these things (for Britain) is a power attempting as far as possible to comply with neutrality or even to be pro-Union; the other (for the Union) is a power following whichever approach seems to give it the most short-term advantage.


Note by the way that there were Russian navy ships built in New York shipyards during or very shortly after the Crimean War, and that was done openly. (I can't confirm when Amerika was laid down, though she was launched 1857.)
 
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DanSBHawk

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That's not really how this works.

There was no internationally agreed law against building warships for a belligerent power, but there was one against privateers. The British undertook to not build warships as part of an Act of Parliament; that is to say, they went above and beyond the requirements of international law as they existed at the time.

The vessels constructed for the Confederacy were all private concerns (i.e. the Confederates commissioned them) and the CS agents went to a significant amount of trouble to conceal this fact; even so, however, what were built were often carefully limited so as to be merely "vessels designed to be easily converted into warships" rather than true warships. This was part of an effort by the British shipbuilders to avoid notice by the Admiralty as much as possible, because what they were doing was a legal grey area and they wanted to not be noticed. Where what was being built was a true warship (such as the Laird Rams) the intended destination for the ships was what was disguised.

When the British actually did notice one of these ships, they had them seized on suspicion, and what followed was a court case in which the Government attempted to prove that the ships in question did in fact violate the provisions of British neutrality. This was sometimes quite difficult because there was nothing illegal about building an unarmed vessel which happens to be strengthened in certain ways, or indeed building a warship honestly intended for (e.g.) Egypt.
(The number of ships which got seized throughout the duration of the war should serve notice that the British were doing their best.)

Thus, the British endeavoured to comply as fully as possible with the principle of neutrality, even when their own private citizens endeavoured to avoid this.


'the laws of the United States do not forbid their citizens to sell to either of the belligerent powers articles contraband of war or take munitions of war or soldiers on board their private ships for transportation; and although in so doing the individual citizen exposes his property or person to some of the hazards of war, his acts do not involve any breach of national neutrality nor of themselves implicate the Government.'
-Franklin Pierce, 1855.





The Union, on the other hand, declined to acquiesce to the Paris Declaration because they wanted to reserve the right to use privateers. Then they said they would abide by Paris for the duration of the war so as to avoid the Confederacy using privateers on them... then, as soon as it seemed convenient, officially (as in, official acts of the government) went back on this decision to abide by Paris even though the war was not yet over.


One of these things (for Britain) is a power attempting as far as possible to comply with neutrality or even to be pro-Union; the other (for the Union) is a power following whichever approach seems to give it the most short-term advantage.


Note by the way that there were Russian navy ships built in New York shipyards during or very shortly after the Crimean War, and that was done openly. (I can't confirm when Amerika was laid down, though she was launched 1857.)
Bottom line: British-built Confederate raiders sank US shipping, and British merchant shipping ran the blockade.

It was understandable to threaten unleashing privateers on Britain. And it seemed to have had an effect.
 

leftyhunter

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Joined
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Location
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France wins.


The French navy was not as powerful as the Royal Navy, by a fairly long way, but it was still immensely powerful in the 1860s. Is there a specific period you're thinking of so I can go into details?
We can't really know how a hypothetical war will turn out. History has many examples where one nation thinks it will win due to having a stronger military but loose anyway.
We know that the US can produce sophisticated naval ships and we know the US in a hypothetical war with France is closer to their naval bases.
We can't know how such a war will turn out.
Leftyhunter
 

CowCavalry

Corporal
Joined
Aug 17, 2017
The Admirals certainly didn't think it'd be impossible to hold Halifax and I dare you to show me otherwise.

They also didn't think they'd be fighting "ironclads and monitors designed for coastal waters" with wooden ships, because the first ironclad to exist in any form west of the Azores was British. It was HMS Terror and was stationed at Bermuda, and it had a shallower draft than the Monitor.

And they really didn't think they'd be fighting "hundreds of privateers", because privateering was now illegal.
I suspect that had the British intervened on behalf of the CSA than I would expect that the USA would not feel itself bound by any treaties regarding privateers, am I wrong? Also, if the UK decided to use the RN to break the blockade, the most powerful navy in the world, would privateers be anything more than a minor annoyance to the RN?
 
