Wrapped in Flames: The Great American War and Beyond


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 1: To Light a Fire under Her

"We will wrap the whole world in flames! No power is so remote that she will not feel the fire of our battle and not be burned by our conflagration!" United States Secretary of State William H. Seward as overheard at a diplomatic function by William H. Russell in 1862 during the Trent Crisis.

“The great conflict which erupted across the North American continent in 1861 has gone on to have many names; the Southern Rebellion, the War of Northern Aggression, the War of 1862, the American Civil War, but perhaps the most common name agreed on by all English scholars since Arthur Chambers in his 1919 essay “The Great American War” is the namesake of the essay. Certainly comparisons have been drawn to the great conflict of the later 20th century, and many British observers were equally tempted to liken the conflict waged across North America to the wars against the French from 1792-1815. Perhaps a grandiose comparison, but in terms of the scale of the conflict, the men involved and the cost in blood and treasure, it is not wholly inaccurate.

The war was without a doubt a defining moment in the history of the English speaking world. It has often been said that the 1860s were a decade on which the ideologies of a new age were hammered out upon the anvil of war, certainly an idea which the scholars of the New Men at a later time would happily agree with. The war and its aftermath divided and united nations, forged new alliances, and very much gave rise to the North America and its nations which we know today.

For the beginning of the war itself, few Americans need a lesson on what would divide a nation. The ‘peculiar institution’ of the South had long divided peoples of the industrializing North and the agrarian South. The Founding Fathers unable to find compromise on the matter and assured of its swift demise in a few generations time felt comfortable enough to leave the issue to a perhaps more enlightened generation. Little could they have predicted the sudden surge in the profitability of servile labor with the introduction of the cotton gin. The internal slave trade exploded and the expansion of slavery was seen as an economic necessity by the South. The more abolitionist North, with its increasing industrialization and view of the new territories of the Union as a haven for individual farmers and land owners saw this as anathema to their own view of the nation. The question though, would again be passed down to what it was hoped would be another more enlightened generation. Half-hearted compromise would again be initiated come 1850, but by that time it was too late. The sectional divides over the issue of the right to human bondage were too great, and a mere ten years later one of the most contentious elections in the history of the United States would lead to the division of the nation.

The United States as it existed on the eve of war in 1860 was a prosperous nation, one of the greatest industrial nations in the world, yet still just on the cusp of the powerhouse it would come to be at the dawn of the 20th century, having only a third the manufacturing power of Great Britain. Though not considered as such, the United States of the 19th century was still a power in earnest, not the least challenged in its sphere of influence for a period of well over half a century. It had expanded uninterrupted across the face of the North American continent unchecked save by the British lands in the North and an aversion to the absorption of the more populous Catholic peoples to the south. Indeed with such successful expansion the call of Manifest Destiny and the ‘Union from the Arctic Circle to the Caribbean’ seemed like it would in time be a simple self-fulfilling prophecy, as the preponderance of evidence as to the superiority of American institutions would assert itself upon the peoples of the continent.

The course of history though, as it so often does, would frustrate this prophecy.

As it was, on the eve of war the only true threat to the Union was either from enemies internal, or from those across the Atlantic, namely the great maritime empires of France and Britain. France having few toeholds in the New World was not seen as an imminent danger to the Union. Britain however, was always seen as a potential enemy. However, it seemed at the time the simple realities of economics would overcome such feeling. Indeed despite lingering memories of the 1775-83 conflict and the more recent conflict of 1812-1815 the two nations were each other’s greatest trading partners. Raw American goods (primarily cotton) were exchanged for British capital and machine tools, all of which bankrolled the continuing industrialization of the United States.

This of course was to the primary benefit of the North however, with the expanding industries of New England and the Midwest. The South remained largely an agrarian land of expansive slave plantations and yeoman farmers, with little industry to its name, instead relying on machine tools and cheap manufactured goods from the North to whet its appetite.

Perhaps to better illustrate this point it is best to examine the vast disparity of resources between the states that would form the Southern Confederacy in 1861 and those that would stay with the Union in 1861. In terms of population the North had roughly 22 million inhabitants, of that only 400,000 were enslaved, exclusively in the border states. In the South there were some 9 million inhabitants, 5.6 million free and 3.5 million enslaved. The Union had over 100,000 manufacturing establishments to the South’s mere 18,000. The entirety of the South produced only 36,000 of the 820,000 tons of the nation’s pig iron and only some 900,000 of the 15,000,000 tons of coal produced nationally in 1860.

All of this was subject to change and expansion as the two sides began to mobilize the resources available to them, and the North of course had much greater depth to draw upon.

These comparisons do discount the importance of both foreign capital and resources to the war effort however. The South pinned much of its hopes on the importance of the cotton trade to Europe, with cotton comprising over two thirds of the exports of the United States this did not seem a farfetched goal to many in the South, with the claim that with no cotton “England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her, save the South.” And to many this rather over the top prediction did not seem completely outside of reality, with many English merchants worrying in 1861 that millions would starve as the mills of the north west shut down and thousands would go on to government relief. On the other side the loss of American trade would be a punishing blow for British exports, with American trade composing one of the largest markets in the British sphere.

However, it cannot be understated how important British goods were to the Union war effort. For instance, in 1860 the United States consumed some 1,216,000 tons of iron in its industrial expansion, yet domestically only produced some 821,000 tons. The remaining 395,000 tons were imported from abroad, including some 122,000 tons of railroad iron. This all mainly came from Britain, which produced some 3.5 million tons of iron in 1860. The United States produced less than 8,000 tons of steel, while Britain produced over 40,000 tons, and the United States had yet to construct a single Bessemer converter. The United States produced 15 million tons of coal in 1860 while in the same year Britain produced over 70 million tons. Most importantly for the war effort perhaps was the production of saltpeter. Prior to the war the United States had enough domestic industry to produce gunpowder for its own needs, but imported the vast majority of its powder from abroad, and the main supplier was Britain with its near monopoly on quality nitre from India. These items were all imported in some quantity in peace time, and on the outbreak of war these imports would nearly double. In terms of sheer industrial power the British Empire far outstripped its American competitor in the 1860s, and when the Union was divided the North’s 21 million inhabitants were outnumbered by the 29 million inhabitants of the United Kingdom, the 3 million British subjects of the North American provinces notwithstanding.

This is not to assume though, that each nation was prepared to go to war with the other. However, both sides nursed a mistrust of the others intentions. The United States resented the British encroachment on her sovereignty when she insisted she had the right to search all ships which might be taking part in the banned African slave trade, and certainly felt chagrined at Britain’s assumption it could simply interdict and challenge trade as it did in the Napoleonic and Crimean Wars. In return Britain nursed old grudges from American support of rebels along the border in the Rebellions of 1837-38, the war mongering over the Oregon Territory and Maine Boundary Dispute, and the perceived favoritism of Russia in the Crimean War when the United States had recalled her Minister to the Court of St. James. However, the election of volatile personalities to the top positions of power in the 1860s on both sides of the Atlantic would merely add to the healthy suspicion each side favored one another with…” To Arms!: The Great American War, Sheldon Foote, University of Boston 1999.

"To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order…” – Confucius

“…when on the 1st of October Albert was riding alone in his carriage in Coburg tragedy struck. On his way to a meeting the carriage, drawn by four horses, bolted with sudden alarm. The driver attempted to reign them in to no avail. The carriage struck the rear of another at a railway crossing in a terrific crash. The driver fell into the seething mass of braying horseflesh but managed to escape relatively unharmed. The Prince Consort was not so lucky.

It is believed that due to the pain from stomach cramps his attempt to jump clear ended with him tumbling from a sudden cramp which meant he fell into the worst possible position as upon impact the carriage crashed and flipped sending Albert hurtling from his seat. He landed two feet away at an unfortunate angle breaking an arm and suffering a serious head wound which rendered him unconscious. He failed to awake an hour later, and at 9pm he was pronounced dead.

Victoria immediately went into grieving, and all of Britain joined her…” A Biography of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Nigel Loring, Oxford University, 2011

In raiding and plundering be like fire – Sun Tsu


Pursuit of the raiders
“…When the civil war in the United States broke out in April of 1861 the British government in London adopted a policy of neutrality. However, events would transpire which would end up testing that neutrality to the limits. Starting in September 1861 with the St. Albans Raid and continuing up to January 25th 1862 the normally friendly relations between Great Britain and the United States would deteriorate…” To Arms!: The Great American War, Sheldon Foote, University of Boston 1999.

“On the morning of October 10th 1861 three men checked themselves into a local hotel in St. Albans Vermont. They claimed they were from Saint John’s in Canada (East) and had come to Vermont to have a ‘hunting trip’ which was not unusual for men of middling wealth as they appeared to be. However over the next week they rarely left the hotel and were steadily joined by nineteen more men. Finally the group struck on the morning of the 19th of October.

The men proclaimed themselves to be in service to the government of the Confederate States of America and acting under orders to collect funds for the war effort.

They acted quickly, rounding up the villagers at gun point. Several tried to resist as shouted orders to assemble and Confederate proclamations were called. Two men were killed, one wounded, and a woman injured in the crossfire but the Confederates seized the town with little difficulty. Nine men held the villagers while the others separated the bank tellers and forced them to open the vaults of the three banks in town. Before they did this they were compelled to swear allegiance to the Confederate States of America, therefore making them accomplices to the robbery (or so the raiders claimed). That done they managed to seize a total of 209,000$ from the three banks, all of the towns horses and over two dozen bottles of liquor. Before they left they tossed incendiary devices at three buildings but these failed to ignite and only burnt down one shed while badly damaging one homes porch.

The men rode like hell for the border and pursuit was not joined for over six hours allowing a clean escape.

These raiders, not being mere bandits, were actually a band of some twenty five Confederate soldiers selected for special service along the British North American frontier. Commissioned by the government in Richmond to “set a fire along the border” with the intent of both pulling Union forces away from the war to the South, and by violating British neutrality they hoped to pull Great Britain into the internecine warfare raging through the United States. It was hoped this would both alleviate the pressure on the Confederacy while also securing foreign recognition thus achieving a fait accompli in diplomatic negotiations with the other nations of the world and thereby dealing fatal blow to Union diplomacy.

The men were led by the daring Confederate cavalry commander John Hunt Morgan, and organized into a quick raiding force meant to cause terror and panic while wreaking havoc behind Union lines. Here he also hoped to steal enough money to fund further campaigns

The raiders next struck six days later, raiding Franklin Vermont on the 23rd in a morning raid seizing the bank teller while starting several fires to distract the townsfolk. They made off with a further 45,000$ but suffered one killed in a gun fight with armed townsfolk. They again escaped across the border. This time though they were closely pursued by a militia posse.

However, the raiders had split into two groups at this point. The other, under the energetic young lieutenant Bennet H. Young, had split off to deposit their winnings while the others were to lead the posse to the nearest Canadian settlement then disperse. The first thing they found however was a Canadian militia patrol which arrested them immediately. The militia met up with their Americans counterparts who began demanding immediate custody of the fugitives, while the Canadians refused, insisting they be tried in local courts. There was a tense standoff over the next hour while the two sides negotiated.

There was a reluctant agreement and the American militia returned home to inform their government of these events. Meanwhile Young and his men were captured in St. John in an ironic turn of events, and soon all the raiders were held there awaiting trial…” A History of Special Forces, James Rawles, University of Moscow, 2001


Capture of the Confederate Envoys
“On November 7th 1862 the Royal Mail Steam Packet R.M.S Trent left Havana harbor bound for St. Thomas and then England. She was carrying the usual dispatches and passengers, but she had two last minute passengers as well. James Mason and John Slidell had recently made a dash to Cuba in order to board a steamer bound for England. They were the representatives chosen by the Confederate States government in Richmond to act as envoys to France and England. The government in Washington had been tracking them and was anxious to capture them in order to prevent any possible recognition of the rebel states. Thankfully these two men would steam almost directly into the hands of USN captain Charles Wilkes…

…Aboard the deck of the USS San Jacinto Wilkes held an impromptu prize court. This was not unusual of Wilkes’s brash and aggressive style of command. It had often been said that had a reputation as a stubborn, overzealous, impulsive, and sometimes insubordinate officer, with Treasury Officer George Harrington writing so Seward saying: "He will give us trouble. He has a superabundance of self-esteem and a deficiency of judgment. When he commanded his great exploring mission he court-martialed nearly all his officers; he alone was right, everybody else was wrong." So the quick and abrupt nature of his decision was not unusual and he needed to make the best of a potentially bad situation. He announced his intention to take stop the Trent and search her for contraband, and seize any Confederates he found aboard. Amazingly none of his officers disagreed with his decision and he proceeded to steam alongside the Trent and fired a warning shot. The Trent had the Union Jack raised high and at first ignored the shot. The second shot however was something which could not be safely ignored and she slowed to allow herself to communicate with a launch party from the San Jacinto

…almost immediately Lieutenant Fairfax ran into trouble. The crew and passengers of the ship were belligerent and when he announced his intention to seize the ship as a prize a fight broke out between two of the crew and his marines. Though it was quelled almost immediately the passengers proved utterly unwilling to cooperate with Fairfax’s instructions and did everything they could to hamper the search of the ship. Finally events came to a head when Richard Williams (a Royal Navy officer in charge of the ships dispatches) bluntly refused to allow the Confederate envoys bags to be searched after being caught attempting to hide them. Although it is unclear what happened it is known a fight ensued between Williams and Fairfax which ended in Williams shot dead. Since only Williams, Fairfax and two marine escorts were present at the time of the altercation the truth of the matter will almost certainly never be known, however all present asserted that Fairfax shot in self-defence after Williams verbally lashed out and Fairfax shouted back, events after are somewhat confused however with one claim that Williams assaulted Fairfax and another that it was an accident assumed in self-defence. The news of the death spread quickly and the remaining passengers and crew settled into reluctant compliance as the commissioners were hauled from the boat and the Trent again set adrift in an uncertain sea…” A History of Diplomatic Blunders, Friedrich Kaufmann, Imperial University, Moscow, 1969
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Nov 21, 2014
Appendix to Chapter 1

This is (thankfully) a work of fiction, written by the author in an attempt to as accurately as possible present the views of the people of the 1860s, the political facts on the ground, and the geopolitical strategic realities as they existed during the Civil War between the Great Powers of Europe and the nations of North America. As such I will not be shying away from any of the frankly repugnant views held by many people of the time on all sides of the conflict and would like to stress that just because a character in the timeline says something, does not mean I actually endorse said views.

I mean I’m writing a story with the Confederacy, read the cornerstone speech of you need any proof of what they were about!

In writing this work I have leaned heavily on the works of other historians and eye witnesses to the events of 1861-65 on both sides of the conflict. I will be quoting these witnesses and will, in an attempt to capture the spirit of the time, insert quotes and phrases they have used into the TL, especially in the fictionalized memoirs of some of those witnesses which I will be using as narrative devices in the TL. I claim no copyright over their words or writings and simply wish to use them to tell a better story and will duly give them credit in the narrative. Any exact opinions borrowed from historians from our time will be given due credit if I use them.

This is primarily a work I’ve found fun, dystopic writing can be that way
Part of this work will be focused on the Canadian aspect of this war since in most stories of this nature they are demoted to bit characters with zero will of their own and the complex details of Canadian history in this period are overlooked in favor of depicting a slugfest between Uncle Sam and John Bull. So in the interest of giving a voice to those whose homes are about to be wrecked in the fighting Johnny Canuck will get his say too. The War of 1812 was a defining moment in Canadian history, and so you can expect any conflict starting in 1862 will be just as defining to the infant Canadian identity as that piece of history was.

On a more meta note, the 1860s was a decade of change for the whole world. The Civil War defined much of the future of the United States and set the stage for its rapid rise to becoming a great power, but in the 1860s we also saw the stage set for other powers like Germany and Japan. There were massive changes happening in China and South America, so you can expect that when the butterflies start flapping their wings we will see changes in those corners too. I've included 'and beyond' in the title for a reason!

Now this board is more a serious discussion board for events and issues of the Civil War. I'm an amateur historian with a hobby for writing and I enjoy mental exercises like this. If no one minds I do want to plug this into this thread, but if that's odious someone can always ask a moderator to remove it if I'm being presumptive.

Primarily I hope people will enjoy the work and that it can continue until an endpoint sometime in the 20th century yet to be specified.

Comments, criticism, suggestions, bribes, and parody are welcome!



Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 2: Sparking a Riot

“Those wars are unjust that are undertaken without provocation. For only a war waged for revenge or defense can be just.” – Cicero

“News of the St. Albans raid arrived in London on November 4th 1862. There was immediate alarm in the Cabinet, Admiralty, and War Department. There was also outrage. For their part the British government had adhered to strict neutrality thus far in the conflict. Her subjects however, had been of middling ground. In Bermuda the economy was again booming thanks to blockade runners, and British ship builders had made a tidy profit from financing and constructing such vessels (it was only the colonial Spanish government in Cuba which made more through such adventures), and many in the aristocracy either openly supported the Confederacy or were quietly sending funds to aid it.

Despite this, the government’s position was clear, and her Prime Mintser, Henry John Temple, the 3rd Viscount Palmerston, or simply Lord Palmerston, rigidly adhered to it. The 77 year old Palmerston was born into a world of aristocratic privilege, and for most of his early life was a young and sickly man, and while studying at Cambridge his classmates would classify him as ‘charming, but lacking a certain zest’ but quickly earned a reputation as a ladies man gaining the moniker ‘Lord Cupid’ from the press, while his political peers found him ‘pompous and pendantic’. His quirks aside, Palmerston quickly gained position in the British government, grabbing a seat in the House of Commons in 1807, becoming Secretary of War in 1809 and holding that position until 1828, in 1830 gaining his place as the British Foreign Minister, a position he would hold three times between 1830 and 1851 before becoming Home Secretary in 1852. He would hold the office of Prime Minister twice.

In politics Palmerston quickly proved himself a shrewd adversary. Though not holding popular liberal sentiments on democracy, much preferring to “pepper the faces of the mob” he proved more than able to harness British liberal sentiments for his own ends. In foreign policy his supreme goal was the maintenance of British interests and the successful maintenance of the status quo. He deftly used Britain’s wealth and influence to navigate the many potential crises of post-Napoleonic Europe. His greatest political coup would be unseating the Aberdeen government over its poor handling of the Russian War and his vigorous prosecution of the war and desire to weaken Russia lead to the Allies seeing through the Siege of Sevastopol and gaining preferable terms to the Treaty of Paris in 1856.

