Spanish-American War of 1873?

Joshism

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Question inspired by another post:
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/shermans-comments-about-forrest.173999/
1. Was there any serious chance of the US going to war with Spain during the Grant Administration? There was sympathy for the Cuban rebels sure, but was it anywhere near as strong as 1898? Were there any incidents that could have been used as causus belli?

2. If war had broken out during Reconstruction would it presumably would have brought military Reconstruction to an abrupt end and moved the reconciliation spirit of 1898 up by 25 years. But also there is no Compromise of 1876. Is the result just a longer Jim Crow Era?
 

Rusk County Avengers

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1. Was there any serious chance of the US going to war with Spain during the Grant Administration? There was sympathy for the Cuban rebels sure, but was it anywhere near as strong as 1898? Were there any incidents that could have been used as causus belli?

After the "Virginus Affair" it looked like it would happen. The US, or rather the North, wanted to see Cuba independent, but not really for their sake. It was believed that if the Spanish were gone, along with their virtual monopoly on the sugar, tobacco, and coffee markets in Cuba, the benevolent United States could gain control of it, booting the US markets, and dropping prices for more profit.

With the Cubans technically independent. It was almost the exact same in 1898, Cubans get independence under America's watchful eye, and the US gets control of the rich exports from Cuba. Win, win, everyone happy in theory.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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2. If war had broken out during Reconstruction would it presumably would have brought military Reconstruction to an abrupt end and moved the reconciliation spirit of 1898 up by 25 years. But also there is no Compromise of 1876. Is the result just a longer Jim Crow Era?

I'm pretty cautious of saying that it would have that way..

Forrest and others former Confederates like Longstreet were very much out of step with other Southerners, and Ex-Confederates. Reconstruction had hardened the average Southerner against any kind of reconciliation in the 1870's and 1880's due to all the shenanigans by Radical Republicans who were still in control. For example, in 1874, after the prospect of war with Spain, Radical Republicans hijacked an election and you had the vicious Battle of Liberty Place in New Orleans where an organized army of Ex-Confederates soundly defeated a large Louisiana State Militia force of black troops, (just about the only color of troops allowed....) under the command of Longstreet, causing a whole big mess of anarchy.

Forrest was able to make his offer because he and Tennessee had won. Thier Radical Republican government had been swept away and Tennessee was in the Union and free of Northern control, and I'm sure he and others were willing to prove their loyalty to the Union after that. Other Southern States that were still under military occupation like Tennessee had been, were fighting the Federal Government that allowed corrupt Northerners to ride rough shod over them and would have greeted a war with Spain as a new thing in their favor.

The South could have:
A. Pledge loyalty to the Union and try to help in order to free itself of military occupation and really oppression.

B. Use it as an opportunity to fight back, tying up Federal troops from reaching Florida and maybe hoping the Spanish and British would take advantage of it to offer support and "liberation" of the South from its US oppressors.

This is where we get to why Grant didn't let a war happen. The US was in court against the British suing them for compensation for all the damage caused by ships and guns they sold to the Confederacy, with some in Washington threatening invasion of Canada if the British Empire didn't pay up with interest. Add to that multiple States in an underground rebellion in the South, and that at this point in time Spain was a close ally of Britain. (Which was a different situation in 1898 as it was under Germany's influence then.)

It had too much potential to be an utter disaster for the United States fighting against the British and Spanish Empires abroad, and ex-Confederates at home, (who would probably get support from those Empires), and to top it all off the US was going through a depression brought on by the Civil War.

Grant does not get enough credit for averting that potential screw-up of all time, and it is forgotten now. There was literally no way for the US to win, yet you couldn't get that through the heads of many Radical Republicans in Congress, and the leadership of the US Military, (Sherman and Sheridan), who I wouldn't be surprised if they thought we could win.

Sorry for the long post, but a lot of ground to cover.
 

Joshism

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Reconciliation or not, the US Army doesn't have enough men to simultaneously fight Spain and occupy parts of the South.

The Virginius Affair meant the British were not necessarily on the side of Spain here. Wikipedia days the gun-runner in question had British citizens as well as Americans and the Spanish wanted to execute the entire crew as pirates, which didn't sit well with the British either.

P.S. Anyone who thinks the Civil War ending slavery was preferable to any compromise that avoided war and perpetuated slavery should logically also think the US should have gone to war with Spain in 1873 because it would have spared the Cubans 25 years of suffering under the Spanish.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Britain was on America's side in the Virginius Affair only because it had people in the mix as well. People that had joined in on breaking laws...

I wouldn't say its certain Britain would have sided with Spain, just likely. The USA was a third rate military power, and first rate economic one that was a competitor with Britain. Spain not a competitor, and at this time still relatively powerful.