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CowCavalry

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That certainly didn't seem to be a problem in British India or Egypt. It's all about the right rate of pay.
Leftyhunter
Well with cotton bringing a premium, you would think that the growers could pay a premium to workers as well. Would the "right rate of pay" be so exorbitant that it would be unfeasible to grow it? This is the problem with agricultural products, both then and now.
 

Rhea Cole

First Sergeant
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Location
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My guess is that I am the only person on this thread who has ever made an Atlantic crossing as a sailor aboard a square rigged sixth rate 28 gun frigate.

IMG_0135.jpg

A trick at the wheel, HMS Rose Mid-Atlantic , May 1996
The sailors among you will note the manropes rigged along the spar deck.

If you have seen the movie Master & Commander, you have seen the HMS Rose. Built in time for the Bicentennial, the Rose is a reproduction of a sixth rate British frigate launched in 1757. She was the largest wooden ship active in the 1990's. My wife & I had participated in sail training cruises aboard the Rose. We joined the ship in Boston where a crew of 30 set out for Ireland & Bristol, England. Instead, we made landfall at Horta in the Azores. In the traditional way, we would have followed the trade winds & skirted the coast of Brazil before swinging north for the Bristol Channel. That long looping passage was common during the age of sail. It usually took about three months, could take much longer, much, much longer.

Because we had advantages that 19th Century sailors did not, we made a brutal storm tossed passage of the Bay of Bisque & made it to Bristol in 33 days. Our friends in the Pride of Baltimore II had it much worse than we did. As it was, the storms literally scoured the paint off the bow, wrecked one of the heads & carried away the cross jack yard. The crew received bruises everywhere, cracked ribs & broken bones. Following the trades on the return voyage, the wheel was tied down & they went for days at a time without touching a sheet.

The screw sloops & frigates of all three navies in 1860's had engines for maneuvering, not for cruising. The iron clads of all three navies had to be towed when making ocean passages. Burning a ton of coal an hour, there was no way for them to steam any distance. The engines had bearings that wore at an astonishing rate. Complete overhauls were necessary after any sustained operation. This state of affairs continued into the 20th Century. Regular refits lasting months or years followed every commission. The only port with facilities that could provide the facilities a Royal Navy squadron would require was Halifax, only 300 miles north of New York.

Any Royal Navy squadron would have been 30 to 90 days from Halifax. Two supply ship voyages would take 120 to 280 days at sea plus loading & unloading time. Convoys, which require all vessels to travel at the same rate as the slowest vessel would take even longer. The cycle time between voyages for convoys could be as long as 3 months. For good reason, the Royal Navy considered holding Halifax during a war with the U.S. impossible.

I have studied the age of sail in all its fascinating variety for 50 years. Who knew that the fastest passage from the horn to San Francisco involved swinging close to Hawaii? Anyways, years of study & hands on square rigged sailing experience informs my agreement with the Royal Navy leaders of the 1860's. Going to war to support slave-holders in North America would be logistically, tactically & strategically disastrous.

The political price any U.K. government paid would have been swift & decisive. The vast majority of the public in Great Britain was anti-slavery. But, that is a topic for another thread.
 
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leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Well with cotton bringing a premium, you would think that the growers could pay a premium to workers as well. Would the "right rate of pay" be so exorbitant that it would be unfeasible to grow it? This is the problem with agricultural products, both then and now.
I am not an expert on Colonial West Africa so not sure why local African Peasents could not be incentivised to grow more cotton. I don't know why the French couldn't use convict labor. I don't know why the French could not encourage European immigration to West Africa vs the French did so for Algeria during the Nineteenth Century.
I can link you to a JSTOR article if you like that argues the Lanchishire Cotton Famine was not caused by a lack of cotton. Not saying I disagree with author of the article or not but he does use sources to make his argument.
Leftyhunter
 
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leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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los angeles ca
My guess is that I am the only person on this thread who has ever made an Atlantic crossing as a sailor aboard a square rigged sixth rate 28 gun frigate.