However, Palmerston’s regular use of force in diplomatic crisis with other nations (pioneering the concept of gunboat diplomacy) often rankled the other powers of Europe, and would lead to conflicts which could have been avoided. He also carried a particular chip on his shoulder regarding Britain’s North American rival, not unusual for an aristocrat of the Victorian Era. He viewed the national flag as “a piece of bunting” and felt democracy was a degenerate form of government. The espoused philosophy of Manifest Destiny was “inherently aggressive” and a threat to British interests. He did not see the need for intervention in the American Civil War, cautioning that “Those who in others quarrels interpose, will often get a bloody nose” to more hawkish members of the Commons.

Palmerston was however, partial to a Confederate victory. He believed that secession was inevitable and that through force of arms the Confederacy would tear the United States apart and in doing so alleviate many of Britain’s concerns regarding her security on the American continent and remove a potential rival to British power in the process. He was said to be in a good mood whenever he heard of Confederate victories and had treated the news of secession with “undisguised delight” and would often refer to the United States as “the Disunited States of America” in his correspondence. He had however, since the beginning of the crisis, pushed for further security in British North America, fearing that the Americans would “seek to compensate their loss of the Southern states with gains in the North” and in doing so challenge British dominion.

To compensate he had consistently proposed since the start of the crisis in 1860 for the reinforcement of the garrison in the Canadas to be increased to ten thousand men. In this he had been consistently opposed by his Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Gladstone.

He and Gladstone had never seen eye-to-eye on any subject, but specifically on issues of foreign policy, civil reform, Church reform, and those of defense. The invasion scare brought on by tensions with the French over their intervention in Italy had led to ill-founded fears of a cross Channel invasion (Palmerston famously saying, “the Channel has been bridged by steam”) prompting a series of proposals for fortifications along the coasts and major ports. Gladstone had immediately cited the costs of such fortifications and bemoaned the entire process, despite Palmerston eventually getting his way. When the Civil War broke out Palmerston and Gladstone had immediately been at odds once again over the matter of spending. Though both men supported neutrality the two men were at immediate odds on how Britain should compose herself. Palmerston advocated for a strong show of force to ensure the North would not seek to compensate herself with British possessions in North America and so demanded the reinforcement and strengthening of their military positions in the Canadas and Maritimes. Gladstone instead advocated caution and restraint seeing the measures as unnecessary in the face of inevitable Southern secession, expensive, and certain to irritate the United States which might inadvertently galvanize them to hasty action, something he argued that Britain should be keen to avoid in terms of expenses involved and the potential blow to her trade.

Once news the St. Albans Raid and Trent Affair both reached the offices of Parliament it became clear to most observers that Palmerston had the right of it. Upon hearing of the Border Raids he told the cabinet that, “A show of strength is now most preferable, lest either side determine they can steer British policy through acts of violence and intimidation.” News of the Trent Affair further discredited Gladstone’s softer approach in both the eyes of the Cabinet and the British public.

The stopping of a British ship had outraged the British public, and the death of a British officer merely added injury to insult. There was uproar in even the most Union friendly parts of the country over the ‘piratical actions’ of Captain Wilkes. Palmerston was said to have angrily stormed into the emergency cabinet meeting throwing his hat on the table and proclaiming "I don't know whether you are going to stand this, but I'll be ****ed if I do."…

…Though the Cabinet had met earlier in November and agreed to Palmerston’s demand for more troops in the America’s it was now decided a further show of force was necessary. On November 10th three thousand men had been ordered ready to cross the Atlantic to the Canada’s, much to Palmerston’s pleasure. However, First Lord of the Admiralty Edward Seymour, First Duke of Somerset, continuously put off the issue of reinforcing the North Atlantic or West Indies squadrons, despite repeated pleas from Admiral Milne and Lord Russell earlier in the year to reinforce them lest they prove weaker in comparison to those of France in the region. Constant arguments failed to move him and he had continuously put off the issue citing ‘other pressing matters’ and parroted Gladstone’s concerns about expense while dismissing the concerns of Milne and Russell as ‘alarmist’. Recent events moved him to sluggish action, his only earlier concession had been to grudgingly assent to the dispatch of a Royal Navy officer, some aides, a company of Royal Marines, and a quartermaster to see what could be done at Kingston to prepare the regions defences.

The seizure of the Trent and death of a British subject had forced him into making much begrudged plans of action. Rear-Admiral Milne was immediately reinforced with ships, bringing the strength of his squadron up to some forty vessels with others being prepared for service. He still attempted to hold forces back however, fearing British distraction in North America would galvanize France into action on the continent.

The diplomatic correspondence from France on the 29th of November put these fears to rest however, and allowed for more, much grander schemes to be hatched. War plans were made and it was determined to send some thirty-thousand troops to North America to be on station in case of the outbreak of war, with potentially more to be dispatched if war broke out…” Empire and Blood: British Military Operations in the 19th Century Volume IV.


Lord Palmerston and William Gladstone
“The reaction of Britain’s North American colonies to the twin troubles of the border raid and the stopping of the Trent was twofold. When news of the border raid became known, Governor-General Monck had called on the Provincial Government to call out its militia, which was duly done come October 25th. The population as a whole was split on the issue of the raiders, with some papers such as the Globe denouncing them as simple bandits who violated Canada’s neutrality, while more pro-Southern papers such as the Montreal Gazette praising them as dashing heroes who were taking the fight to the Imperious North. Though the violation of Canadian territory was seen as an annoyance, there was little concern the event would cause a serious diplomatic rupture among the populace as a whole, and most were quite content to get on with their lives as though the war were a far away problem which need not concern them.

The reports of the events on the Trent caused far more concern than a cross border raid. In general, the response of the population towards the seizure and the death of Captain Williams was outrage. The deep seeded loyalty to Britain mixed with a long standing mistrust of their neighbors south of the border, whom many regarded as inherently violent and immoral[1], put a suspicious light on any news coming from Washington. The general feeling of the populace was that war was on the horizon and most acted accordingly.

Though the already existing battalions of volunteer militia had been called out at the end of October, the sedentary militia companies spontaneously organized and began to drill with whatever came to hand. This response was similar to events in 1837 when in the absence of regular troops and the smell of rebellion in the air, the local volunteers had formed together into ad hoc battalions and seen the rebels off themselves. Here now they had the support of the local regulars, and the enthusiastic support from the Imperial Government in Quebec, which saw this as a hopeful sign that the Canadians could be encouraged to begin working towards their own defence. The Provincial Government itself was quick to encourage men to turn out to drill, but less enthusiastic about adding to the need to pay for yet more militia.

The people themselves though took to the task of gathering with aplomb, even if the issue was accepted less than uniformly by different segments of the populace. In Canada West the rural and urban battalions saw enthusiastic turn out for drill and there was talk of war in every city and hamlet. It was assumed that they Yankees would cross the border and be driven off just as they had been in 1812, and just as Mackenzie and his misguided Patriots had been in 1837 and 1838.

In Canada East, it was a different matter. While in cities like Quebec and Montreal the support for the militia was high, especially amongst the English merchants and landowners, in the rural areas support was very much mixed. While in border regions like Huntingdon the support of the local people for the militia was near unanimous, in regions like Richelieu it was low. This was especially true in the former six counties, the seat of the 1837 uprising. The people there were loath to support military service, and resentment towards the government in Quebec had still not entirely faded. Over the rest of the province it was again mixed as most locals preferred to get on with their lives and live as God had intended them…” Blood and Daring: The War of 1862 and how Canada forged a Nation, Raymond Green, University of Toronto Press, 2002


Montreal Volunteer Cavalry Regiment training December 1861 (Regiment stands at attention receiving permission to blow their noses)
“The news of the Border Incidents came as a rather unpleasant shock to the Lincoln administration, who had been hoping to keep any sign of conflict well south of the border. The failure of the British North American provinces to police their own frontier was, if not entirely surprising, immensely irritating to the administration. Calls went out from the Governors of New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire for Volunteers to be placed along the borders, but Lincoln adroitly moved to quash them by placing the emphasis on the British failure to police their own frontier. It was his, and the cabinet’s firm desire to see that all the available manpower could be kept for the war with the South.

Stormy despatches were sent to Quebec demanding the swift trial of the perpetrators and better efforts to prevent the rebels from operating on British soil. Seward’s familiar bluster was used to great effect to send a stern message to London, and with conciliatory noises coming from Quebec Lincoln and his cabinet were at first content that all which could be done had been done.

News of the stopping of the Trent came as a bolt from the blue, and one which was especially welcome to the beleaguered administration who had nothing but news of defeat and ill progress on all fronts from land to sea. The capture of the Confederate envoys, and the seizure of a complicit British ship were seen as signs of progress. The public was jubilant, especially in the wake of the Border Raids, and Lincoln, despite some reservation at first, was soon swept up in the public’s celebration writing that he expected little trouble on that account. Lincoln was also confident that he could avoid further diplomatic tension and that international law was on the side of the Union. Soon every man and woman in the Union was quoting law to anyone who would listen which placed them in the right. According to the New York Herald Lincoln emphatically declared that “Mason and Slidell should not be surrendered by this government, even if their detention should cost a war with Great Britain.”

His administration had fairly shaky relations with Britain however. Part of this stemmed from the bellicose actions of his Secretary of State William H. Seward. In British circles Seward was seen as a war hawk and proponent of war with Britain, making the Foreign Office in London deeply suspicious of Lincoln’s administration as a whole and merely furthering Palmerston’s worries regarding the security of the British North American possessions. Lord Lyons, Ambassador to Washington wrote “I cannot help fearing that he will be a dangerous foreign minister. His view of the relations between the United States and Great Britain had always been that they are a good material to make political capital of... I do not think Mr. Seward would contemplate actually going to war with us, but he would be well disposed to play the old game of seeking popularity here by displaying violence toward us.” It was this unfortunate cycle of both public outrage and mutual suspicion which led to early negotiations being incredibly tense.

The American public at large was content that this was a fair return for what they saw as the British abetting Confederate raiders on the Canadian border, and the general perception that their old enemy was looking eagerly at the potential dismemberment of the Union. The Cabinet largely shared this sentiment, seeing the issue as one which could easily be put forward for international arbitration which all sides could see as a fine compromise. There was however, one important dissenting voice, the Secretary of State.

Seward, for all his bluster, was no fool. He immediately realized that action had to be taken to diffuse the crisis. He was however, painfully aware of the public mood. Any action taken too soon would be seen as the administration bowing to foreign pressure, but any delay would be seen as American duplicity by London. To that end he proposed to take advantage in the delay allowed by trans-Atlantic communications to let tensions cool on both sides and for wiser heads to prevail. Unfortunately, events would conspire against him, meaning cooler heads would be hard pressed to make head way against a storm of public outrage on the horizon…”Snakes and Ladders: The Lincoln Administration and America’s Darkest Hour, Hillary Saunders, Scattershot Publishing, 2003


HMS Terror
“Though the events leading up to the Terror-Dacotah affair remain a subject of rampant speculation to this day there are some facts which can be known with some certainty. The screw sloop USS Dacotah under commander James P. McKinstry was on its way home to the USA from a pre-war posting to the East Indian Station, her journey had taken her via the western route and the Cape of Good Hope into the Caribbean. On the 19th November 1861, almost home, the Dacotah stopped at St. Thomas a neutral Danish possession to load coal. She was preparing to leave on the morning of the 23rd where the sailing schooner E.J. Talbot arrived. The Union merchant schooner had been contracted by the United States Navy to carry coal and provisions to the USS Iroquois. The Iroquois was currently waiting in international waters outside the port of St. Pierre in neutral French Martinique for the Confederate commerce raider CSS Sumter which was docked there. Commander McKinstry decides to have the Dacotah take the Talbot in tow to Martinque and departs for St. Pierre late that night as soon as the schooner has finished loading.

The following day Dacotah’s lookouts sight what appears to be a bark of war not unlike the Sumter ahead of her and on a parallel course, and she flies no clear colors. McKinstry immediately orders theDacotah to change course and intercept the bark. Her towline is dropped and she leaves the Talbot behind. They soon close with and then overhaul the bark.

The bark is in factHMS Terror an ironclad floating battery and guard ship of Bermuda with an impressive armament and an even more impressive 4” of wrought iron armor on her casemate and 8” at the water line. Terror is a very powerful weapon but not much of a ship. Her commanding officer, Captain Frederick Hutton, is an old officer with little experience on foreign station, but plenty of command experience. He is however, unsure of the intentions of the approaching warship. He is aware of the strained relations which exist between the Union and Great Britain thanks to the Border Incident and theTrent Affair, he is also under orders from Rear-Admiral Milne not to place his vessel under American guns to prevent incidents between the two navies.

Testimonies diverge here but suffice to say, each side claims the other opened fire first. Commander McKinstry claims he simply fired to warning shots to ascertain the identity of the unidentified ship (whose colors they could not discern) while Hutton claims that the American ship closed to within an aggressive distance and opened fire unprovoked on his ship (however both sides testimonies agree that the British vessel was tardy in raising her ensign). Hutton claims that he opened fire in the defence of his vessel, while McKinstry counterclaimed that the Terror unleashed a full broadside unprovoked at the Dacotach.

In either case the resulting action has a clear outcome. The Terror’s inferior speed but superior armor allows her to dominate the action against the unarmoured and under gunned Dacotah. Though theTerror’s steering is badly damaged leaving her adrift, the Dacotach suffers much more heavily. She suffers three of her guns knocked out, twelve crewmen dead and twenty-seven more wounded, while the Terror suffers only five wounded. Seeing the British ironclad for what it truly is, and that it is unable to pursue his ship McKinstry breaks off the action and withdraws for home. Hutton is left fuming over the engagement until a fellow British ship comes along and rescues him.

The resulting action will have a terrible effect on the already tense relations between the two nations. McKinstry, unlike his counterpart Captain Wilkes, will be censured by Congress for his reckless actions and risking his ship. Hutton on the other hand, will be promoted to Commodore for his ‘gallant actions’…”Troubled Waters: The Anglo-American War at Sea, Michael Tielhard, Aurora Publishing, 2002[2]


[1] To my own surprise I’m not exaggerating this either. There was genuine shock in Canadian papers (East and West) that James Polk had been unbaptized when he was president. The Catholic Church in Quebec was also leery about American institutions, especially republicanism, since it was seen as a way to subvert their influence over the province. Then the average Canadien considered his Catholicism as a major part of his identity, thus the rejection of republicanism from 1775 onwards. This can be attributed to the simply enormous amount of sectarian religious tension which existed in the Province of Canada at the time, mainly brought on by the entrenchment of ultramontanist feeling in Canada East and the power of the supremely anti-Catholic Orange Order in Canada West. Ironically, a sense of ‘anti-Americanism’ is one of the few things which were shared across religious lines.

[2] This scene is in homage to a scene written by another member of this board somewhere else on the web, I have used some of the details from the original in writing this, but I felt it was such a unique idea that it was worth the shout out too.


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 3: Legalities

Quebec City, December 1861

The carriage rumbled down the cobbled streets of Canada’s oldest city and away from the assembly hall towards the boarding homes which housed two of the most influential men in the Province of Canada. The horses’ breath caused steam to rise as though from a locomotive, and the drivers own breathing merely added to the light mist which headed out in front of the carriage. Its two occupants were bundled up securely inside, more comfortable than the driver, but not much warmer than they would have been outside.

George Cartier, Deputy Premier of the Province of Canada, sat across from his counterpart, John A. Macdonald, Primer of the Province of Canada. There was a marked contrast between the two. Cartier was dressed as all respectable members of the Montreal elite would be, emulating the latest British fashions in a double breasted frock coat with respectable trousers and a silk hat. His appearance was impeccable with well-groomed hair and a cleanly shaven face.

Macdonald, by contrast, wore a deep blue coat with an outrageously red cravat and wide checkered trousers, all calculated to bring attention to himself. He could hardly fail to gain attention with his poorly kept curly hair sticking out at odd angles from under his hat, his cheeks in need of a simple shave (though he never let it grow into a full beard) and his enormous nose which seemed to take up the better part of his face. While Cartier tried to maintain a dignified bearing Macdonald lounged as though he were at a taproom.

They were on their way home from an acrimonious debate amongst the Assembly regarding the crisis which had developed south of the border. However, they had also been forced to discuss a recent complication in the relationship between the two nations. Macdonald was fuming.

“**** that wretched prig of a police magistrate!” he swore angrily. “By what authority did he presume to release all of those bandits?”

Cartier frowned. The ‘wretched prig’ he referred to was Charles-Joseph Coursol, one of Montreal’s leading judges. He had been despatched to preside over the trial of the group of Confederate raiders captured in October in the aftermath of the Border Crisis. The trial had been long, and Coursol had, rather than consulting with his superior the Attorney General of Canada East or even with other legal notes, had handed down a verdict which released the raiders. He had defended his action by claiming that he had no jurisdiction to sentence and extradite the prisoners as the British had not proclaimed the Canadian Extradition Act of 1861. Cartier understood Macdonald’s fury.

“That he did not bother to check with his superiors is a travesty. The law may have been unclear, but that does not excuse his actions.” Cartier said.

“The precedent is clear. They could have been easily turned over to the Northern authorities under the articles of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty and that would be the end of it! I’m entirely satisfied with the decision to remove him from the bar.” Macdonald grumbled.

“It may displease some powerful people in Montreal.” Cartier cautioned.

“He can serve his penance in the militia. There he has a fine social position and can posture to his heart’s desire.”

“On that matter,” Cartier interjected “how do you feel the militia debates have gone in the Assembly?” Macdonald leaned forward in the carriage and furrowed his brow.

“It seems as though we can rely on our Conservative members easily. I do have concerns about your Bleus however.”

“They can be kept on side, provided the crisis continues. The mutual fear of invasion all English and French share is a powerful motivator. Should things calm down, we may be hard pressed to pass any legislation regarding the militia in the province. However, I do believe that no matter what comes they will vote as they always have.” Cartier replied.