Another thing to consider, is not only how weak the US Economy was, but that the military was thoroughly inadequate:

1. The Army was small, and undergoing a rearmament program with the M1873's series of Trapdoor rifles to replace older Trapdoor conversions of rifle-muskets, and retiring the Spencer Carbine. (Most had already been sold off and that sell off had killed the company that made them, plus Winchester bought all they're tooling and assets and immediately destroyed and sold the rest off to ensure they were never competition again.) On top of that the Army's artillery were still using the now obsolete CW rifled pieces that were no match for Spanish or anyone else's guns. And finally the State Militias of almost every State were either still issued rifle-muskets, or some non-standard breechloaders like the Peabody Rifle and Rolling-Block, sometimes both. The Army was a shadow of it's CW era self and couldn't hope to adapt to a modern war when technology was changing so fast.

2. The Navy was also a shadow of its CW era self. No modern breechloading artillery on most ships, and most shockingly of all, ALL the ironclads of the CW era were obsolete and either had already been scrapped, or were in mothballs. Plus those ships couldn't stand against the modern ships of Spain, (or anyone else), even if modern breechloading artillery was installed. The best they could do was protect harbors.

@Joshism your right on the money about the US not being able to fight and occupy the South at the same time. Also there were the Indian Wars going on out west tying up men. Grant was right in resisting the Radicals who wanted a war with Spain over Cuba, those fools couldn't see the "perfect storm" the US would have to face if it did.

As for the Cubans freedom, that was never a consideration. Not even in 1898.

Cuban freedom was a newspaper headline to sell the public on a war. It was all about making money off economic control of Cuba. After all this happened in 1898, many tried to annex Cuba saying it wasn't ready for independence, which almost touched off another war in Cuba as soon as the Spanish were gone. (Much like it did in the Philippines.) After 1898 the US gave Cuba its independence, and only in theory its freedom, and it was really a puppet state up till a certain nut job named Fidel Castro won a revolution in the 1950's. I see no reason why the US's mentality was different in 1873, because it was the same.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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In 1873, Spain was still a global pwer to be reckoned with, however the political turmoil around its thrown all through the 1870's and 1880's, weakened it to the point that by 1898 it was a shadow of it's former self, enabling a quick and easy victory in the Spanish-American War.

There had been an overthrow of the Spanish royals in 1868, (or was it 1869...), that helped touch off the Franco-Prussian War, but Spain had already recovered from that by 1873. It was everything else that came like hammer blows one after the other afterwards that Spain couldn't recover from, enabling the US to rip almost all of her overseas possessions away in 1898.
 

CanadianCanuck

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In 1873, Spain was still a global pwer to be reckoned with, however the political turmoil around its thrown all through the 1870's and 1880's, weakened it to the point that by 1898 it was a shadow of it's former self, enabling a quick and easy victory in the Spanish-American War.

There had been an overthrow of the Spanish royals in 1868, (or was it 1869...), that helped touch off the Franco-Prussian War, but Spain had already recovered from that by 1873. It was everything else that came like hammer blows one after the other afterwards that Spain couldn't recover from, enabling the US to rip almost all of her overseas possessions away in 1898.

Spain was actually a bit of a basket case in the period in question. The monarch (Queen Isabella) had been overthrown in 1868, but had briefly installed a new monarch (King Amadeo) who was then himself overthrown in the Hidalgo affair and Spain was now a very short lived republic (1873-74) and while all that was going on the Carlist pretender to the thrown had just invaded in 1872. There were numerous revolts ongoing in the countryside and a portion of the fleet had mutinied.

This was actually a period where the Cuban rebels had their greatest success as the Spanish either couldn't figure out what they were doing at home, or simply couldn't spare the troops to put down the rebellion. Even with the US's deficiencies, it is an open question whether the Spanish government would actually have been organized enough to stop an American invasion of Cuba.
 

FedericoFCavada

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Daniel Sickles, who lost his leg at Gettysburg, while fueling the war scare over the1873 Virginius executions, was rumored to be having an affair with the deposed Isabella II...

The U.S. Navy was carrying out maneuvers in the Florida Keys as a result of the incident, including the use of exotic weapons like the spar torpedo....

The Virginius was a Clyde-side purpose-built side-wheel steamer for running the Union "Anaconda" blockade, launched in Scotland as the Virgin. It was able to telescope the funnels and burn hard anthracite coal to reduce smoke...

The captain of the Virginius, Captain Joseph Fry, executed at Santiago de Cuba, had been in the U.S. Navy for fifteen years before he joined the Confederate States Navy and became a commodore.
Virginius_Incident_1873_Harper's_Weekly.jpg
 

FedericoFCavada

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The Spanish bark-rigged corvette, Tornado, that captured Virginius was also launched from the Clyde in Scotland as the Confederate commerce raider, CSS Texas. She was purchased by the Chilean navy as the Pampero. She was then captured by the Spanish navy in the Chincha Islands War and pressed into service as the Tornado. Eventually, docked in Barcelona, the hulk was a hospice ship for indigent children of sailors and orphans of seamen and fishermen who'd died.

The screw sloop-of-war HMS Niobe under Sir Lambton Lorraine arrived from her duty station in Jamaica at Santiago harbor and threatened the bombardment of the city unless the executions ceased, bringing them to a halt. Eventually, Spain reached a settlement with both the United States and Great Britain for the citizens and subjects who went to the paredon and were "pasado por las armas" or shot.

http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/virginius.htm
 
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