View attachment 352156
A trick at the wheel, HMS Rose Mid-Atlantic , May 1996
The sailors among you will note the manropes rigged along the spar deck.

If you have seen the movie Master & Commander, you have seen the HMS Rose. Built in time for the Bicentennial, the Rose is a reproduction of a sixth rate British frigate launched in 1757. She was the largest wooden ship active in the 1990's. My wife & I had participated in sail training cruises aboard the Rose. We joined the ship in Boston where a crew of 30 set out for Ireland & Bristol, England. Instead, we made landfall at Horta in the Azores. In the traditional way, we would have followed the trade winds & skirted the coast of Brazil before swinging north for the Bristol Channel. That long looping passage was common during the age of sail. It usually took about three months, could take much longer, much, much longer.

Because we had advantages that 19th Century sailors did not, we made a brutal storm tossed passage of the Bay of Bisque & made it to Bristol in 33 days. Our friends in the Pride of Baltimore II had it much worse than we did. As it was, the storms literally scoured the paint off the bow, wrecked one of the heads & carried away the cross jack yard. The crew received bruises everywhere, cracked ribs & broken bones. Following the trades on the return voyage, the wheel was tied down & they went for days at a time without touching a sheet.

The screw sloops & frigates of all three navies in 1860's had engines for maneuvering, not for cruising. The iron clads of all three navies had to be towed when making ocean passages. Burning a ton of coal an hour, there was no way for them to steam any distance. The engines had bearings that wore at an astonishing rate. Complete overhauls were necessary after any sustained operation. This state of affairs continued into the 20th Century. Regular refits lasting months or years followed every commission. The only port with facilities that could provide the facilities a Royal Navy squadron would require was Halifax, only 300 miles north of New York.

Any Royal Navy squadron would have been 30 to 90 days from Halifax. Two supply ship voyages would take 120 to 280 days at sea plus loading & unloading time. Convoys, which require all vessels to travel at the same rate as the slowest vessel would take even longer. The cycle time between voyages for convoys could be as long as 3 months. For good reason, the Royal Navy considered holding Halifax during a war with the U.S. impossible.

I have studied the age of sail in all its fascinating variety for 50 years. Who knew that the fastest passage from the horn to San Francisco involved swinging close to Hawaii? Anyways, years of study & hands on square rigged sailing experience informs my agreement with the Royal Navy leaders of the 1860's. Going to war to support slave-holders in North America would be logistically, tactically & strategically disastrous.
Very informative post! Countless posts have been done on the greatest war that never happened which of course is foreign intervention in the ACW.
Plenty of examples of what Von Molke stated well before the ACW which has been translated as either No plan survives the first shot " or no plan survives contact with reality" or as Sir Mike Tyson said " every one has a plan until they get hit in the face".
We just can't predict how a war will actually unfold.
Leftyhunter
 
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edgeworthy

Private
Joined
Aug 18, 2016
Firstly, it's the Boer war, not the Boar War.

Secondly, the Boer War involved the British Empire deploying nearly six hundred thousand troops of various types to South Africa, an army comparable in size to the Union army at its Civil War peak. This is hardly a demonstration that projecting power over oceanic distances is difficult.*

Thirdly, the fact that the Bahamas are closer to one continent than the other means nothing if the US cannot itself project power to capture the Bahamas. In fact the Royal Navy was so overwhelmingly powerful compared to the US Navy that any attempted invasion of the Bahamas would - if it reached them - have been cut off from resupply and compelled to surrender. The British actually worried more for Canada (which was directly connected to the Union) than for their island possessions, because there are large chunks of Canada that can be captured by marching instead of by going over water.



The reason why the British did not intervene in the Civil War is simple: they did not see a sufficient reason to do so. When they felt they did have a sufficient reason to get involved as a result of Trent, they certainly made provisions for the safety of the Bahamas; those provisions consisted of overwhelming force concentrated against the main Union blockading stations.