“Reassuring, but we still have a problem from the Clear Grits. I don’t know how John S. will react to the debates He’s been quiet so far.” Cartier nodded knowingly. The leader of the Clear Grit faction in Canada West, John Sandfield Macdonald was the current head of the opposition in government. He had taken over from George Brown after his government had collapsed in the infamous Double Shuffle of 1858. John S’s party controlled a powerful swing vote, which in accordance with the other faction of radicals in the Assembly, the Rouges under Dorion, could easily upset any decision the alliance between Cartier’s Bleus and Macdonald’s Conservatives came to.

“Thus far John. S seems to be more concerned over cost rather than the bill itself. If the crisis continues, I think he can be persuaded to keep his Grits on side.” Macdonald said sagely.

“I sincerely doubt Dorion can be persuaded to side with any legislation which even smells like military action.” Cartier said.

“Bah, what does Dorion ever do but complain? He doesn’t even hold a cabinet position, while I now hold the dubious honor of being the only triple minister in the Province! I’m still the Premier and Attorney General, and now I’ve stepped into the post of Minister of Militia to try and bring some consensus in the Assembly on the matter of defence!”

“What about Dorion’s accusation that your creation of the Minister of Militia position is all an excuse to stomp around the Assembly dressed up in a red coat and gold braid?” Cartier asked. Macdonald snorted.

“I could hardly manage the dignity of one of the Queen’s officers. Can you imagine that? Me in a uniform? It would be like a sow in a ball gown!” He and Cartier both burst into laughter at the ludicrous mental image. Macdonald took a more serious tone soon afterward.

“Irregardless of the insane accusations of a few radicals, we still have an uphill battle in the Assembly over militia spending. However, some spending will have to be done whether the Assembly wants to or not. Already we have volunteers drilling from Chateuguay to Windsor. London wants us to take on more of the burden for defence.”

“It hardly seems just for the government in London to demand us to burden ourselves with the cost of defence when we have no part in the quarrel between London and Washington.” Cartier grumbled.

“Ah but now we do play a part in it Cartier.” Macdonald said with a sour grin. “Thanks to that disgraceful excuse of a judge we can now be held responsible for the raids carried out by those Huns from the South. London had no part in it, we were the primary decision makers.”

“Not by our own volition.” Cartier said.

“Do you imagine the papers in New York and Philadelphia will see it that way? They already claim we hate them and support the South by inaction. What more proof do they need now? With the arch-annexationist Seward as the Secretary of State do you think they could see this as anything but a perfect chance to recoup their inevitable losses by turning their armies north?”

Cartier and Macdonald sat in silence as each mulled the idea over. The fear was not new to either of them, and each dreaded the thought of the absorption of the Province of Canada into the United States. They both had separate reasons but they were united, like so many Canadians, in that fear.

“For now though, we can only attempt to move the Assembly to action. In the meantime, I need support in actually planning how we can defend the Province should the worst come to pass.”

“So you want a staff?” Cartier asked.

“Perhaps we should think of it as more of a committee.” MacDonald said. “Little need yet to get Dorion totally up in arms. Besides, even the look of doing something will go a ways towards assuaging the politicians in London.”

“It is a thought.” Cartier said. “I certainly have a few men who could be relied upon to make a good contribution to any such effort.”

“I have a few in mind myself. We can compare notes tomorrow and consider appointments soon.”

The carriage trundled to a halt as the driver called out “Whoa!” and the passengers were jostled to a stop. Cartier grabbed his briefcase and stood up.

“More to be considered tomorrow.” Cartier said. “Good night John, get some sleep tonight. I think you’ll need all your strength in the weeks to come.”

The White House, Washington, the District of Columbia, December 1861

The fire was burning bright despite the hour being well past one in the morning. The various cabinet members were all looking drawn after yet another late night meeting regarding the ongoing events both at home and overseas. The United States Secretary of State William Seward stifled a yawn as he reached over and tapped yet more ash into a bowl which was nearly overflowing with the remains of the innumerable cigars he had already smoked that day. It was, he reflected, not a spectacularly good meeting.

The entire cabinet was present. Seated across from him was the Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase, the hard core abolitionist and beleaguered financer of the war. Next to Chase was seated the controversial Secretary of War Simon Cameron, the powerful Pennsylvanian was only in his position thanks to his influence of that state and Seward personally disliked the man. Next to Cameron was the Attorney General Edward Bates, Lincoln’s former rival in the presidential campaign. Directly beside Seward was the Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, scion of the politically powerful Blair family. Next to him sat the Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, the much suffering and greatly experienced political leader of the Union Navy. Then there was Secretary of the Interior Caleb Blood Smith, a personal favorite of Seward, while many accused him of simply being a place holder in Cabinet but Seward knew he could count on his political support. Finally there was the one damper on the whole meeting. Seward stole a glance down the table at his long-time rival, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Charles Sumner.

Sumner, thanks to his contacts in Europe, and most importantly his well-established pro-Northern contacts in Britain, had managed to worm his way into the President’s good graces and the highest meetings of the cabinet. He sat at the end of the table looking just as tired as the other men in the room, but Seward could just detect the triumphant glow that he had whenever he cast a sideways glance at him. Not for the first time Seward groused internally about too many Secretaries of State in the capital.

Lincoln himself was at the head of the table looking haggard and care worn. His eyes were nearly hidden by deep bags, and he seemed scarecrow thin in his clothes that were ruffled as though he had slept in them. Nearby his secretaries, Nicolay and Hay recorded the evening’s minutes. Chase was continuing on his report about the financing of the war.

“The financial news from Europe is not cause for celebration. My agents confirm the banking houses there will not broker any loans to us. Not a dozen battles lost could have damaged our cause as greatly the current unpleasantness between ourselves and England.” Chase said ruefully “The Rothschild and Baring banking houses cannot be approached, and I hear even now that they are moving their assets from New York overseas. Our own banks are suffering as nervous investors are buying up everything from gold to saltpeter. I fear we shall soon have little specie at hand.”

“News from Europe is little improved on the diplomatic front I fear.” Seward said grumpily producing a pair of notes from his pocket. “The messages from Europe are resoundingly against us ‘According to the notions of international law adopted by all the Powers, and which the American government itself has often taken as the rule of its conduct, England could not by any means refrain in the present case from making a representation against the attack made on its flag, and from demanding a just reparation for it.’this from Berlin. ‘Although at present it is England only which is immediately concerned in the matter, yet, on the other hand, it is one of the most important and universally recognized rights of the neutral flag which is called into question we should find ourselves constrained to see in it not an isolated fact, but a public menace offered to the existing rights of all neutrals.’from Saint Petersburg.” Seward paused allowing his point to sink in. “It seems even the powers friendly to us disagree with the events in the Bahama Channel.”

“I fear then that the traitors will prove to be white elephants.” Lincoln said stirring from his attentive position to come into the conversation. “We cannot in good faith keep them at Fort Warren. It is perhaps best that we send them on their way, they will cause more damage here than I imagine they may be capable of causing in Europe.”

“This still has no bearing on the events off St. Thomas with the Dacotah.” Sumner said. There was a round of grumbles from the seated cabinet members.

“The public knows the truth of it and so must the world.” Welles said hotly “With the simply outrageous behavior of the British over those bandits from Canada I’m sure all can agree the British deserve what has taken place.”

“I have spoken to the Minister from France, Mr. Mercier, and he has made it quite clear that France’s position lays entirely with sympathy for Britain. Dayton has heard it from the French foreign minister himself, France may remain neutral, but it would be a benevolent neutrality in favor of Britain.” Seward replied.

“I have heard from my friend in London, Mr. Cobden.” Sumner pulled a note of his own from a pocket. “He writes to me saying ‘I am sure that your government means no offense towards the flag of Her Majesties Government, and we must deeply regret the events off St. Thomas, I believe our two nations may surely find peace.’ Not all Britain wishes for war.”

“There will be no war,” Lincoln replied “unless Britain is bent on having one.”

“But they will surely demand reparation.” Chase said.

“Reparation?” Welles demanded angrily. “Reparation be ****ed!”

Seward sighed internally. The polarization in the cabinet over the issue was becoming intolerable. As far as Seward could tell, the cabinet was split on forcing the issue with Britain like Welles, and those who wished to delay as long as possible. There was a third option, and he hated it as much as the others, but it was most likely the best. They would have to appease the British. Within reason of course, if a crisis was to be avoided it had to follow that the British should be bought off in some suitable manner.

Seward was about to speak when Lincoln interjected into what threatened to become a heated conversation.

“Gentlemen, I understand your outrage, and believe me I share in the anger at the death of brave American boys under the flag as much as anyone, but we must avoid dragging ourselves into another war. To that end we must mollify the British in some way.”

“And how do you propose to do that?” Welles said, a harshness still in his voice.

“We must release the rebels of course.”

“But that’s unthinkable!” The Secretary of the Interior burst out. “The public wouldn’t stand for it! It would be tantamount to an admission of weakness! Meekly submitting to John Bull in the face of all these outrages!”

“Now friend Smith I realize that the people will be displeased by such a gesture, but surely we can agree that with the international opinion so against us we have little to lose letting two such inconsequential gentlemen as these walk free?” There was again another round of grumbling around the table. Lincoln sighed. “Shall we put it to a vote?” He asked. The cabinet muttered its assent.

“All those in favor of releasing the commissioners immediately, please say aye.” Seward, Lincoln, and Chase affirmed. “Those against?” The remainder of the cabinet made a solid refusal.

“Well,” Lincoln said “the ayes have it.” There was laughter as each man of the cabinet vented some stress through Lincoln’s wit. He smiled with them suddenly seeming much less careworn than he had been.

“If you so wish it sir, the Cabinet will follow your decision.” Sumner said (presumptuously in Seward’s opinion) and there was a rumble of assent and Lincoln smiled at them.

“I merely think we must stand by American principles. We went to war with Britain in 1812 over this very thing, and it would be the height of hypocrisy now for us to claim the very right John Bull so bedevilled our forefathers with.”

“Quite right sir.” Blair said.

“Good. Seward, if you could be so kind as to begin formulating a note we could pass on to the government in London. I would also appreciate it if we could begin massaging the public to accept that this act will have to be undertaken.”

“I’ll see to it at once sir.” Seward said.

“Excellent. Now perhaps we can continue on to a less controversial item of conversation?”


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 4: Family Honor
Fulford homestead, Brockville, Canada West, December 9th 1861

The December snows had not come hard yet, but Hiram Fulford still trudged through the muddy path leading up to his home as though he had two feet of snow ahead of him. It had been a warm day and the ice had melted slightly, allowing the ground to suck at his boots. It was now he was glad for the newly issued boots passed out when the train had arrived in Brockville from Quebec to arm the Brockville Rifle Company. He even had a new uniform to wear with it instead of his old moth eaten red jacket that must have sat in the stores at Fort Wellington since 1812. His wife had said he cut a dashing figure in the uniform, but he still scraped his boots on the door siding, he’d get a broom to the back if he tracked dirt through the house.

The farm was a small well to do establishment, with a great barn off to one side sheltering a few cows and pigs alongside the family plough horse. A few chickens pecked around at the dirt near the barn looking for scattered seed, and he heard the clucking of the rooster off near the rear of the barn. His horse whickered at him from across the garden where it was stabled, and he smiled as he saw his little home for the first time in weeks. It didn’t look like much under the slate gray sky, but the long wooden cabin with an old addition had sat there for nearly one hundred years and he expected it to stand for another hundred more.

He stepped through the door and felt an immediate change from the weather outside. The fire in the hearth was roaring and he could smell a stew cooking in the pot. His three eldest daughters looked up from where they were mending clothes, and his second youngest son was fixing a pair of boots by the fire. Suddenly a tiny form rocketed toward him and latched onto his leg.

“Da! You're back!” ten year old George said burying his face in his father’s uniform trousers. The girls began to get up and greet him excitedly and his son stood up with a profound look of relief. His wife, Martha, looked up last with a smile on her face. She was trimming candles at the table and she put her tools down and walked over and pecked her husband on the cheek.

“Welcome home my dear.” She said affectionately grabbing his arm. Hiram smiled and kissed her back, he heard his daughters giggle but brushed it aside. It might be one of the last times he saw her.

“Only for a little while I’m afraid.” Hiram said ruffling George’s hair. “Could only convince the sergeant to let me come back for one day to drop off some money and collect some things. They’re not exactly overflowing with equipment in Brockville so I came to get Father’s old canteen and my own for William.”

“Where exactly is William?” Martha asked looking slightly worried.

“Out feeding some scraps to the pigs. He’ll be inside in a moment.”

“Good!” Martha said beaming “I’ve made stew for lunch with some smoked pork so we’ll fatten you up before the army takes you away from me, for now at least.” There was a slight strain in her voice as she said it, but she hid it well Hiram thought.

At that moment the door opened again and his eldest son, twenty-one year old William, strode in the door. His sisters eyes went wide and his brother seemed to openly gape. Young George let out a cry of delight. William did cut a dashing appearance in his uniform, he had made girls swoon before with his broad shoulders and quick wit but now with the sharp red uniform and the ghost of a moustache on his lips and his dark hair framed by a service cap he seemed the picture of military discipline. God willing he lets the **** thing get dirty if his life is on the line, the elder Fulford thought with mild exasperation as he recounted in his head the supreme care his son had taken in keeping the uniform clean. The sharp words of the company sergeant had helped though.

William stood erect grinning like a conquering hero for a moment, before a purely boyish grin cut through his military demeanor and he exclaimed.

“Hello ma! Is that lunch I smell?”

His sisters and brothers all laughed and Hiram himself grinned. Martha shook her head and walked over and took him by the arm while congratulating him on how wonderful his uniform looked. She also called for their daughter Dorothy to stir the stew pot. The whole family seated themselves now and the children set the table while Hiram and Martha discussed how the farm would be cared for while he was gone.

“And you must be sure to keep my brother Bill informed about the goings on here. He’ll look after you in case anything goes wrong. We’ve always looked out for each other Bill and I, so he will be sure to keep an eye on you. Especially little George here.” Hiram said affectionately reaching over to tickle his son as he ladled stew into a bowl. The younger laughed and the two brothers grinned and reached over to join in as they sat down for lunch. Martha sliced bread for them all and placed a plate of butter beside them on the table.

They all ate happily for a few minutes. Until George spoke up.

"Why is everyone off drilling?" George said tasting the unfamiliar word on his lips.

"In case we have to fight the Americans son." Hiram said around a mouthful of stew.

True, there wasn't a war on, but that hadn't stopped the many existing militia companies from turning out to drill at the news of the Border raids and the Trent incident. Though the Provincial Government had called out the embodied militia at the end of October most men weren't under arms officially. That wouldn't stop anyone from doing their part or preparing, especially not in the heart of Loyalist country around Kingston and on the river.

“Da, why do you have to go fight the Americans?”

“Well George, it’s because they insulted the honor of the Queen.” Hiram said through a mouthful of beef, no reason not to eat and talk. George thought about that for a moment.

“But why do you have to save her honor?” He asked again.

“The Queen is our sovereign and she rules over us. By insulting the Queen they make us look silly and you don’t like being made to look silly do you?”

“No.” George said wrinkling his nose. He was quiet for a few more minutes then asked another question.

“How come they are coming to fight us if they just insulted the Queen?”

“George would you shut up and eat lunch.” William said with exasperation.

“William! Mind your manners!” Martha scolded.

“It’s ok son, asking questions is how you learn. George, the Americans have killed British subjects on the sea, now they attack British ships as well. They want a war, a politician named William Seward has been saying for years how Canada should become part of the United States. Now it looks as though he means to do it by force, conquer us against our will.”

“Why would he want to do that?” George asked.

“Because that’s what nations do sometimes George, they fight each other because they want more land. Like when the Hendersons and the McCleans argued over who that field belonged to.”

“But why can’t the Americans and the British settle their differences like the neighbors did?”

“There’s no court that a country can appeal to son.” Martha said gently “Sometimes things get violent. Like when you and your brother fight.”

“We do not!” George exclaimed defensively.

“Says you.” His elder brother said peevishly. George stuck out his tongue and his sisters laughed. Martha scolded each of them in turn and the giggling subsided as they tucked into their food again. Laughing continued for a few minutes before his middle son, Alfred, spoke up.

“So this is like when grandpa fought the Americans in 1812?” He asked.

“Much like it.” Hiram said taking another piece of bread and smothering it with butter. “And my grandpa before him. He fought the Americans all the way back in 1777 as a Loyalist to the Crown. After the war they chased him from his land so the Crown gave him land here. Then in 1812 the Americans came north again and tried to take our land from us. It looks like they mean to do so again, and that is why your brother and I are off to join the militia.”

“So we can drive the Americans south with their tails between their legs!” George exclaimed triumphantly stabbing his meat with a knife for emphasis.

“Don’t get too excited for war George. Your grandpa never spoke of it to me when he was still alive, and my grandpa rarely spoke of it at all, save one story about gutting a rebel at Assunpink.”

“Hiram! Don’t say such things in front of the children!” Martha cried giving him a stern scolding for his outburst.

“I won’t say much more dear, but war is coming. The little ones should know it may not be pretty.”

She scolded him with a look which suggested they would speak more on it later and they continued their meal. As they did George reflected on how happy his family looked around the table, he wished he could stay and just be with them, but he could never look his friends who went and fought in the eye afterwards, especially not with the legacy of his grandfather to uphold, it would stain the family honor.

He looked to little George again and gave a very fond smile at the boy. If only we all had a child’s innocence, he thought, we could save the world a great deal of conflict.


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 5: A Stormy Sea Pt. 1

“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” Ecclesiastes 7 verse 9.

“While the British Cabinet was still debating an adequate response to the events of the Trent, news of the Dacotah-Terror incident reached London on December 5th. This further muddied the waters of Britain’s response to the incident. Palmerston became increasingly convinced that the North meant to distract themselves from defeats in the South by provoking Britain writing that “Every report, public, official, and private that comes to us from the Northern States of America tends to show that our relations with the Washington government are on the most precarious footing and that Seward and Lincoln may at any time and on any pretense come to a rupture with us.” Further adding “There can be no doubt that their policy is to heap indignities on us, and they are encouraged to do so by what they imagine to be the defenceless state of our North American Provinces.

The Cabinet was coming around to Palmerston’s view, and in fact many felt that they had no choice to press forward for a harsh response, especially since to lose the North American colonies would cause a staggering loss of face. It was seen as imperative to fight as “England would not be great, successful, courageous England if she did not”. Clarendon wrote as the crisis deepened that “What a figure we shall cut in the eyes of the world if we tamely submit to these outrages when all mankind will know that we should unhesitatingly have poured our indignation and our broadsides into any weak nation and what an additional proof it will be of the universal belief that we have two sets of weights and measures to be used according to the power or weakness of our adversary. I have a horror of war and of all wars one with the U.S. because none would be so prejudicial to our interests, but peace like other good things may be bought too dearly and it never can be worth the price of national honor.

Newcastle in 1860 had discussed such an event with Seward during the Prince of Wales trip to North America. When Seward had expressed disbelief that Britain might ever dare go to war over the North American colonies Newcastle answered simply. “Do not remain under such an error. There is no people under Heaven from whom we should endure so much as from yours, to whom we should make such concessions…But once touch us on our honour and you will soon find the bricks of New York and Boston falling about your heads.” The proclamation would prove itself startlingly prophetic.

News of the two incidents having arrived so close together, the Cabinet had not dispersed before the coming of December, and instead was still gathered in London where it stepped up its emergency meetings to make preparations for a conflict that all expected would come. Its first priority had been to ban the sales of arms and ammunition to the North on December 3rd, as Lord Stanley the Postmaster General wrote “If we are to be at war it is as well not to let them have improved rifles to shoot us with.” On the 7th a special war committee had convened, its members were Palmerston, Somerset, Lewis, Newcastle, Lord Granville, lord president of the council, and the Duke of Cambridge. Orders went out that the forces placed on standby were to be dispatched to North American immediately; while the divisions at Aldershot and Shorncliffe were to be brought up to full strength and the steam reserve was opened (and when one considers that this was before the adoption of a general staff, that there was no intelligence department, and no regular procedure for cooperation between the service departments these quick decisions are no mean feat)[1].

In the meantime, a political response was to be considered. Though the details of the events transpiring between the Dacotah and Terror remained unclear (Hutton’s full report would not arrive until a week later) it was clear that some kind of action would need to be taken.

The Law Officers of the Crown had written a memorandum advising the Cabinet on the opinion of Maritime Law which stated that Wilkes would be within his rights to search the vessel or to carry it off to be adjudicated in an admiralty court, but he would have no right to simply search the vessel and carry off any of the passengers as prisoners. The death of Captain Williams merely added to the outrage of the event. The incident between two warships however, seemed more readily clear cut, and with the arrival of Hutton’s report there is a general agreement that stern diplomatic measures must be taken, while military preparations were stepped up.

First however, they must wait for word from Washington…”Empire and Blood: British Military Operations in the 19th Century Volume IV.

Contemporary illustration of the Trent Affair

“The decision on how to respond to the Dacotah-Terror incident was one which did not come easily to the Lincoln administration. Public outrage over the death of American sailors was acute with anti-British riots breaking out in Boston and New York over the news. The British consul in Boston was forced to seek refuge in a police station which the mob repeatedly attempted to enter, and it wasn’t until the next morning that he could return home, under police escort.

The Cabinet itself was torn on their response. Welles as the Secretary of the Navy was particularly infuriated over the damage inflicted upon an American warship and he was adamant that Britain be called into account for her actions. Cameron, as Secretary of War, largely sided with Welles on the matter. However, neither was willing to promote the belief that there would be war. The remainder of the Cabinet was equally opposed to the idea of war. Few in fact believed it was possible at first. The only dissenting opinion remaining was Seward.

He was however, checked by his rival Charles Sumner, Chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sumner, a lawyer by trade, had been born in Boston to a poor family but had rapidly worked his way up in the world with a combination of skill and cunning intellect. He had travelled Europe in the 1830s and returned in 1840 to practice law and lecture at Harvard. An avowed abolitionist since his youth he spoke out against slavery with increasing bombast, opposing the Mexican War on those grounds and had only hardened in his outspoken views on the slave states of the South. In his antebellum career he denounced the Slave Power of the South and spoke openly of the Crime Against Kansas in powerful speeches. This earned him the ire of many powerful Southern politicians, especially in South Carolina. This resulted in the infamous attack on the Senate floor where he was beaten into unconsciousness by South Carolina representative Preston Brooks. The event in itself was polarizing across the nation, but for Sumner it merely entrenched his radical views and he returned to the Senate in 1859 a staunch member of the Radical wing of the new Republican Party.

Sumner and Seward had long been rivals, and this rivalry was a source of extreme friction between the Secretary of State and the Foreign Relations Committee Chairman. Lincoln for his part had taken Sumner into his confidence, putting much trust in Sumner’s position as with his connections in British society abroad. Seward wished to pursue a policy of immediate appeasement to give “every satisfaction consistent with honor and justice” to prevent an escalation. Sumner advised Lincoln to adopt a policy of wait and see. He firmly believed that they should give time for tempers to cool on both sides of the Atlantic, and urged Lincoln to adopt a course which could satisfy honor on both sides. He was quick to blame Seward for any ill feeling between Britain saying “The special cause of the English feeling is aggravated by the idea on their part that Seward wishes war” which in light of many of Seward’s previous displays of bellicosity struck Lincoln as a reasonable source of tension. In such a fashion Sumner was able to maneuver his way into Lincoln’s trust on the issue and become his main advisor during the crisis.

Lincoln was hopeful that Sumner’s approach would sweep the whole affair under the rug. He was eager for some sort of reconciliation with Britain, but he would not sacrifice national honor to get it. Together he and Sumner composed a note to the British cabinet informing them that the action undertaken by Wilkes and McKinstry were not sanctioned by the government. It was hoped that this letter would calm the feelings of the British.

The arrival of despatches and papers from Britain on the 13th of December seemed to give lie to the idea that any sort of decent compromise could be had. News of the outrage in Britain itself simply fueled the fires in the American press over the matter. Lincoln’s refusal to publicly comment on the crisis had not prevented many editors from doing so themselves. As the Sunday Transcript in Philadelphia declared “In a word, while the British government have been playing the villain, we have been playing the fool. Let her now do something beyond drivelling – let her fight! We have met Britannia on the field and have brought low the best of British troops, and even humbled that mighty armada of the Royal Navy. Let Britain now – if she has a particle of pluck, if she is not as cowardly as she is treacherous – she will again meet the American people on land and sea as they long to meet her once again, not only to lower the red banner of St. George but to consolidate Canada with the Union.” In fact the American minister to Russia, Cassius Clay, may have accurately captured the feeling of many Americans at the time when he wrote “They hope for our ruin! They are jealous of our power. They care neither for the South nor the North. They hate both.

These cries were taken up in papers all throughout New England and the Mid-West, with the New York Herald being perhaps the loudest in its sentiments for expressing war. The public opinion was sliding slowly towards confrontation…” Snakes and Ladders: The Lincoln Administration and America’s Darkest Hour, Hillary Saunders, Scattershot Publishing, 2003

Charles Sumner, Seward's earnest rival.

“Lincoln’s message to the Cabinet was received in London on the 19th. The Cabinet’s reaction was less than pleased by the contents of the letter. Their interpretation of the increasingly hostile articles appearing in American newspapers was that Lincoln could not be counted upon to reign in his own officers or citizens from potential reprisals against British citizens.

In response a memorandum was debated to properly address the British governments concerns. After a week of deliberations they decided on what would become known as the December Ultimatum. The document had four points:

1) The immediate release of the Confederate commissioners
2) The dismissal of both Captain Wilkes and Captain McInstry from naval service
3) The issuing of a formal and public apology on the part of the United States government for the actions undertaken by members of its Navy
4) The United States would pay for the damages to HMS Terror and would provide financial restitution for the damages done aboard RMS Trent. The amount to be paid would be determined solely by Her Majesties Government

The Cabinet felt these demands to be reasonable, and Queen Victoria was in agreement. How much attention the Queen paid to the points of the ultimatum is not known. What is known is that Victoria was deep in mourning at this point and had been shut away in Windsor Palace for over a month having little to do with the running of government. Some speculate that had Albert still been alive the Royal Couple may have done more to soften the letter of the British response, but with the nature of the provocations and misunderstandings having taken place over October and November this is of course, up for debate.

The Cabinet agreed that the rejection of this document would lead to an immediate suspension of diplomatic relations between the two nations, and in effect, war. The message was dispatched on the 27th of December with enclosed orders for Lord Lyons of the British legation.
Britannia awaited an answer…”Empire and Blood: British Military Operations in the 19th Century Volume IV.

Britain awaits an answer, Puck December 1861

[1] Here I’m paraphrasing Kenneth J. Bourne. I got these details from an excellent article he did on the subject. It seems that the British had made rather serious preparations for a potential conflict in this area.


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 6: A Stormy Sea Pt. 2
“Lay not the blame on me, O sailor, but on the winds. By nature I am as calm and safe as the land itself, but the winds fall upon me with their gusts and gales, and lash me into a fury that is not natural to me.” ― Aesop

“The diplomatic notes from London arrived in the legation at Washington on the 9th of January. Lyons received them with some distress, but made an immediate appointment to see Seward. Lyons was well known for his pro-Northern sympathies, but he had been alienated in much of Washington society due to his eccentricities, and his distrust of the Northern Secretary of State, who had on multiple occasions made overtly hostile pronunciations against Great Britain and her colonies…

…Seward, well aware of the crisis brewing, cancelled all appointments for the day and accepted Lyons at his home in Washington. Upon the exchanging of pleasantries Lyons immediately delved into the topic at hand. He thanked Seward for the Americans prompt release of the commissioners and said it had gone some way to helping the American case. He stressed however that there was still considerable discontent within Britain over the American actions. Seward countered that Britain had inflamed American passions to such an extent as they had not been since 1812 and that he would be disappointed if Britain chose to involve itself in an internal affair of the United States. Lyons stressed that the British still did not recognize the Confederacy, and he was privy to no plans for such recognition on the part of his government. He informed Seward that Britain would fight to uphold her honor, and her rights at sea. Both men agreed that war was a result which was best to be avoided.

Soon they broached the subject of the British diplomatic response. Lyons did not inform him of the exact nature of the ultimatum but confirmed there were four points Britain expected to be followed, and informed Seward that these were the only terms London would offer on the crisis. Seward attempted to tease out the exact nature of some of the demands, and Lyons did confirm that a public apology was one of them. The two men talked past one another for another hour but found it impossible for reasons of decorum and protocol to continue speaking about the ultimatum. Lyons also informed Seward of the time limit his government had set upon the matter. They did eventually agree that it would be delivered officially in three days’ time to Lincolns cabinet. Lyons encouraged Seward to have his government see reason as; “War again between our nations would likely be the greatest and chiefest calamity of our time.” Seward adamantly agreed, knowing full well the consequences for the struggle to maintain the Union such a war would entail. The two left on agreeable terms, but each dreaded the outcome of the next round of deliberations in the White House.” Abraham’s Right Hand, Alan Ashford, University of Kentucky, 2012

William Seward, the would be peacemaker.

“Though Lincoln and his cabinet had debated the possible demands, and the potential ramifications of the British ultimatum for three days its contents were still something of a shock when delivered on the 14th of January. With the seven day time limit imposed on the British in mind his cabinet set to immediately debating it. Not surprisingly they were chagrined at each point of the ultimatum. While some was reasonable for America to follow, all put together it amounted to America groveling in the court of international opinion and begging Britain’s forgiveness. Such demands could of course, not be accepted. The government in London’s rigid stance on the matter further complicated any response that Lincoln’s government might give.

The first point had already been adhered to and so it was a non-issue.

The second point however, was seen as purely insulting. The idea that Britain could compel the government of the United States to dismiss members of its navy was totally absurd to Lincoln’s government. Welles would sum up the discontent at this point by saying “I am not aware by what right Britain claims to have a say in the selection of captains in the United States Navy.” and Lincoln did not even bother to argue that it would be dismissed out of hand.

The third point was less contentious. While none in the cabinet (save the now much angered Welles) were prepared to argue against some kind of statement disavowing Wilkes actions, the idea of apologizing for the events of the Dacotah-Terror incident was galling. The Union could not possibly be expected to apologize for events which were largely perceived as being the fault of the British navy! As such it was seen that no kind of apology could be made for the events off St. Thomas. Lincoln however, felt it would be advisable that some ‘humanitarian sentiment’ be issued in the official reply regretting both the death of Captain Williams on the Trent, and the casualties caused in the engagement between the two warships while leaving out any mention of guilt or fault by either side.

Finally, the fourth point would need to be addressed. While the cabinet was not adverse to making some kind of monetary recompense for Captain Williams, there was no intention to make any sort of reparation for the damages done to the Terror. Even the suggestion that Britain be allowed to name the price of reparation was seen as unacceptable by some. Lincoln did not find this so, but agreed to all that any price set by Britain for the damage to her warships after it had fired upon an American warship would be too high. Chase made the major point though that, that very event might prevent the public from accepting any kind of reparation to the British whatsoever.

This was true. The release of the commissioners had not been popular, and it had caused an uproar in both Congress and the Senate. Senator John Hale of New Hampshire bitterly criticizing the decision stating that “..surrender on this front is mere precursory posturing prior to surrendering on others. Such embarrassment would reduce us to the position of a second rate Power, and make us the vassals of Great Britain.” Indeed many in Congress were rankled at not even being informed on Lincoln’s decision. Lincoln though, was ill concerned. If the price of peace was to be “a few hurt feelings” in Washington he was prepared to accept that.

What he was unwilling to accept was the terms London had presented. He at once turned to Sumner in order to tease out what the British were thinking. As it happened, Sumner’s own rosy reading of the situation in Britain had been in error. Whether this was purely in spite of Seward’s views or his own sincere belief that Britain would not press for war is up for debate, but nevertheless he soon found himself out maneuvered by Seward who stepped neatly into the gap left by Sumner sudden fall from favor. Lincoln was now looking for a way out of a potentially explosive situation.

Seward met once more with Lyons during the seven days of debate over the British ultimatum. He wished to inquire over whether there could be any sort of leeway between the stated demands from London and a counter proposal from Washington. Lyons informed him he had strict orders from his government to accept only an unequivocal response to the demands.

By this time Lincoln and the cabinet had come to rationalize that there was only one response which might be rendered to avoid humiliation and dishonor. Seward at first proposed the option of international arbitration to the cabinet, but it has been suggested that Lincoln first proposed this idea to Seward, an interpretation backed up in Lincoln’s later memoirs and Franklin Seward’s memory of conversations with his father on the subject. This all perhaps in an attempt to ease Seward back into a dominant position in the cabinet.

In any case the suggestion was warmly received by the cabinet and it was seen as the most face saving way to answer Britain’s ultimatum. Though there was debate over sending a recommendation of pre-approved nations to arbitrate such debates this was ruled out in favor of granting Britain some leeway in opening new negotiations.

This being the official decision of the cabinet Seward composed the note which would be delivered to the British legation, which he would personally present on the 21st of January…” Snakes and Ladders: The Lincoln Administration and America’s Darkest Hour, Hillary Saunders, Scattershot Publishing, 2003

Richard Lyons, Her Majesties Unfortunate Ambassador

“When Seward presented himself to the British Legation early on the 21st Lyons was anxious about the possible reply. He had slept little the night before and had wearily accepted the Secretary of State who seemed to be propelled only by his own nervous energy throughout the exchange.

Lyons asked whether the cabinet had accepted London’s demands. Seward informed him that they had not, but were prepared to offer a counter proposal. This left Lyons in a quandary, he was told to accept nothing but either an affirmative or a negative answer from Washington. Seward’s offered counter proposal left room for a peace which he personally desired. However, his instructions were clear and he informed the American Secretary of State that he would be pleased to inform his government of the proposal, but he would have no choice but to comply with the instructions given to him by London and close the legation. Seward was miffed at the implications and informed him that this would be the best offer from Washington. Lyons accepted this with a heavy heart and sadly told Seward “Of course, it is superfluous for me to point out that this means war.

He would then transmit the response from Washington to his superiors in London via courier.

He and his staff evacuated the British Legation in Washington on the 28th of January, preparing to depart on a British ship to Canada from Baltimore. Before departing Washington however, Lyons transmitted a fateful telegram to Halifax. It was to inform Vice Admiral Milne of the closure of the Legation. However, it also contained the request “Could you forward a letter for me to Antigua?” though at first glance a seemingly innocuous request, it was in fact the signal for plans laid long in advance…” Her Majesties Ambassador: The Life of Richard Lyons, Sir Joshua Pembrook, Oxford Publishing, 1962


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 7: Marching as to War Pt. 1

“The British will change the whole course of the war; they will destroy seriatim every naval vessel; they will lay all the cities on the seaboard under contribution… I will notify the governors and municipal authorities in the North to take instant measures to protect their harbors. I have no doubt that the enemy are at this minute on their way to Washington, and it is not unlikely that we shall have a shell or a cannon ball from one of their guns in the White House before we leave the room.” – Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in a cabinet meeting January 1862[1]

“With the departure of Lyons and the British delegation from Washington most were resigned to the idea that a violent rupture in relations was in the near future. Though some in the cabinet (notably Chase) felt that perhaps Lincoln’s proposal of mediation might be accepted Lincoln himself addressed the cabinet upon hearing the news that “We must now act as though war with Britain were inevitable” and in his characteristic manner set about preparing the cabinet and the nation for just such an eventuality.

The greatest problem facing Lincoln and his government at this juncture was that they had neither expected, nor prepared for war with Britain. All the nations resources had been mobilized for a fight in the South and as Winfield Scott would memorably say “our armies were facing the wrong way”. However, what it lacked in preparation it did make up for in experience. All but one of the eight army bureau heads had fought in the war of 1812 and many senior officers of the navy had seen action in that conflict. As such there was an institutional memory of that conflict throughout the military departments. They had a further boon of having observed both sides of the Crimean War via a military mission consisting of George B. McClellan current General in Chief at the outbreak of hostilities, Richard Delafield, then chief of the New York harbor defences, and Alfred Mordecai who had not yet re-enlisted[2].

One of the first priorities of the Lincoln administration upon the departure of the British legation was to ‘clean house’ in both the cabinet and the major departments commanding the war. One of the first casualties of this sweep was the incumbent Secretary of War, Simon Cameron.