*In fact, projecting power over oceanic distances is non-trivial but also not impossible. If the power doing so has control of the sealanes and sufficient transport capacity it's quite smooth; indeed at the Crimea the greater problem was not getting supplies the ~4,000 miles from Portsmouth to Balaclava but the few miles from Balaclava to the siege lines.
Has anyone mentioned that it is also a considerably shorter distance, 2482 nautical miles, between Portsmouth and Halifax?
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Well with cotton bringing a premium, you would think that the growers could pay a premium to workers as well. Would the "right rate of pay" be so exorbitant that it would be unfeasible to grow it? This is the problem with agricultural products, both then and now.
What is surprising about the French in what is now present day Senegal is they didn't force the indigenous people off their land and give it to European settlers as they did in Algeria and certainly the US during the Nineteenth Century. One would think if the French did so they could have independent farmers who would grow cotton and pay indigenous labor or import low paid labor as did the US when it imported Chinese labor to build the railroads shortly after the ACW or at the same time the British in South Africa imported Malaysian's and Indians for cheap labor.
Maybe someone who is familiar with Nineteenth Century French history can explain why the French didn't do what they did in their Algerian Colony or as mentioned the US or the British in South Africa did.
Leftyhunter
 
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rebelatsea

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That's actually very convenient, it means a squadron built around La Couronne could move in from Mexico against the Gulf Blockading Squadron at the same time as a squadron built around Gloire moved from the east against the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Cross fingers and hope Gloire made it across the Atlantic ! She was a terrible seaboat and best suited to the Mediterranean and English Channel, which is why she and her two sisters spent most of their lives based in either Toulon or Cherbourg.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
We can't really know how a hypothetical war will turn out. History has many examples where one nation thinks it will win due to having a stronger military but loose anyway.
We know that the US can produce sophisticated naval ships and we know the US in a hypothetical war with France is closer to their naval bases.
We can't know how such a war will turn out.
We can make a tremendously good guess, though, because the French navy is so much more powerful. The USN simply does not have a battle line, and the French have enough battleships to form a fifteen-liner battle line.

I suspect that had the British intervened on behalf of the CSA than I would expect that the USA would not feel itself bound by any treaties regarding privateers, am I wrong? Also, if the UK decided to use the RN to break the blockade, the most powerful navy in the world, would privateers be anything more than a minor annoyance to the RN?
The Paris treaty was an international one, not a bilateral one; the likely outcome is that the British announce that US privateers do not have the protection of their letters of marque. When added to all the other impediments to privateers (like how they could only run prizes into American ports, all of which would be blockaded, and the dearth of guns) the likely outcome is that privateers would be few in number.

US navy ships out cruising is the more likely form of raiding.
The screw sloops & frigates of all three navies in 1860's had engines for maneuvering, not for cruising. The iron clads of all three navies had to be towed when making ocean passages. Burning a ton of coal an hour, there was no way for them to steam any distance. The engines had bearings that wore at an astonishing rate. Complete overhauls were necessary after any sustained operation. This state of affairs continued into the 20th Century. Regular refits lasting months or years followed every commission. The only port with facilities that could provide the facilities a Royal Navy squadron would require was Halifax, only 300 miles north of New York.
Your picture of 19th century naval operations is simplistic, and possibly informed primarily by US naval vessels.

Firstly, there is nothing inherently wrong with sailing across the Atlantic largely with sail, but ships also made transit at higher power levels if need be. It happens that there was a coal mine on the North Atlantic station, so it was possible to burn coal on the way out and then replenish there.

Secondly, not all ironclads had to be towed (the Warrior is an obvious example of one that didn't have to be) but towing clearly worked - the Terror did it, and if you look at lithographs of her she's kind of ship like!

Thirdly, the bearings wearing at an astonishing rate is specific to certain post-war US commerce raiders (the Wampanoag in particular). Here's some of the actual times that British vessels on the NA&WI station spent between refits:



HMS Agamemnon: May 1859 to October 1862
HMS St George: June 1860 to February 1864
HMS Edgar: May 1859 to July 1862
HMS Hero: March 1859 to November 1862
HMS Nile: March 1858 to April 1864
HMS Immortalite: November 1860 to July 1864
HMS Melpomene: June 1859 to March 1863
HMS Phaeton: November 1861 to March 1865
HMS Mersey: December 1861 to January 1866
HMS Orlando: March 1859 to August 1862
HMS Diadem: August 1857 to April 1862
HMS Ariadne: November 1859 to March 1864
HMS Cadmus: May 1859 to May 1863
HMS Challenger: May 1861 to February 1865
HMS Jason: November 1860 to December 1864
HMS Greyhound: December 1859 to November 1864
HMS Rinaldo: May 1861 to February 1865
HMS Peterel: February 1862 to August 1865
HMS Racer: June 1858 to December 1862


Fourthly, refits did not have to be very lengthy. Using samples from the Flying Squadrons which were unusually heavily used, sailing all around the world:


* Three frigates (Immortalite, Inconstant and Volage) entered refit on the 12th October 1871 and left on the 30th November 1871 - this is 79 days for the longest of the three (Inconstant) with the other two leaving for Spithead on the 10th November (59 days).
* The Immortalite paid off for refit on the 2nd October 1872 and left under sail on the 9th December (68 days).
* The Immortalite arrived at Spithead on the 7th January 1873 in order to repair a leak, and left the British Isles on the 16th-17th February (41 days).
* The Endymion took from 10th May to 12th June 1869 to refit; this is 33 days.
* The Barrosa (corvette) was ordered to fit out for sea on the 7th June 1869; despite an accident during preparations requiring a refit, she left on the 23rd June (16 days).
* The Narcisssus and Cadmus (corvette) took from the 14th October 1871 to the 13th November 1871 to be repaired; this is 30 days.
* Narcissus and Topaze took from th 30th September 1872 to the 12th December 1872 to be repaired and refitted; this is 73 days.




It is possible that those who argue the Royal Navy would take inordinately long times to refit their ships are basing their estimates on Union practice. The brand new screw sloop USS Brooklyn, for instance, was out of service between 25 August 1863 and 14 April 1864, while the similarly new screw sloop USS Seminole was decommissioned between June 1862 and June 1863. However, this overlooks one significant point: the number of dry docks. In fact, there were only four naval dry docks: two permanent docks at New York and Boston, and two floating docks at Philadelphia and Portsmouth (with a third floating dock at San Francisco). This was sufficient for the tiny pre-war navy, but wholly inadequate for wartime requirements, resulting in a bottle-neck of dock capacity.






So putting this together, you have a situation where it's entirely plausible for a Royal Navy ship to spend a few weeks sailing across the Atlantic (at four knots to get to Halifax would take about 25 days), remain on station for a couple of years continuously (being resupplied with coal at the blockade station) and then go home for a refit lasting about two months before coming right out again. Not exactly the dire picture you've presented.
 
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Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Bottom line: British-built Confederate raiders sank US shipping, and British merchant shipping ran the blockade.
Why bring up blockade running? It's completely legal - look at that Pierce quote again.

The raiders were privately built, arguably legal (as in, they arguably did not meet the definition of "warship" when they sailed out of harbour) and the British stopped most of them, and this stopping was going on before the threats to use privateers.



The Foreign Enlistment Act* prohibits British subjects from "equipping, fitting out, or arming" ships for service overseas. All three of the ships in question were built in British yards and sent somewhere else to be completed, including having their weapons fitted. The Alabama went to the Portuguese Azores, the Florida to the isolated Green Cay in the Bahamas, and the Shenandoah to Portuguese Madeira.

The British government did seize (CSS Alexandra) or attempt to seize (CSS Alabama) Confederate ships building in British yards. However, it was almost impossible to prove that they were intended for conversion to commerce raiders: the Alexandra case was thrown out of court. Building a normal ship for a belligerent is entirely legal.


*n.b. not international law, but British law - the British imposed it on themselves.
 
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Saphroneth

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Any Royal Navy squadron would have been 30 to 90 days from Halifax. Two supply ship voyages would take 120 to 280 days at sea plus loading & unloading time. Convoys, which require all vessels to travel at the same rate as the slowest vessel would take even longer. The cycle time between voyages for convoys could be as long as 3 months. For good reason, the Royal Navy considered holding Halifax during a war with the U.S. impossible.
These numbers are frankly ridiculous, for more than one reason.