Cameron had been selected to the cabinet for political rather than professional reasons. Though he had made a fortune in business he proved increasingly unable to keep up with the rigorous demands of his office. Having disdained the use of a secretary he increasingly seemed to run the War Department out of his pockets. When asked where he kept his files he replied “Here under my hat.” With the prospect of the war expanding he became increasingly tense and irritable in cabinet meetings and proved highly disorganized and the department increasingly became reviled as a ‘lunatic asylum’. John Nicolay would record the he was "Selfish and openly discourteous to the President. Obnoxious to the country. Incapable either of organizing details conceiving and executing general plans." To add to these difficulties allegations of corruption had dogged him ever since he had taken his position in the cabinet. Though it had been said he would not steal a red hot stove, rumors of mismanaged funds, preferable contracts to friends, and shortchanging the armed forces lead to calls for his dismissal.

Lincoln was loyal to his friend, but as the crisis winter deepened, he was forced to realize that Cameron’s faults far outweighed any potential political benefits he might have brought. The final straw had come when Cameron endorsed a measure which would call for the seizure of slaves from confirmed rebels. Still attempting to maintain the delicate balance between his moderate rand abolitionist supporters, a member of his Cabinet could not be allowed to speak out against his stated policy. So it was on January 20th 1862 that Cameron was dismissed from his position in the cabinet.

Cameron would not be left out to dry by the administration, though suggestions that he be made Minister to Russia were swiftly squashed by the Cabinet, Lincoln did not underestimate the potential power Cameron had in his home state. Though he would have to wait for election to become state Senator, he quickly became the go-to man in Pennsylvania for the Lincoln administration.

In a final act Lincoln kept the loyalty of his former Secretary of War by making him feel instrumental in the choosing of his replacement. In time many men would take credit for the decision, Seward, Sumner, Chase, but in this masterful political maneuvering Lincoln would keep the loyalty of all in the decision making process. The overwhelming decision appointed former Attorney General, Edwin M. Stanton.

Stanton was an accomplished attorney from Ohio with a distinguished career (notably the first successful insanity defense in American history, for one Daniel Sickles). At 48 the former critic of the Lincoln administration slid surprisingly easily into his role as Secretary of War. He swiftly set a new standard for the department, dismissing men whom he thought of as incompetent and adopting a new and vastly more efficient filing system for the vast reports and figures being delivered to Washington daily. He also made a quick ally of Ohio senator Benjamin Wade, head of the Senate Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. This appointment and powerful alliance marked a turning point in the management of the vast forces which were coming under the command of the Union. Though comment was made on his often explosive temper and cantankerous attitude, Lincoln in his whimsical way would say “We may have to treat him as they are sometimes obliged to treat a Methodist minister I know of out West. He gets wrought to so high a pitch of excitement in his prayers and exhortations that they are obliged to put bricks in his pockets to keep him down. We may be obliged to serve Stanton in the same way, but I guess we'll let him jump a while first."

The Secretaries of War 1862, Cameron and Stanton
The other notable, perhaps more surprising, casualty of the reorganization of the Union’s forces, was General in Chief, George B. McClellan. The 35 year old Major General was the darling of the nation in early 1862. A West Point graduate, second of his class, in 1846 he served with distinction in the Mexican War breveted twice for bravery earning the rank of captain for his actions at Chapultepec. He went on to serve as an instructor at West Point, working on various fortifications, engineering projects and frontier service mapping a route for the transcontinental railroad. Then in 1855 thanks to his mastery of French and various connections he was sent as an observer to the Crimea Resigning from the army in 1857 he pursued various civilian careers in railroads, becoming chief engineer and vice president of the Illinois Central Railroad, and president of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad in 1860.

With the outbreak of war in 1861 he re-enlisted. With his experience in engineering and railroads and an understanding of the military sciences he was, like many engineers in the day, considered to be well qualified to command and organize troops and was commissioned a major general of volunteers in April 1861, returning fully to the regular army with the same rank and rose to command the Department of Ohio. With a keen mind for organization and logistics (and his political connections in Washington) he was soon approached by Lincoln to take command of the Union army in Virginia in the wake of the disaster at Bull Run. He accepted and was soon introducing a new sense of organization, discipline, and purpose to the Federal armies, becoming General in Chief on November 1st 1861.

However, his tenure as General in Chief was marked by increasing strain with the administration in Washington. McClellan’s own over cautious nature and his dim view of his civilian overseers in Washington caused unnecessary tension. He went so far as to snub the president himself in early November. Finally his refusal to share his war plans and strategies led to his dismissal in late January while he labored in a sick bed under typhoid fever. He would retain his position as commander of the Army of the Potomac however.

A replacement was not immediately selected however, and in his place a Board of National Defense was created on January 30th. This new body was created to prepare for a possible war with Britain, coordinating strategy between the armies in the east and the west, and conducting reviews on the Union’s naval efforts. It contained a number of notable men.

One of the first to be appointed was Richard Delafield. Delafield at 63 years old, and already serving in the Corps of Engineers, had over forty years of experience in the service come the outbreak of war, serving on numerous surveying missions, his earliest being the commission to establish the boundary under the Treaty of Ghent. He would then serve constructing various coastal defences and on topographical surveys from 1819-1855 when he would be appointed to lead the Delafield Commission to the Crimea. His own report extensively detailing the parties’ travels and the introduction of revolutionary new long guns and small arms and their effects on the conflict, also detailed the defenses built by European armies in this period and how they could be best applied to the United States.

Next appointed to the board was the 71 year old Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Commodore Joseph Smith. Smith had served with distinction in the War of 1812 on the Battle of Lake Champlain being severely wounded aboard the brig Eagle and serving in the Algerian War. He had served on various stations overseas in the Pacific and Mediterranean, when not in service in the Navy he undertook voyages in the merchant marine to the East Indies and then took his position as Bureau Chief in 1846. He had a keen mind and had served on the Ironclad Board being instrumental in the creation of the USS New Ironsides and was well versed in the management of yards so had many plans on how to put the resources of the United States to good use.

He was joined by his fellow Ironclad Board member, Lieutenant Gustavus V. Fox. The 40 year old Fox had joined the navy in 1838 as a midshipman and served in the Mexican War at the Battle of Villahermosa. He then served on various mail steamers before resigning from the navy in 1856 to pursue various industrial pursuits. With the outbreak of war in 1861 he volunteered for service, before volunteering to aid in the relief of Fort Sumter and then becoming the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. The energetic and industrious Fox, though he had little combat experience, was brimming with ideas on how to pursue the war and for new strategies and technologies with which to win the war, making him well suited for such a committee.

The next appointment did not pass without contention in the ranks of Lincoln’s cabinet. 57 year old Lorenzo Thomas had graduated the United States Military Academy in 1823, joining the 4th US Infantry. He served against the Seminoles in Florida, and served as the Chief of Staff to General William O. Butler in the Mexican War, being breveted to lieutenant colonel for his actions at the Battle of Monterrey. He remained in the army serving as chief of staff to Winfield Scott, earning his place on the board with Scott’s recommendation. He also served as adjutant general to the army. He would clash greatly with Stanton, and though he possessed a keen mind and great experience at handling the bureaucracy of war his abolitionist stance would rankle some of his other colleagues.

Finally was 63 year old John A. Dix. Dix was a career soldier and politician who had served in the War of 1812 at the age of 15 at the Battle of Niagara Falls. He served through the rest of the war to support his family, and would remain in the army until 1828 resigning with the rank of major, but would become adjutant general of the New York State Militia in 1830. He would work in law for a number of years, serving as Secretary of State for New York, and eventually becoming Senator from New York from 1845-1849. After losing his seat he would work with both his military duties and manage Mississippi and Missouri Railroad. At the outbreak of war in 1861 he was made a major general of volunteers, becoming the ranking officer amongst all volunteer officers. He served in various positions, first overseeing defensive preparations in New York, then taking over the command of Baltimore and blocking secessionist activity in that state to protect the capital. His combination of military and political experience made him invaluable to the Lincoln administration and he quickly became a favorite of Secretary of War Stanton. He would become the chairman of the board.

From left to right: Delafield, Smith, Fox, Thomas, Dix.

Understandably with the makeup of the men on it, the board’s primary recommendations at first; were largely defensive. The main suggestions were strengthening of various fortifications along the coasts and waterways of the North which, as had been pointed out in a report by the Corps of Engineers at the end of December, had either been allowed to decay or had were neglected and lacking in armaments and men to defend them. Such was the pessimism that Thomas concluded “I confess that from information derived from reliable quarters that upon the frontier there is little confidence to be had, from Sault Saint Marie, the straights of Michigan, and inclusive of the fortress at Mackinac, the Upper Lakes, the Niagara and the Saint Lawrence there is a great need for preparation, construction and repair. The arsenals have either been removed from their positions for active service at a distance, or are pronounced worthless with a few exceptions, and as for small arms I am sadly confident that fewer than 5,000 effective rifles and muskets together could be mustered along the entire frontier.” The important frontier on the Saint Lawrence was entirely lacking fortification and the Army’s Chief Engineer Joseph Totten wrote “On that portion of the northern frontier that the Saint Lawrence abounds we have never had any defenses except a small weak redoubt at the mouth of the harbor of Ogdensburg. Every town and habitation upon either shore of this river may be said to lie at all times at the mercy of the shore opposite.

The strategically important fort at Rouse Point, Fort Montgomery named in honor of the Revolutionary War hero Richard Montgomery who had brought the campaign to Quebec in 1775, built to control the Hudson River valley, was not even complete. The stone embrasures had not been fully prepared even in 1861, and there were no gun mounts on the forts walls which would mean either positions would have to be cut into the fort or placed around it, and its only defenders in January were its 400 odd builders who had hastily armed themselves with muskets and organized into an ad-hoc battalion.

It was decided that money must be put forward for the improvement and rearmament of all these important points. Delafield stressed that the fortifications protecting the major ports must be strengthened in any case, lest the South manage to construct fast raiders which could speed past the blockade fleet and bombard a harbor like New York or Boston and cause much national embarrassment.

There was major debate on what naval strategy should be adopted. Various schemes were bandied about, from attempting to lure the British inshore to be destroyed by torpedoes to the use of Burnside’s Coastal Division for an all-out attack on Bermuda to force the Royal Navy to operate between the extremes of Jamaica and Halifax. The second greatest contention was whether the blockade should be temporarily weakened in or abandoned in order to gather the majority of the nation’s naval strength at port lest war with Britain (or any other maritime power) break out over the winter. However, this suggestion was vetoed by Welles who would assure both the cabinet and the board that “The Royal Navy, is no more prepared for war with us than we are for a war with her. It took Great Britain six months to send a single soldier to the Crimea in the last war with Russia, it is unthinkable then that we should not have ample opportunity with which to remove our forces.” However, Lincoln advised that the available steamers be ordered to concentrate at Key West, Port Royal, and the Chesapeake in order to give them the strength to resist any sudden incursion by an enemy force, he countered Welles and Stanton’s resistance to the idea by pointing out that they could easily be dispersed again to their stations if nothing came of the new tensions. It was decided that the naval establishments would be put on alert, the planned expeditions would be postponed until the outcome of tensions with Britain were resolved, and that contingency measures should be made for the evacuation of the various Federal enclaves on the coasts of the South should war with Britain break out.

On land there were similar stances taken. Burnside’s division was eventually moved north to Albany where it could be used in case of a sudden assault to counter any British forces, and Butler’s Division was sent to garrison the most vulnerable of areas in the Board’s estimation, Portland, and was for the time being absorbed into Butler’s command of the Department of New England. To organize the regions facing the British on land, 60 year old Colonel Carlos A. Waite, formerly of the 1st Infantry Regiment and a veteran of the Mexican War breveted three times for bravery, was appointed to a staff position overseeing an area stretching from Michigan to Vermont in a theoretical department to be activated in case of war. Formations were earmarked for alternate service as the committee worked to reorganize the Union’s armies.

Despite the pessimistic state of the frontier and contentious naval questions, the board took active steps to remedy these problems. Heavy guns were removed from less desirable ships to be attached to landward batteries on the border and coasts, companies of state militia were called out to man older fortifications and erect temporary earthworks, blockhouses were constructed on vulnerable points along the frontier, and money was put forward by the state governments for improving local defences.

While many would hope for peace, the Union quietly prepared for a new front in the ongoing war…” To Arms!: The Great American War, Sheldon Foote, University of Boston 1999.


[1] This is homage to one of my inspirations for this work in Peter Tsouras’s work ‘Dixie Victorious’. This from the piece Hell on Earth by Andrew Uffindell. Some of the story is a bit fantastic for my taste, but it’s an interesting read nonetheless!

[2] The Delafield Commission is a bit of a mixed blessing as I hope to demonstrate.


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 8: Marching as to War Pt. 2

“In case of war with the United States, England will undoubtedly be willing to expend her last farthing and her last man in our defence. But while it is the duty of England to do so, and while we receive from her the exercise of all her power, still it is plainly and obviously our duty to provide a large and efficient force for the purpose of fighting upon our own soil, for our own possessions, for our own privileges and our own liberties.” – John A. Macdonald in a speech at the “Military Ball” in Quebec City, January 1862

“Commanding the forces in Britain’s North American possessions was Lt. General Sir William Fenwick Williams, First Baronet of Kars. He was a Nova Scotia native by birth, the son of a quartermaster general in the garrison at Halifax born in 1800. However, persistent rumours existed that he was actually the illegitimate child of Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, would continue to spring up around him throughout his life. Williams for his part made no effort to deny or hide the rumours, and if true he was actually the half-brother of the Queen. While this might explain why the son of a minor officer at a colonial garrison rose to such a prominent position in the Imperial Military hierarchy (and indeed Williams eternal silence on the matter may be telling) others offer a more practical explanation for his rise through the ranks.

Williams was described as a dutiful officer, polite, and full of spirit. He had many minor military appointments from his graduation from Woolwich Military Academy, first serving as 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery before serving in Gibraltar and Sri Lanka where he rose to the rank of brevet colonel before being appointed as the British commissioner in charge of reforming the Turkish arsenal, and worked for nine years to help define the Turkish-Persian border. When the Crimean War broke out Williams was sent to take command of Turkish forces along the northern border of the Ottoman Empire and managed to reorganize the defeated Turkish forces there before arriving at Kars in 1855. In June 1855 a Russian army of 25,000 attacked Kars but were repulsed and forced to besiege the city where they suffered heavy losses. By December however with no reinforcements coming, supplies dwindling, and with sickness setting in amongst his troops Williams negotiated a surrender which allowed his men to keep their flags and their officers their swords. Williams was lionized in the presses for this success and became “The Hero of Kars” and was heaped with praise by the governments of France and England and received a pension of £1000 a year for the rest of his life.

In 1860 he accepted the position of Commander in Chief of the British forces in North America. Upon the outbreak of war he wrote that “Our trouble begins when their war ends.” He, like most British contemporaries of the time, believed that Southern independence was going to be permanent so felt that once the war with the South was concluded they would avenge themselves of the loss of their southern territories by marching north. With that in mind he had been writing ceaselessly for reinforcements to the North American garrison and in November, with the coming of the Trent Crisis he received part of his wish. Palmerston had brow beat the cabinet into accepting that there would be trouble and so another brigade had been despatched to Canada in late November.

Despite Williams’s lionization as a national hero for his efforts at Kars, there was much apprehension about his command. The many junior officers dispatched to Canada had little enthusiasm for serving under Williams, and even some Canadians themselves were leery of his leadership abilities. Lt. Col Wolseley, then serving as Assistant Adjutant General wrote in early December “No one knows who is to have the command, but almost all are agreed in thinking that Williams is certainly to be superceded[sic].” Indeed Lord Granville at the head of the War Cabinet candidly told Cardwell that Williams’s elevation was the work of a “regular conspiracy” and felt he should be replaced. In spite of this professional and political misgiving however, the man with the final say was the Duke of Cambridge, and Cambridge by exercising his royal prerogative firmly quashed any notions that Williams ought to be replaced. Indeed it was also seen as politically impossible to do so thanks to Williams’s connections at home and through his genuine popularity in Canada. Practically, finding an officer to replace him on such short notice was almost impossible, and so the matter rested.

His counterpart in the Atlantic Command was Sir Charles Hastings Doyle, an Irish born career officer. The eldest son of Lieutenant-General Sir Charles William Doyle, he graduated from Sandhurst and entered the army as an ensign in 1819 and purchasing a captaincy in 1825. In the 1830s he served as aide-de-camp in Quebec before serving in the East and West Indies in the 1840s and in 1846 was on staff as a quarter-master general. He served at Varna in the Crimea before being invalidated in early 1855 due to illness and as such missed any major action. On October 16th 1861 he arrived in Halifax just in time for the Border Crisis to break out so he could take command of the British troops there. Doyle immediately busied himself with analysis of the defensive works and the military personnel at his disposal. Described as a “stickler for protocol” Doyle was cool under pressure and extensively skilled in working in the colonial conditions he found himself in…

Williams and Doyle
…As worries of troubles with the North spread Williams stepped up his preparations for a potential confrontation with the North. In November he had ordered blockhouses erected at vulnerable points along the border, ostensibly to watch for raiders attempting to strike south, but of course blockhouses erected on the canals and roadways would do little to deter that. When news of the Trent stoppage reached him he reacted swiftly. Embarking on a whirlwind tour of the most vulnerable points in the province he was accompanied by his aides de camp: Captain Grant of the Royal Engineers, Captain F. de Winton of the Royal Artillery, and was joined by local engineer and Inspector of Railways for the province Hamilton H. Killaly, who knew the country well. In this tour he ordered batteries thrown up and earthworks dug at St. Helen’s Island, Fort Lennox to be reoccupied, Fort Wellington strengthened, new batteries to be erected at Kingston, Hamilton, and Toronto, and Fort Malden at Amherstburg to be reoccupied.

Many of these important forts were in a state of disrepair however. Fort Lennox had for two years been serving as an école de réforme for delinquent youths and Fort Malden had been converted to a lunatic asylum in 1858. The fortifications on the Niagara frontier were in utter ruin and would require extensive repairs to even be made defensible. Though the fortifications at Prescott, Kingston, and Quebec were strong, they were all well inside the frontier.

However, even had the fortifications all been in good order he found himself wanting of men to completely defend them.

Even with the Colonial Corps of the Royal Canadian Rifles at his disposal Williams had a scant 7.000 men available to him in early 1862. Even though reinforcements had been despatched from Britain, many were still unorganized and unloading as far away as Halifax. This meant he would have to lean heavily on the militia as his first line of defence…”Canada At War 1812-1916, Paul Woods, York University, 1989


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 8: Marching as to War Pt. 2 (cont)

…As worries of troubles with the North spread Williams stepped up his preparations for a potential confrontation with the North. In November he had ordered blockhouses erected at vulnerable points along the border, ostensibly to watch for raiders attempting to strike south, but of course blockhouses erected on the canals and roadways would do little to deter that. When news of the Trent stoppage reached him he reacted swiftly. Embarking on a whirlwind tour of the most vulnerable points in the province he was accompanied by his aides de camp: Captain Grant of the Royal Engineers, Captain F. de Winton of the Royal Artillery, and was joined by local engineer and Inspector of Railways for the province Hamilton H. Killaly, who knew the country well. In this tour he ordered batteries thrown up and earthworks dug at St. Helen’s Island, Fort Lennox to be reoccupied, Fort Wellington strengthened, new batteries to be erected at Kingston, Hamilton, and Toronto, and Fort Malden at Amherstburg to be reoccupied.

Many of these important forts were in a state of disrepair however. Fort Lennox had for two years been serving as an école de réforme for delinquent youths and Fort Malden had been converted to a lunatic asylum in 1858. The fortifications on the Niagara frontier were in utter ruin and would require extensive repairs to even be made defensible. Though the fortifications at Prescott, Kingston, and Quebec were strong, they were all well inside the frontier.

However, even had the fortifications all been in good order he found himself wanting of men to completely defend them.

Even with the Colonial Corps of the Royal Canadian Rifles at his disposal Williams had a scant 7.000 men available to him in early 1862. Even though reinforcements had been despatched from Britain, many were still unorganized and unloading as far away as Halifax. This meant he would have to lean heavily on the militia as his first line of defence…”Canada At War 1812-1916, Paul Woods, York University, 1989

“The militia as an institution was one which had a long a proud tradition stretching all the way back to the French regime, but in most recent memory the War of 1812 and the Rebellions of 1838 wherein the loyal peoples of Canada had taken up arms to resist foreign invaders. In spite of this proud record, the militia had been allowed to dwindle into a mere paper force. Perhaps because of the persistence of the ‘militia myth’ which perpetuated by men like the Bishop Hugh Strachan, which believed that all that had to happen was for the men of Canada to take up their arms and the Province could be saved.

Despite various efforts at reform, and a comprehensive effort to create a system of organized volunteers in 1855 establishing an ‘Active Militia’ of A and B categories, in the fall of 1861 this was not a force to be relied on. In June the Category A militia, despite an authorized strength of 5,000, had only 4,422 actually show up for muster. When called on to patrol the border some few more men were willing to turn out to defend against raiders, bringing the number of men up to 4,573 who were largely tasked with building blockhouses and patrolling roads in between rudimentary drill.

This force was of course, inadequate for the defence of Canada.

Williams had been ruminating upon this problem ever since his arrival in Canada and so had been looking for a way to solve it. He wrote often to both the Duke of Cambridge and Newcastle imploring the Imperial Government to put some kind of pressure on the Canadians to see to their own defence. Though the defence of Canada was still the responsibility of the home government, the Imperial Government itself was caught in a classic catch of believing that to put more troops in Canada would deter the Canadians from making adequate preparations, but also believing that if they did not strengthen their garrison they would look weak to their potential rivals. Now though, they had to try and stiffen the resolve of their colonial subjects, and there was some apprehension in London over the colonists abilities.

Much of this fear was overblown, the resolve of the Canadians to remain British should not have been in doubt following the events of 1812, and in 1838. When rebellion had been in the air 33,000 men had answered the call and served alongside the British regulars in protecting Canada, with 40,000 in all serving in the militia during the crisis from 1837-1838. When the Trent and Dacotah-Terror crisis had arisen Williams had then called on the category B militia to pad out the number of men available to him, and to his surprise the full muster of 10,210 men of both corps turned up for duty. Of course such was the sudden surge in patriotic fervor that many sedentary companies spontaneously began to gather at the start of December and drill with whatever came to hand.

The sudden military fever which had grasped the Province was intense, and the people found themselves for the first time since 1855 discussing matters of military nature, the papers printing patriotic slogans with the Toronto Leader saying “There now remains scarcely a gleam of hope that peace will be preserved between England and the United States. Canada may become a battlefield and it is our duty to prepare for a contingency which seems now only too certain.” and the Globe boldly stating “Before many weeks go by, we may be called upon to defend our soil from the grasp of invading armies…It was defended before, it will be defended again. With God’s blessing we will not yield an inch of our soil to the invader.” The Montreal Gazette proclaimed “No one seems willing to be left out. The spirit of the people is fairly aroused, and ere the month of February we shall have nigh, if not quite, the 100,000 enrolled who the Times has called for. Meanwhile Generals January and February will fight for us against an invading army.” Even the normally radical leaning Le Pays stated that with the question of war: “In that case what ought the population of this country to do? To this question there can be but one answer: ‘March to the defence of our territory, provided we are furnished with arms, and our experienced militia be sustained by a regular army.’ There is no reason to fear that, in these respects, England will make default.

In order to further encourage this sentiment Williams, with the assistance of the Provincial Government issued General Militia Order No. 1 on December 12th 1862. The order required a company of 75 privates to form from each battalion of the sedentary militia, and only those who volunteered were to be accepted. The order was hoped to bring in some 38,000 men for service. On the 14th Macdonald appointed himself the minister of militia in order to facilitate a position which could cooperate with Williams and Monck in planning the defense of Canada.

On the 19th of December he began casting about for men who could aid him in the planning of the organization of the Canadian militia. His first choices were political; Cartier and Galt were obvious as the Deputy Premier and the Minister of Finance respectively. Next were George Taché and Alan MacNab, both long veterans of militia service and who had seen action against the rebels in 1837-8 and in Taché’s case, against the Americans in 1812. Each man served as the aide de camp to the Queen in Canada East and West respectively. These would form the nucleus of Macdonald’s “Committee of Provincial Defence” as an advisory body in order to manage the interests of the government. Next came some more practical appointments.

The next man appointed was the moderate Reformer Gilbert McMicken to balance out the political scales. McMicken was a successful businessman who had worked with numerous local political bodies expanding his wealth and influence. He was notable for his successes in his long service in local government positions and investment and management of railroads and telegraphs. Macdonald had also, surprisingly, turned to him in order to organize a force of agents and informers both inside and outside the province to keep the government abreast of events going on inside the ranks of enemies real and imagined.

Next came Frederick Ermatinger, the 50 year old son of Swiss immigrants he had long ties to the British military and establishment. He had practiced law, but much of his younger life was devoted to military service, joining the Montreal Volunteer Cavalry and becoming a lieutenant at 22. From the age of 24 he served in Spain in the Carlist War, first in the British Legion, and then in the Spanish forces where he reached the rank of Lt. Colonel. Upon his return to Canada he became superintendent of police in Montreal where he had a long and successful career maintaining law and order in the often tumultuous years after the rebellions of 1837-38. From 1856 onwards he became field inspector of the active volunteer militia of Canada East. He was a natural choice to advise the government on military operations, and would work well with McMicken in the creation of an extensive network of spies and informants, while contributing greatly to the creation of a comprehensive police force.

Next was Colonel Thomas E. Campbell, formerly of the British Army. A long serving former soldier who had enrolled in the army at 14 with many colonial postings he had gained fame coming to Canada in 1837 and in 1838 had a led a group of Caughnawaga Mohawks alongside the volunteer militia in an attack on the rebel positions at Châteauguay where they captured some 75 rebels, for his valor and cool headed action he was mentioned in the dispatches. In the aftermath he had done what he could to put a stop to the looting and arson of Anglophone volunteers. He would then serve as military secretary to Governor Charles Thomson, retiring from the army in 1846. From them on he served in various government capacities, becoming civil secretary to Lord Elgin, and acquired the seigneury of Rouville through marriage. He would though, advise alongside Taché in the passing of the Militia Act of 1855. He was approached by Williams to join this new body and he willingly lent his experience.

Another suggestion of Williams was Hamilton H. Killaly, the Provincial Inspector of Railways. Williams recommended him based on the advice he had given during his tour of the positions in Canada describing him as: “a very clever engineer, and a steady man of excellent character. No man knows the country better; he has a strong, clear, practical head.” Killaly had worked extensively with railroads in the Province and had, constructed, inspected, and strongly advocated for, canals to be built for the purposes of defence of the Province.

The final member of the body would not arrive until mid-January, and he was a regular Imperial officer. Colonel Daniel Lysons was a career officer, the son of topographer Daniel Lysons he was commissioned into the 1st Regiment of Foot in 1834. He would then serve in Canada during the revolts of 1837-38 at St. Denis and St. Eustache and was honorably mentioned in the dispatches for his conduct in saving the lives of many of his comrades during the wreck of the steamer Premier in the St. Lawrence in September 1843 receiving a promotion to captain as a consequence. He then served in the Russian War present at the major engagements of Alma and Inkerman, among others, and served in the siege of Sevastopol. He led the main columns in the attacks on the Redan in June where he was slightly wounded, and was then seriously wounded leading the second assault. He took command of the 2nd Brigade of the Light Division until the end of the war. Upon the return home he served intimately in the creation of the Volunteer Movement in Britain, thus he was an inspired choice to be sent to advise the Canadians on the creation of their own volunteers.

Macdonald, Cartier, Tache, MacNab, Killaly, Thomas, McMicken, Lyosons, and Ermantinger
The Committee met fully for the first time in January, and worked hard to hammer out the basis for which the new Canadian volunteer force would be created and organized.


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 8: Marching as to War Pt. 2 (cont...again)

The first issue was the creation of battalions for the volunteers as Williams’s call for men had been wildly successful, bringing 38,556 men to arms augmenting the already existing 10,000 militiamen by mid-January. The way they would be incorporated was an issue which vexed the committee at first, but it was Taché and Campbell who solved that particular problem. Each man pointed out that with the existing text of the 1855 Militia Act the means for organizing battalions of Volunteers was already in place, and could be done easily as long as it emulated the patterns established in the creation of the existing three battalions of volunteer militia in Montreal and Toronto. In the creation of these battalions they would be numbered by formation and their officers selected from the most senior men as appointed by local militia officers. Under the articles of the 1855 Act a battalion would at full strength consist of 10 companies of men and officers totalling some 840 men at full strength.

It was agreed the simplest way to do this was to enroll the volunteer companies by geographic region in their respective military districts as laid out in 1855. For instance the ten volunteer companies which formed in Kingston proper were then organized into the 14th Battalion of Volunteer Rifles, and the companies from the outlying towns and villages were again grouped based on proximity to create the 15th Battalion of Volunteer Rifles by the brigade major of the 3rd Military District in which Kingston City and the surrounding counties was located. In the cities, with their denser population and previous history of militia service, this proved to be an easier task as men were pooled together and battalions created. In the country however, with the less dense population and the troublesome nature of winter roads, this proved to be more problematic. The issue was addressed by ordering the volunteer companies to assemble at the county seat where they could be trained and organized, most then being moved to the urban areas where Imperial officers had been dispatched for the purpose of organizing and instructing the volunteers.

The selection of officers, tended to be a more contentious matter. Since most volunteer companies elected their officers, arguments over seniority tended to break out almost immediately between various elected men. Some regions had already established officers serving in the active or sedentary militia which made their appointment easy and they could appoint junior officers under them as they saw fit, but many newly designated counties and companies within the military districts had no such machinery and so they would often appeal to the government. Macdonald quickly tired of petty feuds between junior officers and so gave the ranking colonels in the military districts the power to veto or approve appointments, an order which was backed by the Imperial Government ensuring that no officer could go over the head of his militia superior by appealing to the British military.

The most contentious issue was terms of service and how the government quotas might be filled if calls for volunteers went unanswered. It was argued that the Volunteer battalions should be ordered to serve for a designated period, and in the 1855 Act this had been set at a term of three years, which most agreed seemed like a fair compromise. To further entice volunteers it was agreed that a bounty would be offered for each man who enlisted in an established battalion when a call for men went out (a smaller bounty would be granted to the men who had volunteered for service in 1862 at the beginning of 1863 to supplement their pay) and that bounty could be set by the government at will. However, despite the optimism of the government, realism made them bow to the reality that bounties and patriotism would only go so far to entice men to service, and they turned to the issue of the ballot.

The ballot was perfectly legal under Canadian law, but had not been applied in half a century since the war of 1812. It was thus seen as a necessary item to ensure that the volunteer forces were not drained by the strains of war. The question of how to apply it was difficult. The suggestion that it ought to be applied to the male population as a whole was rejected out of hand by the political members of the committee, thinking it would be seen as unenforceable on the population as a whole, and rightly pointing out that such an act would be abhorrent in Britain. The idea that it could be applied purely to the sedentary militia was also seen as problematic. Even though this theoretically gave access to a pool of manpower numbering 236,427 men, by and large these were names on a list that could not be enrolled quickly, and problematically some were already serving in the volunteers! As Macdonald pointed out, simply balloting the existing names on the rolls from any given county would drain the area of men of all ages should a general ballot be called. So it was decided that a series of checks should be put on the ballot by dividing the men to be balloted into three groups.

The first group would be made up of single men and widowers without children from ages 18-45 who could be called to serve if the quotas were not met. The second group would be married men and widowers with children from the same age. The final group which could be called upon to serve were men aged 45-60 if all these quotas were not met. The government also reserved the right to create temporary ‘service battalions’ from balloted militia who would serve for one year.

Despite the measures put in place to legally carry out the ballot, most on the committee were convinced they would be fighting a short war and so did not expect to ever have to use these methods. They firmly believed that the enthusiasm shown by the populace towards the volunteer militia would prevent these measures from being necessary…

…in the Maritimes the provinces mobilized according to their own local schemes. Doyle had found the number of volunteers completely lacking when he had first arrived, and bemoaned the state of their officers, some of whom were up to 60 or 90 years in age and completely ignorant of their duties and in drill.

While the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick had already had some 2,600 and 2,100 volunteers between them in early 1861, each province had been reluctant to spend money on the organization of men and battalions without any outbreak of hostilities. However, the rising tensions between Great Britain and the United States had led to a similar organization of new volunteer companies in early 1862.

The biggest fears came from New Brunswick with its long frontier with the state of Maine, which had so recently been a flashpoint with the bloodless “Aroostook War” of 1838. Though the New Brunswick legislature was hesitant about issuing funds for the militia without an actual outbreak of hostilities they did authorize the creation of a ‘lumbermen corps’ who would eventually form the nucleus of a number of new volunteer battalions. Originally they were put to work erecting blockhouses along the militarily vital Temiscouta Road. As tensions deepened however, London dispatched arms to the volunteers and the New Brunswickers put more funds towards the creation of new volunteer units. The one unit of volunteer cavalry, the New Brunswick Yeomanry, was activated with orders to help Doyle police the border.

In Nova Scotia similar steps were taken, the existing volunteer battalions were called out to aid the garrison, and work was done to expand the defences of Halifax. The colony also passed new legislation in 1862 in order to embody new volunteer battalions and enable the colony to conduct a levee en masse of the 44,000 sedentary militia existing in the colony in 1862. It was a point of pride of many Nova Scotians that they were the more militant of the Atlantic colonies, and their patriotism and loyalty to Britain bordered on fanatical.

In Prince Edward Island although there were no regulars, and no thought was even given to the dispatch of men and material to aid in its defence, there were some 800 volunteers in various independent companies. The colonial government in Charlottetown would work towards organizing them into geographic units for the purposes of local defence and enforcing civil authority, while also looking into the creation of a body of artillerymen to defend the local capital itself…

…the training and arming of the militia was something the Imperial government took an intense interest in. Though at the time of the Trent affair in the Province of Canada itself there were some 17,000 arms in the Province itself, only half of them modern Enfield rifles. Another 8,000 had been ordered out in June, and another 25,000 shipped at the end of October. As the crisis escalated more arms and ammunition were dispatched to Canada. The Provincial Government itself would request arms and accoutrements for 100,000 men to be shipped to Canada, and by May 1862 some 20 million rounds of ammunition would have been shipped alongside over 100,000 stands of arms. Similar shipments would be made to the Maritimes and by May 40,000 rifles were in colonial hands.

To train and organize the volunteers a body of 14 field officers and 46 sergeants had been sent to Canada, with a similar compliment for the Maritimes…” Blood and Daring: The War of 1862 and how Canada forged a Nation, Raymond Green, University of Toronto Press, 2002

Expired Image Removed
Volunteers on Prince Edward Island, 1863

“Macdonald’s backroom dealing in early January had paid off when he finally moved to pass the Militia Act in February 1862. The emergency sessions of the Assembly had continued throughout January passing smaller, less odious pieces of legislation like that which enabled Williams to embody the volunteers, and granting a bounty. However, as the details of Macdonald’s proposed act became public the debate was fierce. Predictably the Rouges almost to a man rejected much of it, especially the endorsement of the ballot. Many Reformers also found some of the legislation odious, and while publicly objecting to it, few would vote against it, and it passed in a landslide in Canada West with 61 votes for and 4 against. In Canada East though the Rouges would vote as a block behind Dorion (with among three exceptions one Thomas D’Arcy McGee) the resolution would still pass 46 for and 19 against with a total vote of 107 for and 23 against in the Assembly.

The Militia Act of 1862 while far from comprehensive was nonetheless a major step forward in the defence of Canada. While it enshrined the right of the government to enroll men of the sedentary militia by ballot it also added a number of useful tools to the process of mobilization. It enable the Imperial authorities to take control of the rail and telegraph system for the purposes of defence in an emergency, and it gave them the right to charter trains and ships as needed for the war effort. It also exempted railroad workers, telegraph operators, policemen, doctors, prison and asylum guards from militia service, but did not prevent them from joining voluntarily…

…Alongside the efforts of the regulars it would remain to be seen if these measures were enough to defend Canada come the spring…”Nation Maker: The Life of John A. Macdonald, Richard Chartrand, Queens University Publishing, 2005


Nov 21, 2014
Appendix to Chapter 8: Some Notes on Canadian Mobilization

Amusingly the original format of this chapter was far too large to fit into a single post here, so its somewhat broken up! I'll see if I can avoid that in the future!