The first reason is that there was an existing North America and West Indies station of the RN which contained multiple battleships, one ironclad and several heavy frigates; during times of tension it was prepared to recieve significant reinforcements. So there were already squadrons on the western side of the Atlantic; indeed there were already some ships in Halifax.

The second reason is that even 30 days is a long figure. The Orlando took less than a month to cross when faced with horrendous storms; a more typical time would be about two to three weeks (for an average speed of 5-7 knots). I've no idea where you get the 90 day figure.

The third reason is that the supply ship number is completely outrageous, because transport steamers were often faster than warships. Sample travel times from late 1861-early 1862;



Europa, December 25 from Boston; arrives Queenstown, 6 January
Jura, December 28 from Portland; arrives Londonderry 8 January
City of Washington, December 28 from New York; arrives Queenstown 9 January
Teutonia, December 28 from New York; arrives Southampton 10 January
America, January 1 from New York: arrives Queenstown 13 January;
Nova Scotian, January 4 from Portland: arrives Londonderry 15 January
City of Edinburgh, January 4 from New York: arrives Queenstown 16 January
Niagara, January 8 from Boston; arrives Queenstown 20 January


Europa, from Liverpool on the 11th, Queenstown on the 12th, arrived Halifax 26 January 1862; goes on to Boston.
Teutonia, from Southampton on 15 January for New York
City of Washington, from Liverpool on 15 January for New York; arrived 31 January
Anglo-Saxon from Liverpool on 16 January for Portland; arrived 30 January

As you can see, a typical journey duration is on the order of two weeks for a one way trip. The Europa made a complete round trip in 32 days and the City of Washington in 34; loading times were on the order of a couple of days.


Ships sent as troopers or supply vessels during the Trent Affair usually took about ten to fourteen days, with the only ones taking longer being the ones which hit the terrible storms going on at the time.



You appear to be writing from a universe in which the Atlantic is 12,000 miles wide. Oh, and you still haven't given any actual evidence that the RN considered holding Halifax impossible.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
We can make a tremendously good guess, though, because the French navy is so much more powerful. The USN simply does not have a battle line, and the French have enough battleships to form a fifteen-liner battle line.



The Paris treaty was an international one, not a bilateral one; the likely outcome is that the British announce that US privateers do not have the protection of their letters of marque. When added to all the other impediments to privateers (like how they could only run prizes into American ports, all of which would be blockaded, and the dearth of guns) the likely outcome is that privateers would be few in number.

US navy ships out cruising is the more likely form of raiding.


Your picture of 19th century naval operations is simplistic, and possibly informed primarily by US naval vessels.

Firstly, there is nothing inherently wrong with sailing across the Atlantic largely with sail, but ships also made transit at higher power levels if need be. It happens that there was a coal mine on the North Atlantic station, so it was possible to burn coal on the way out and then replenish there.

Secondly, not all ironclads had to be towed (the Warrior is an obvious example of one that didn't have to be) but towing clearly worked - the Terror did it, and if you look at lithographs of her she's kind of ship like!

Thirdly, the bearings wearing at an astonishing rate is specific to certain post-war US commerce raiders (the Wampanoag in particular). Here's some of the actual times that British vessels on the NA&WI station spent between refits:



HMS Agamemnon: May 1859 to October 1862
HMS St George: June 1860 to February 1864
HMS Edgar: May 1859 to July 1862
HMS Hero: March 1859 to November 1862
HMS Nile: March 1858 to April 1864
HMS Immortalite: November 1860 to July 1864
HMS Melpomene: June 1859 to March 1863
HMS Phaeton: November 1861 to March 1865
HMS Mersey: December 1861 to January 1866
HMS Orlando: March 1859 to August 1862
HMS Diadem: August 1857 to April 1862
HMS Ariadne: November 1859 to March 1864
HMS Cadmus: May 1859 to May 1863
HMS Challenger: May 1861 to February 1865
HMS Jason: November 1860 to December 1864
HMS Greyhound: December 1859 to November 1864
HMS Rinaldo: May 1861 to February 1865
HMS Peterel: February 1862 to August 1865
HMS Racer: June 1858 to December 1862


Fourthly, refits did not have to be very lengthy. Using samples from the Flying Squadrons which were unusually heavily used, sailing all around the world:


* Three frigates (Immortalite, Inconstant and Volage) entered refit on the 12th October 1871 and left on the 30th November 1871 - this is 79 days for the longest of the three (Inconstant) with the other two leaving for Spithead on the 10th November (59 days).
* The Immortalite paid off for refit on the 2nd October 1872 and left under sail on the 9th December (68 days).
* The Immortalite arrived at Spithead on the 7th January 1873 in order to repair a leak, and left the British Isles on the 16th-17th February (41 days).
* The Endymion took from 10th May to 12th June 1869 to refit; this is 33 days.
* The Barrosa (corvette) was ordered to fit out for sea on the 7th June 1869; despite an accident during preparations requiring a refit, she left on the 23rd June (16 days).
* The Narcisssus and Cadmus (corvette) took from the 14th October 1871 to the 13th November 1871 to be repaired; this is 30 days.
* Narcissus and Topaze took from th 30th September 1872 to the 12th December 1872 to be repaired and refitted; this is 73 days.




It is possible that those who argue the Royal Navy would take inordinately long times to refit their ships are basing their estimates on Union practice. The brand new screw sloop USS Brooklyn, for instance, was out of service between 25 August 1863 and 14 April 1864, while the similarly new screw sloop USS Seminole was decommissioned between June 1862 and June 1863. However, this overlooks one significant point: the number of dry docks. In fact, there were only four naval dry docks: two permanent docks at New York and Boston, and two floating docks at Philadelphia and Portsmouth (with a third floating dock at San Francisco). This was sufficient for the tiny pre-war navy, but wholly inadequate for wartime requirements, resulting in a bottle-neck of dock capacity.






So putting this together, you have a situation where it's entirely plausible for a Royal Navy ship to spend a few weeks sailing across the Atlantic (at four knots to get to Halifax would take about 25 days), remain on station for a couple of years continuously (being resupplied with coal at the blockade station) and then go home for a refit lasting about two months before coming right out again. Not exactly the dire picture you've presented.
True but the US can build more war ships including costal monitors. Also has discussed in a previous thread the French need US grain imports.
War as noted don't necessarily follow a pre determined script. Lots of things can go wrong.
Leftyhunter
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
True but the US can build more war ships including costal monitors. Also has discussed in a previous thread the French need US grain imports.
Coastal monitors take ages to build. The first Monitor was the quickest; all the others took months longer than planned; it's eventually going to help, but that help is going to take at least six months to arrive. Even once done, the help is going to prevent attacks on US harbours, but a monitor is not a suitable instrument for breaking blockade.

As for grain imports, out of interest, are you picturing the US:

- passing an act to embargo grain exports to France.
- passing an act to embargo all grain exports.
- not passing a legal act.
 
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Rhea Cole

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
These numbers are frankly ridiculous, for more than one reason.

The first reason is that there was an existing North America and West Indies station of the RN which contained multiple battleships, one ironclad and several heavy frigates; during times of tension it was prepared to recieve significant reinforcements. So there were already squadrons on the western side of the Atlantic; indeed there were already some ships in Halifax.

The second reason is that even 30 days is a long figure. The Orlando took less than a month to cross when faced with horrendous storms; a more typical time would be about two to three weeks (for an average speed of 5-7 knots). I've no idea where you get the 90 day figure.

The third reason is that the supply ship number is completely outrageous, because transport steamers were often faster than warships. Sample travel times from late 1861-early 1862;



Europa, December 25 from Boston; arrives Queenstown, 6 January
Jura, December 28 from Portland; arrives Londonderry 8 January
City of Washington, December 28 from New York; arrives Queenstown 9 January
Teutonia, December 28 from New York; arrives Southampton 10 January
America, January 1 from New York: arrives Queenstown 13 January;
Nova Scotian, January 4 from Portland: arrives Londonderry 15 January
City of Edinburgh, January 4 from New York: arrives Queenstown 16 January
Niagara, January 8 from Boston; arrives Queenstown 20 January


Europa, from Liverpool on the 11th, Queenstown on the 12th, arrived Halifax 26 January 1862; goes on to Boston.
Teutonia, from Southampton on 15 January for New York
City of Washington, from Liverpool on 15 January for New York; arrived 31 January
Anglo-Saxon from Liverpool on 16 January for Portland; arrived 30 January

As you can see, a typical journey duration is on the order of two weeks for a one way trip. The Europa made a complete round trip in 32 days and the City of Washington in 34; loading times were on the order of a couple of days.