In writing this chapter I have stuck as close to the source material available and interpretation by other historians as I can while trying to extrapolate based on the available data at the time what sort of direction the mobilization of the Canadian militia might take.

One important detail to note is that the commission put together by Macdonald above is virtually identical to the one he formed historically to investigate the details of creating a body of militia and how the province might be defended. My only two additions were McMicken and Ermatinger.

Likewise the quotes from newspapers are all historical and the 38,000 number from the militia order is also historical, and the confidence at being able to recruit men for service is attested to by multiple first and second hand sources in both official and personal correspondence, specifically by Monck in the Sessional Papers of the Province of Canada in his letters to both the Duke of Newcastle on the militia question, and with John A. Macdonald himself in correspondence regarding the formation of the militia. Macdonald is described as working hard on this question in his biographies and judging by the sessional papers he devoted plenty of energy towards it coming up to the proposal of the historic militia bill, which here has obviously been railroaded through by committee in mid-February the political aspects of that will be addressed in the next chapter. In the fine details of that act I have quoted concerns from both Monck and Macdonald’s correspondence and some of the details of the 1863 militia act which was passed historically.

The dispatch of officers and equipment is again historical, though the weapons shipped in October I describe were historically caught up in red tape until December, but that small change doesn’t seem particularly earth shattering to me.

On the formation of battalions, historically there were 3 volunteer battalions existing in 1861, the Montreal Light Infantry, the 1st “Prince of Wales Regiment” and the 2nd Battalion of Volunteer Rifles (their designation “The Queen’s Own” was not conferred until March 1863). Historically in January there were 4 new battalions formed in the immediate aftermath of the crisis (the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th respectively) with 5 more battalions being embodied in 1862. Then there were more battalions embodied in 1863, some in 1864, none in 1865, and a whopping 35 in 1866 (exclusive of the 5 “Grand Trunk Railway Battalions” and the “Civil Service Regiment” in Ottawa) and 25 of those were in September 1866 alone. That brought the total of organized battalions to some 54, exclusive of the many unorganized independent volunteer companies which could be organized into “administrative” or “service” battalions at need, as was done in 1864 in response to the historic St. Albans raid. What this suggests to me however, is that the ability, machinery and will to embody volunteer companies and officers into new battalions is in place and that it can be done relatively swiftly.

The nucleus for forming cavalry and artillery regiments have existed since the 1830s with the organization of embodied militia in response to the crisis of the rebellions (the oldest bodies of each being in Montreal and Toronto) and going by a similar scheme of embodying local cavalry troops new cavalry regiments could be raised, and in many cases senior officers were already on the books come 1862 historically.

In short, the mobilization of the Canadian militia as volunteers or even as balloted “service battalions” seems to have well been within the realm of the capabilities of the Anglo-Canadian authorities in 1861-62 should war have beckoned. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that this would either be an unpopular task by the Canadians themselves or that it would cause massive contention across lingual and religious lines, though this is only with the initial surge in patriotism and as the war goes on this might change.

Now how successful these measures have been will be addressed at a later date, but until then there’s plenty of other details to cover.


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 9: Triple Shuffle

The war and rumours of war from the border disturb me more than I care to commit to paper. I now have the offer of office for myself to reflect upon, but how to proceed? I am deeply distressed to have this matter thrust upon me now – but dare not refuse the responsibility with such vast interests at stake. Am I truly fit to govern? What can a man do when his choices are between the tyranny of office and the freedom of his countrymen?” – George Brown in his diary, an entry dated January 9th 1862

“The defence of the Province of Canada rested not with the Premier of the Provincial Government, but with the Governor General appointed by London. In that person it fell to the recently appointed Captain General and Governor in Chief of the Province of Canada the Viscount Charles Stanley Monck, the 4th Viscount Monck.

He was unfortunate enough to replace his predecessor on the 2nd of November 1861, just as the tensions with the United States were ratcheting up. At first glance Monck did not inspire, his only real political experience came from a brief appointment as Secretary of the Treasury in Palmerston’s government from 1855-1858. Upon the inheritance of his father’s title and estates in 1849 he had also inherited his father’s considerable debt, and was thus chronically in need of a stable source of income lest he fall into genteel poverty. When offered the position by Palmerston he took it largely, as he would freely admit, for the money. He then found himself at the head of British North American affairs during one of the most difficult and turbulent periods in their history, yet somehow he managed to make himself indispensable to both the colonial and military authorities in the Province of Canada as the crisis wore on. He put on a relatable face for Canada and found himself uncannily able to guide himself through the kaleidoscope of Canadian politics, managing to play the middle man while not pushing the government in any one direction. Perhaps there was a potential Palmerston noted in the young man, or perhaps it simply was a stroke of fortune that an act of patronage would put a man so socially adept as Monck at the helm in this period. We can never be certain, but the results speak for themselves.

Charles Stanley, Viscount Monck

Beneath him sat the civilian heads of the Province. Leading the currently most prominent party inside the Canadas, the Liberal-Conservatives, was the fifty-seven year old (and thoroughly alcoholic) John A. Macdonald. Macdonald was a native of Scotland, born in Glasgow in 1815, his family had emigrated to the British North American possessions in 1820, settling in Kingston where a number of Macdonald relations had already settled. He began a law practice in Kingston in 1836 becoming known as a competent and well spoken criminal lawyer. Though called upon to serve in the militia during the 1837 Rebellions, his greatest act would be in defending the rebels who were tried in Kingston against all advice. He would begin his political rise in 1844 being repeatedly re-elected to his seat in Kingston (even despite lengthy absences at times). His rise would come in 1856 where he would ease former premier Sir Allan MacNab out of power and become head of the Canada West Conservative faction.

At the time of the crisis he sat as the provincial head upon a shaky coalition of his own Liberal Conservative Party which was facing opposition from his counterpart John S. Macdonald (no relation) and as the crisis deepened it had looked as though the factional politics of Canada might again rear their ugly heads and stymy any effective response by the provincial government making them unable to reach the needed double majority in both provinces. However, thanks to John A.’s deep personal relationships with the men from Canada East, deadlock was avoided. John A. had long made it an important issue that his party work with the French elements in Canada East, to that end he had called upon the services of Étienne-Paschal Taché, a noted Loyalist to the crown who was able to use his not inconsiderable influence to gain French support for Macdonald’s alliance and political platforms and earning him the support of Parti-Bleus from Canada East, allowing for a solid Conservative alliance. What was more unlikely was his decision to work with the current head of Parti-Bleu in 1862, George Etienne Cartier.

Macdonald, Cartier, Taché
Cartier was a curious figure in Canadian politics, he had been a noted reformer all his life and had actively campaigned for and even fought in the rebellions of 1837-38 and had been imprisoned for his part in the uprising. Though he had been released in early 1840 he did not drop his campaign for responsible government and was involved in the various political street battles which characterized post-revolutionary elections where mob action was the norm rather than the exception. This would all culminate in the 1849 burning of Parliament where a Loyalist mob outraged at the passage of the Rebellion Losses Bill torched the Canadian Parliament buildings in Montreal. Cartier was a member of one of the counter mobs which stared down Loyalists in the streets, but instead of turning to bloodshed he increasingly turned to the idea of responsible government. He became an ardent supporter of Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine and his idea of reform and soon became a hard campaigning politician in the Reform minded circles of Canada, but on a conservative basis, which put him at odds with men like John. S. Macdonald, and his erstwhile rival from Canada East, Antoinne Dorion, a noted radical.

However, he and John A. saw eye to eye on a number of important issues, such as the idea of uniting the British North American possessions into a single Union (which Cartier had gone to London to promote in 1858[1]), the necessity for English-French cooperation, and the need to integrate their economies into a national industry. However, the two men were becoming trapped by policies of their own making. Since Macdonald was an opponent of the Radicals it made him an easy target for men like John S. and Dorion, while his pro-French policies were making him unpopular with the majority in Canada West who opposed French integration, and his opposition to Westward expansion was making him no friends there either. In combination all of these factors came together to threatened to undo his entire political alliance and sweep him from power.

In effect the government had become split between the Liberal-Conservative Party and its Parti-Bleu alliance (who could be called Right-Wing Reformers) and the actions of the Reform Party (who could be called Left-Wing reformers) which caused an endless seesaw of one faction or another swinging moderates over to their side and causing the government to fall, the wild cards always being the Clear Grits under John S. and the radicals of Parti Rouge under Dorion. Any minor change in political allegiance could cause a significant shift in party strength and bring down a government and cause massive shifts in policy, deadlocking the system and bringing any attempt at change to a screeching halt. This was all thanks to the incredibly poorly planned system instigated in the Act of Union of 1840 which decreed that for a motion in the House of Assembly to pass there had to be majority in both the Assembly from Canada West and Canada East, in effect one had to gain a double majority.

The other Macdonald, and Dorion

However, John A. Macdonald was a very canny politician, and both his natural charm and wit would serve him well in the coming months. One of his first major acts to win a public relations coup would be the hosting of the “Military Ball” on January 8th 1862 in the music hall of the St. Louis Hotel in Quebec City. The hall was the very same one he had rented out almost two years earlier for his grand ‘Valentine’s Day Ball’ (rumours say to impress one particular woman), though now it was decorated more to impress upon the populace the martial nature of the times. The walls were adorned with colors from the local regiments, a massive portrait of Queen Victoria was placed beside an equally large portrait of the Duke of Cambridge the commander in chief, each was flanked by a stand of decorated rifles. Fake swords draped with flowers ringed the walls, and a military band was hired to serenade the gathered guests with martial music. Even some of the food was modeled on military rations which most of the guests were curious to try at least once.

The guests were all the well to do and important of Canadian Society. Monck was in attendance with his charming wife Elizabeth, Cartier and Taché were both in obvious attendance, John S. Macdonald representing the opposition, Hugh Allan and George Stephen were amongst the guests as wealthy businessmen looking to make connections for beneficial investments John Young the influential entrepreneur who had overseen the construction of the Victoria Bridge, and even Alexander Somerville had travelled from Toronto to attend what promised to be one of the social highlights of the year.

The military presence was also significant. Williams had come from his whirlwind tour of the frontier defences to attend and speak with the upper crust to assure them of the ability of the army to defend the province. Captain Collinson of the Royal Navy was also there in full dress uniform, partially as a gesture of support and primarily as a way to meet with the businessmen of Lower Canada in order to work out contracts for the construction of gunboats. Colonel Lysons was there in full dress uniform proudly talking up the achievements of the militia. Militia officers were also notable in their attendance. Colonel Sewell commanding the Quebec Volunteer Force was there with his staff, the commanders of the 7th and 8th Battalions of Volunteers were conspicuously present to remind the populace of the cities’ military valor, and men from as far afield as Hamilton had come, including colonels Booker and Denison.

The most important attendee though, would be George Brown of Toronto. Brown was an ardent reformer, having been recognized as a leading liberal and Reform politician since 1849 when he had set in motion the termination of an allegedly corrupt prison warden in Kingston. He was also known to hold hard positions on educational reform and the separation of Church and State, referring to John A’s alliance with the Parti-Bleu as "a base vassalage to French-Canadian Priestcraft." He was also one of the most noted abolitionists in Canada. He used his paper, The Globe, as a platform to denounce the Southern United States and its policies, even attacking the Northern states for their supposed complicity. He hosted such notable individuals as Frederick Douglas and Harriet Beecher Stowe, even becoming one of the leading figures in the Underground Railroad which brought fugitive slaves to freedom in Canada. As such he was adored by much of the black population of the province, who aligned closely with his politics.

It seemed as though Brown and John A. could be nothing but enemies. Indeed there has never been a rivalry so fierce as the one between Brown and Macdonald in Canadian politics. The divide between the two men was so deep John A. once quipped at a heckler who called him a drunk that “Yes, but the people would prefer John A. drunk to George Brown sober.

However, the events set in motion since the Border Raids in October had gotten Brown to thinking. Brown feared that war might mean the loss of potential Canadian independence and annexation into the United States, which he had campaigned against in 1849, and like many Canadians he was outraged by the annexationist proclamations made by the American Secretary of State William H. Seward. The seeming ambivalence of some men amongst les Rouges and the more radical Clear Grits towards these policies disgusted him. With that in mind, he and John S. would seek out John A. at rooms in the hotel that evening for an unofficial discussion on the matter of national defence.

Though the whole conversation between the three men is not known, as like many backroom deals in early Canadian politics no notes were kept and the men spoke of it furtively in their own memoirs, it can be certain that some sort of deal was reached. We can speculate on the exact terms due to the actions which took place afterwards and thanks to some chance remarks from Brown in his diary. Brown himself would not accept a government position at first, but instead would return to Canada West to devote his considerable influence to campaigning on behalf of the government. John S. would then accept the position of Minister of Agriculture. That the majority of his party would soon ally themselves in the Assembly with John A’s coalition is of course, not a coincidence. It was here where the Great Coalition was born, in a night of backroom dealing and hard drinking amidst the anxiety of whether war would be imminent.

There would be a resulting shuffle of ministers in the creation of this new administration. Men from each side of the aisle would have to be incorporated. Macdonald would form a new ministry on the 24th of January after weeks of negotiating with his new colleagues. Brown’s close political colleague and ally Oliver Mowat would represent him by taking on the office of Postmaster General, Taché would become Minister of Militia, Macdonald would remain Attorney General, William McDougall would serve as the Minister of Crown Lands, while the remainder of the offices were passed out to Macdonald and Cartier’s supporters.

Excluded from this new coalition however, were the Rouges. Though once a major factor in the much needed double majority of provincial politics, the alliance of the Clear Grits to the Macdonald-Cartier coalition effectively robbed them of their influence in a single stroke and ended their influence. Conceivably they could have been included, but with one or two notable exceptions they had all boycotted the invitations to the ball. Dorion in particular had denounced the whole proceedings as “…une grande farce Anglo-Saxonne” to his colleagues. Once the results become clearer however, he was utterly shocked at the sudden turn around from his previous position of influence.

In time this would bear bitter fruit, but from the perspective of Macdonald and his new ministry, it seemed like a godsend to organize themselves…” Blood and Daring: The War of 1862 and how Canada forged a Nation, Raymond Green, University of Toronto Press, 2002


[1] Confederation didn’t exactly spring out of a vacuum after all. It’s rather interesting when you read about personalities like Tache, Cartier, and Brown who were campaigning for Confederation. Some were really high minded, others were incredibly self-serving and cynical. Brown for instance thought that such a union would permanently disable the power of the French Catholics in Canada East, while Tache was convinced that it would grant the Canadiens total control over Quebec.


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 10: Marching as to War Pt. 3

“Wer alles verteidigt, verteidigt nichts.” - Friedrich II of Prussia

“As the crisis deepened in January and February the War Cabinet (as it came to be known[1]) began expanding on plans for war with the North that had been theorized since early December.

Preparations had begun in mid-December, but the first effort to reinforce the North American garrison had been the dispatch of a brigade under Major General James Lindsay in late November with three battalions of infantry, another battery of artillery, and a regiment of cavalry for border duties in response to the raids. However, when the crisis broke in November, this was a unit which was, although sufficient to make a show of force, not a suitable garrison for the whole of Britain`s North American colonies.

Men and material of the Royal Artillery being loaded at Portsmouth

As the diplomatic and military situation unravelled the deterioration of relations did not catch the British completely off guard. They had the benefit of experience drawn from two previous Anglo-American wars and the conclusions of a number of extensive investigations on the subject of Canadian defence. Chiefly the first priority was to create a plan for the defence of Canada from an expected Northern invasion. At first though, the size of that invasion force was widely speculated upon. There were some fears that Seward`s belief that a foreign war might unite the two sides against a common enemy would prevail and hundreds of thousands of American soldiers would stream north of the border. However, as December wore into January these fears proved unfounded, and as MacDougall put it were “very wild and ill-considered” as “the feeling of positive hatred entertained by the South towards the North is a passion which infinitely overbears any abstract feeling of patriotism which may once have existed-where patriotism signified devotion to the Union.” This of course allowed British planners more leeway in their planning than they had thought at first. If the United States remained divided then it was assumed that the defence of Canada would be “an easy task” and more ambitious efforts could be devised.

The efforts for defending Canada of course depended largely on the strength of the garrison, and on an extensive system of fortifications and control of the Lakes. Of the first, the scarcely 7,000 men Williams had at his command come January was just below the 10,000 minimum the British felt they would need to be secure (irregardless of the militia) over the winter months.

When it came to fortifications, save for a number of well-established posts well inside the frontier, the surveys of those existing fortifications was found sorely lacking. The major forts on the Niagara frontier were in ruins, and the important fort at Île-aux-Noix had only been reoccupied in December after two years as a reformatory for delinquent boys. None of the major proposed fortifications plans suggested by the government in the previous surveys had ever been carried out in full, and even the fortifications at Quebec were of unsure value in relation to the strength of modern artillery. MacDougall though had some suggestions to counteract these deficiencies. His ideal solution was the creation of cheap and easily erected earthworks at major points on the frontier, and in front of the essential fortifications. It was his view that this would give the militia an excellent advantage in light of their lack of training, and it could free up all the regulars for the field to take the fight to an advancing enemy. The other members of the council were agreed, Burgoyne in particular advocating the use of earthworks in the defence of the major points like Quebec, Montreal, and Kingston…

…in terms of communications between the colonies the planners also felt that they were lacking. There was not yet a rail line existent which connected the Province of Canada to the Maritime colonies, and as such troops would either have to be unloaded at Quebec or Montreal directly or hopefully at Rivière-du-Loup (where the rail connection with the provinces began) before the ice closed off the Saint Lawrence. As it turned out as reinforcements were dispatched only one steamer, the Asia, managed to deposit her cargo, the 1st Battalion of the 16th Regiment of Foot, 5,000 Enfield rifles and their ammunition, and an engineer company at that destination. The second steamer to even come close was the Persia which made it as far as Bic, but only managed to deposit some 400 men before being forced to retreat up the river in the face of sudden ice flows.