Ships sent as troopers or supply vessels during the Trent Affair usually took about ten to fourteen days, with the only ones taking longer being the ones which hit the terrible storms going on at the time.



You appear to be writing from a universe in which the Atlantic is 12,000 miles wide. Oh, and you still haven't given any actual evidence that the RN considered holding Halifax impossible.
The usual picket fence argument where you peer through & only post things that support your preconceptions. I do appreciate you taking the time dig into it. Cargo ships weren't clippers or packets that were built for speed. I know too many sailors who, like us, set out for Ireland & wound up in the Azores or the Canary Islands. That is the reality of square rigged sailing. You might want to pull a few pickets off your fence & see what year around passages were like. I personally would never do a winter crossing for love or money.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The usual picket fence argument where you peer through & only post things that support your preconceptions. I do appreciate you taking the time dig into it. Cargo ships weren't clippers or packets that were built for speed. I know too many sailors who, like us, set out for Ireland & wound up in the Azores or the Canary Islands. That is the reality of square rigged sailing. You might want to pull a few pickets off your fence & see what year around passages were like. I personally would never do a winter crossing for love or money.
In case you hadn't noticed, I was using winter passage times. The clue is the month names, like "December", "January", "February".

As for cargo shipping, some of the very ships I quoted had quite expansive tonnage capacities. Here's the tonnages of ships where available:
Where there's a slash, it's old measurement/new measurement; where it's GRT, it's GRT.

Admiral Kannaris: 927/764
Adriatic: 824/-
Ajax: 852/685
Arabia: 1123/1022, 2,393 GRT
Asia: 2226 GRT
Australasian: 2800 gross tons
Bahiana: 1530 gross tons
Bohemian: 2,108 GRT
Brenda: 298/299
Brunette: 618/481
Calcutta: 2250 GRT
Canada: 1834 GRT
Cleopatra: 1279 GRT
Edward Hawkins: 968 GRT
Egyptian: 1986/1690
Hibernian: 3008/1569
Imperador and Imperatriz: 1700 gross tons
Magdalena: 2,943 gross tons
Mauritius: 2135/1452
Melbourne: 1636/899
Niagara: 1,824 GRT
Parana: 2,900 gross tons
Parthenon: 876/701
Persia: 3,300 GRT, 1684 tons old measurement
Peru: 413/-
Spartan: 749/795
St Andrew: 1,432 GRT
Victoria: 783/-
Wisbeach: 670/528



The problem with these being volumetric measurements is that you can only really guess at what the ships could carry. As a baseline, the St Andrew, at 1,432 GRT, carried 1,200 tons of ammunition from Woolwich to Halifax; the Edward Hawkins, at 968 GRT, regularly delivered c.1,100 tons of coal on the much shorter journey from Newcastle to London.


And here's some passage times during the Trent, which was in the particularly bad winter of 1861-2:

Trent%2BShips.png



As I'm sure you can notice, the Asia and the Canada were both around 2,000 tons GRT and both made the crossing in nine days; the Bohemian was about the same and made it in ten. The Persia, the largest one on the list by GRT at 3,300 tons GRT, made it in twelve.

If these are "packet ships" as opposed to "cargo ships", it begs the question as to what would be considered a cargo ship!



I'd make a comment about motes and beams, but it might be considered in poor taste. Instead I'll simply say that what you're doing is arguing that real historical ship voyages are impossible; your impression of how easy it is to navigate seems more from the 18th century than the 19th. There wouldn't have been a regular passenger service being run by Cunard with awards to the fastest ships if you could frequently end up thousands of miles from your intended destination; not even RyanAir does that.
 
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