As an alternative there was the prospect of moving troops overland as had been done in 1812 and 1837 (most famously the 104th Regiment of Foot in their 700 mile march in the winter of 1812-13) in order to reinforce the province. There was major disagreement over the route to be used however. The Metapediac road hardly existed in anything but name and would have to have considerable improvements placed upon it to be made usable. The second more common and established route lay over the Temiscouata road, a regular road passing along the St. John River valley to Madawaska. This route though was fraught with potential dangers as for over 100 miles of its 190 mile length the road passed along the frontier with Maine, leaving it potentially open to raiding by American forces from across the border.

Major General Randall Rumley and an ad hoc staff had been dispatched in order to devise a solution to this problem. Already the 62nd and 63rd Regiments of Foot had been dispatched overland to strengthen the garrison in Canada, but only the 63rd had made the march overland, while the 62nd remained stretched out in two wings manning the frontier waiting for reinforcement from the Maritime militia to aid in the security of the Temiscouata road. Though the opinion was against the use of that route, and even though the colonial government in New Brunswick had put some 47,000$ towards the completion of the Metapediac route, Rumley chose not divide his meager staff and resources between two roads and gambled on being able to use the Temiscouata route, with the acquiescence of Doyle who used that time to attempt to put the local volunteers to good use. The working assumption then would be that the forces available (supplemented by local militia) would be used to seize the major American border posts at Houlton and Fort Fairfield in the event of war in order to make this route somewhat secure. Meanwhile the local government would be held responsible for the maintenance of the Metapediac route.

While it was generally agreed that this route could serve to transport some men and supplies, a greater number was held in reserve at Halifax to be rushed up the St. Lawrence once navigation opened to Quebec, along with a good deal of the supplies. Indeed this was the strategy which was found to work well, but come April 16th 1862 some 7,523 men of all ranks and numerous sleighs of supplies and artillery had passed up the Temiscouata route.

Men of the 63rd Regiment of Foot proceeding overland from temporary barracks along the Temiscouata Road

With that in mind, men and materials continued to be shipped from Britain. The brigades which would form the divisions for service in North America were largely stripped from the existing divisions[2] at Aldershot, Dover, and the Curragh along with their staffs. These in turn were supplemented by the various battalions garrisoning points in Great Britain and Ireland.

The next question became how to actively use the forces Britain was coming to command in North America.

In Canada there was of course, the ever present issue of defence. While it was acknowledged that the western portion of the province could not simply be abandoned to the enemy outright, there was a gloomy view of its prospects. While an effort would be made to defend it the planners all agreed it was of secondary importance to the defence of the vital lynchpin of Quebec and so while arrangements were made to make places like Hamilton and Windsor safe, the best the planners hoped for was the defence of Kingston in order to draw off an appreciable number of the enemy. Instead the vast majority would be concentrated in Canada East, principally in the defence of Montreal.

Montreal was acknowledged as the key to communications between the eastern and western portions of the province. So long as the British controlled it they could control the St. Lawrence River and the vital communications between Kingston and Quebec. Even should the Americans cut communications across the river forces could still be dispatched to Ottawa and down the secure route of the Rideau Canal to harass the enemy in the western portion of the province.

To ensure that Montreal remained safe was the principle task of the army assembling in North America, but just how to do that was a contentious issue. One item recommended by almost all the planners was for a force to sally across the border and capture the American fort at Rouse Point. Doing so offered considerable advantage to a force on the defence as the greatest chance for a large army to advance upon Montreal would be up from Lake Champlain to seize the railroad bridge at St. Jean and from there wheel about to place Montreal under hostile guns. However, almost immediately practical objections were raised to this scheme.

When suggested to Williams in late December he wrote back a long letter of detailed protests pointing out that such an act would require him to concentrate nearly the whole of his force in Canada at the border and leave the remainder of the province defenceless. Such an attack attempted in winter would no doubt prove a failure since the river was frozen and an enemy force could easily cut the railroad stranding his men in hostile territory without supply. Even in spring it would require naval assistance which, as Captain Collinson pointed out, could not hope to be made available until later in the season when he had been able to gather his strength, and would no doubt divert attention away from an essential build up on the lakes. Finally the members of the War Cabinet itself were uncertain of Williams’ abilities on the offensive, and so felt that the army might be better husbanded on the defence, and so the matter of a pre-emptive strike on land was dropped for the moment. They instead deferred to Burgoyne’s belief that “some favourable battlefields could be selected…these, previously thoroughly well studied, could no doubt be rapidly entrenched, and made very formidable.” and MacDougall’s firm opinion that a force shielded by entrenchments could easily hold off a much superior force.

However, there was by no means a defensive minded spirit amongst the members of the War Cabinet, indeed they hoped to do everything in their power to allow bring the full might of Britain to bear against the enemy. While it was acknowledge that Canada must be defended, it was known that even its loss would not be vital or crippling to the war. Embarrassing as it might be, neither side could hope to secure decisive victory in Canada. It was not vital to the British Empire, and neither could Britain hope to advance far inland to the United States as Williams pointed out they would be “operating in broken country of their own choosing and sustained by the support of a sympathetic population” and could only “incur the fate of Braddock, Cornwallis.

Instead Britain would concentrate where they were strongest, at sea.

There was certainly much to be made of attacking the long a vulnerable American coast as had been done in 1812, culminating in the burning of Washington and great embarrassment to the United States. It would surely draw off men who might be used to invade Canada, and would most likely be a great boon to their de-facto allies in the Confederacy.

Therefore one of the greatest schemes which appealed to the British was an assault on Maine. In principle this made a good deal of sense, Maine was not an interior portion of the United States, and was vulnerable to a thrust by the Royal Navy. It also had the dual prospects of securing the overland communications to Canada. Seizing Maine prevented American raiders from assaulting the roads overland, and seizing Portland would secure rail communications by taking possession of the Atlantic terminus of the Grant Trunk railway. The thinking was such an attack would also draw off soldiers who would otherwise be used to attack Canada and make the defence of that province far easier. The military experts, Seaton, Burgoyne, and MacDougall all pressed for the scheme and it was presented to the civilian chiefs who approved as well. Indeed De Grey began placing the troops necessary to carry out the expedition under orders at the end of December.

While the civilian and army heads were all enthusiastic of the scheme, the naval chiefs were less so. The commander of the North Atlantic and West Indies Squadron, Rear-Admiral Alexander Milne, was hardly enthusiastic. He instead preferred a more cautious scheme of defeating the Union Navy off the coasts and imposing a counter blockade of the Union’s main ports and attempting to lure the remaining Union ships to destruction on circumstances of his own choosing…

…by the end of January thousands of British troops and dozens of ships were crossing the Atlantic to destinations at Halifax and Bermuda strengthening the British possessions and positions in the North American theatre. Soon the American response arrived and the British were called to action.” Empire and Blood: British Military Operations in the 19th Century Volume IV.


[1]The composition of which is detailed in Chapter 5.

[2]While not field divisions (perhaps more accurately referred to as “training camps”) these formations do in fact provide a nucleus of ready brigades and staffs which could be deployed in an emergency for either home defence or overseas operations.


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 11: Are We Prepared?

The White House, Washington, the District of Columbia, February 1862

“I still raise my earlier objections to the evacuations of our coastal enclaves.” Stanton said angrily as the subject of the reorganization of the Army came up yet again. Seward took a deep puff from his cigar as the ever angry looking Secretary of War scowled around the table. His nickname of Mars was almost too on the nose in Seward’s opinion. Welles wearily raised the old counter point.

“May I remind you Edwin that as the president pointed out to me earlier in the month, we simply could not have maintained those large forces off the Carolina coasts if the Royal Navy were to make a sudden descent upon our shores?”

“In turn this frees up thousands of rebels who can be concentrated here against the capital with nothing to hem them in!” Stanton said angrily. “McClellan already complains of having too few troops, and I’m almost inclined to agree with him! Even ten-thousand new troops put ashore here in Washington can only give us parity with the same number which the rebels could push north! And now we find ourselves having to put more men forward to the coasts and the border with British North America! I tell you we need every advantage to keep the rebels off balance, and this is not providing it.”

“I believe we have been over this ground well enough for one day.” Lincoln said quietly seeking to defuse the coming quarrel with two equally opinionated members of his cabinet. “I’m afraid that for now the decision stands and I will not be moved by it.”

Stanton clearly seemed to want to further object but he swallowed the issue for now, instead he moved on to the next subject he was intent to speak on. “Thus far with the men withdrawn from Virginia and the Carolinas we have added three further divisions to McClellan’s forces on the Potomac, but those would not be enough to replace the men who would be moved in case of a sudden outbreak of war.”

“How many men are you assuming would need to be shifted?” Lincoln asked, relieved to be moving on to a more productive topic.

“My discussions with the Defence Board lead me to believe that at minimum we would have to move six divisions to the border with British North America, while a further five would need to be moved to cover the most likely places of assault a British army could conceivably land.” Stanton stood and smoothed out a map of little quality pinned to the wall of Lincoln’s office. He frowned at it as though the piece of paper itself were disappointing him. Seward imagined it did in some ways. Good maps of any area were hard to come by, and they didn’t even possess detailed maps of the South, let alone those of Britain’s possessions to the North. The current one was a railroad map from 1860 showing the important railroads and cities, but nothing in the way of terrain. Stanton went on, still scowling though.

“Just as a holding measure on the border Burnside’s Division at Albany is sufficient to counter any thrust the British might offer in the next two months, but to push back a more significant force, or to even launch an offensive operation of our own would require five further divisions to both tie down the British along the frontier, and to provide a force significant enough to put points like Kingston and Montreal under siege. And those gentlemen are the two most important points besides Quebec which we must capture.”

“Where will the men come from to invade the western portion of Canada?” The Secretary of the Interior asked.

“The men will have to be detached from the armies fighting out on the Mississippi and in Tennessee, not that they have done much to be praised for in the past few months.” Stanton’s mouth grimaced sourly and Seward noticed Lincoln frowned slightly as well. They’d been attempting to push the commanders out west for some sort of decisive action for months, and so far none had shown any real inclination for action.

“What about the defence of the coasts? I confess that even though the navy has grown in the last few months since our troubles began, we cannot hope to provide a vessel for every port and town at present.” Welles said.

“We will have to rely on state troops and militias for that, if we were to spare a division for every single point on the coast which was important we would have few men left to hold the line against the secesh forces gathering south of the Potomac.” Stanton replied.

“All of which will be expensive.” Seward said matter of factly. All eyes shifted to the haggard looking Chase who seemed to wilt slightly under their gaze.

“It is one thing to talk of raising new men for the field; it is another thing entirely to pay them.” Chase said somewhat sullenly. “The state of our finances at present is…well uncomfortable is not the right word and it’s certainly short of disastrous, but the banks have suspended specie payments since December. We have for the last month been unable to make payment to the contractors working with the government and have been issuing more promises than payments. The foreign banking houses won’t extend credit and we are dangerously short of hard money to hand in the treasury. Bond sales have dropped precipitously and the little word I’ve had from abroad shows few willing to finance our efforts against England.”

“It cannot be that bad-” Stanton began to say, but Chase cut him off angrily.

“While I respect your abilities in a house of law and those in managing your new office, I would respectfully request that you do not presume on the state of the nations’ affairs, sir.” Stanton clamped his mouth closed startlingly fast and Chase took in everyone around the room with a level look and a sudden new confidence. Sighing he straightened himself up in his chair. “Gentlemen the treasury at present has no specie to pay its bills, we are leaning on the banks to attempt to push new money into the markets but they are fearful of losing their own reserves. Bond sales are drying up as fears of war with Britain heighten, but not all is lost I will say.”

“I myself am no accountant Chase, I’ve known many and liked less, but I am glad to see you are not given to despair.” Lincoln said as Chase paused to take a breath. Chase shot the president a weary grin before pulling out a note from his pocket.

“In my many discussions with Senator Fessenden we have bandied about many possible solutions, mainly leaning on the banks, but in the past months we have received a new, if risky idea. An old associate, one Edmund Taylor, telegraphed me with a proposition to solve some of our money problems. He’s currently out seeking to establish an arms factory in Illinois to supply the Western war effort. His proposition is simple though, he suggests we issue some form of fiat currency, basically just to print money asking us to ‘just get Congress to pass a bill authorizing the printing of full legal tender treasury notes. Pay for goods with them and pay your soldiers with them and go ahead and win your war with them also. If you make them full legal tender they will have the full sanction of the government and be just as good as any money; as Congress is given the express right by the Constitution.’ And he is right there.”

“Would this money be redeemable in gold?” Lincoln asked curiously.

“Technically yes, but since banks have mostly voted to suspend specie payments, I have serious doubts whether we could actually authorize such a redeeming any time in the near future.”

“So what precisely would the basis of this currency be?” Seward asked furrowing his brow.

“The money would be in effect, backed purely by the power of the Federal Government; that will mean something to people.” Chase said “We don’t have an abundance of options however. We can’t lean on the banks continuously and it’s simply unprofitable to lean heavily on foreign investments, nor can we count purely on the strength of gold since the costs continue to climb. This may be our best option.”

“If you say so Chase.” Lincoln nodded. “Proceed at your discretion and if it works so much the better. Are there any other pressing issues for today?” Welles spoke up.

“Yes, I have here for the Cabinet’s convenience a report delivered by Henry du Pont, head of the Dupont Powder Company, and one of my own naval officers, Commodore John A. Dahlgren. They write regarding a grave issue facing the conduct of the war. You see gentlemen, it has been brought to my attention that the Union is facing a powder crisis.”

“Preposterous!” Stanton snapped “If that had been so I would have heard of it!”

“I’m afraid that the Army and the Ordnance Board are not aware of this problem, and it was only made clear to me in the past few weeks. I gave the men time to present their findings in full and we face quite a difficulty. At the start of the conflict with so few men in the field no one anticipated many problems, as we amply were provided for the in the Mexican War and our stocks and capabilities had expanded since then. Now though, the army expands at an unprecedented rate, growing into the hundreds of thousands. The Navy also continues to expand. Dahlgren only became aware of the matter in early November as we began equipping more ships, DuPont discovered the problem around roughly the same time when he discovered the demand for powder was eating into the stocks faster than the mills could fill them. It was with this in mind he set out for England in November the purchase of 2300 tons of nitre was negotiated. However, the British government passed a suspension on the supply of nitre to us after the when this whole crisis began. Though he attempted numerous times to organize the purchase of these stocks, he was rebuffed by the British authorities and he returned to our shores to attempt to seek a solution to the problem.”

“A question.” Lincoln said interrupting. “Why is it that you must look to England to procure such large amounts of nitre for powder?”

“As DuPont explained to me when I asked this very question: Britain rules India, which by quirk of fate is uniquely displaced for the mass consumption of nitre. The denizens of those far off kingdoms regard the cow as a sacred animal, and as such it is allowed to wander where it pleases. The manure is rich in nitre which when fermented can be made into the suitable base chemicals for the production of gunpowder. As such the continent swims with the basic raw materials, giving Britain an unprecedented advantage in its production. One which other nations can only dream of.” Welles replied with a shrug, indicating he could only take the powder magnate at his word.

“How much nitre do we have, roughly, on hand?” Lincoln asked with some concern. Welles consulted the report.

“Based on the rough estimation of the amount imported pre-December, and the stocks in Union hands provided by these men, we have roughly some 1700 tons of power on hand, with the stock of nitre in place to make up to 3300 tons. Or roughly 7,400,000 pounds of powder within our own stocks.”

“That number doesn’t seem so bad.” Lincoln said.

“The army expends roughly 450,000 pounds of powder in a month sir.” Usher said speaking up. “That has been since the war began. I don’t think we have spent that much over the winter, but it seems as though when the campaigning season begins we will be expending just as much, if not more.” Stanton’s eyebrows shot up immediately and even Lincoln seemed to find a quick mental calculation sobering. Seward tallied the number up as well and thought it made for rather depressing reading.

“Despite this, DuPont has assured me there is a way to rectify these problems. It is somewhat unusual though sir.” Welles said hesitantly.

“Go on, it can’t be all that bad.” Lincoln replied.

“Well, since Britain holds a monopoly on the trade of vast quantities of nitre, most nations have adopted ways of developing their own small nitre manufacturing capabilities. The two most inexpensive and by far the most successful which have been advertised to me are the Swiss and Prussian methods. DuPont has assured me that of the two methods, the Prussian method is best tailored for the climate of the East Coast and Mid-West, which means that we could, with immediate work, establish beds for our own needs. The nitre beds are simply the collection of waste, preferably bovine or equine, into beds which are then allowed to ferment for a period of time. We would merely need to set aside land for the collection of said materials and men to process them.”

“Manure farming.” Lincoln said simply.

“Er yes sir.” Welles said somewhat sheepishly.

“Well that’s a job fit for a congressman if ever I have heard one.” Lincoln quipped. The Cabinet laughed good naturedly. Lincoln grinned and spoke up as the laughter subsided. “Well we must make the necessary preparations, it as I have said, I fear war is coming and I do not mean to be caught unawares. Draw up whatever plans you need and I’ll sign off on them.”

Welles and Usher exchanged looks and nodded in silent communication. Stanton seemed intent on grumbling about being uniformed and simply nodded as well.

“Our response must have arrived in London by now.” Seward said absently. There were murmurs from the other members of the cabinet and Seward was sure that they were all reflecting on the fact that the British minister had departed many weeks previously.

“The British will do what they will do, and as shall we.” Stanton said stoically.

“Well friend Mars, that reminds me of a story.” Lincoln said into the silence. “It was right after the Revolution, right after peace had been concluded. And Ethan Allen went to London to help our new country conduct its business with the king. The English sneered at how rough we are and rude and simple-minded and on like that, everywhere he went. ‘Til one day he was invited to the townhouse of a great English lord. Dinner was served, beverages imbibed, time passed as happens and Mr. Allen found he needed the privy. He was grateful to be directed thence. Relieved, you might say.” There were chuckles at the comment. “Allen discovered on entering the water closet that the only decoration therein was a portrait of George Washington. Ethan Allen done what he came to do and returned to the drawing room. His host and the others were disappointed when he didn't mention Washington's portrait. And finally his lordship couldn't resist and asked Mr. Allen had he noticed it - the picture of Washington - he had. Well what did he think of its placement? Did it seem appropriately located to Mr. Allen? And Mr. Allen said it did. The host was astounded.”

“‘Appropriate? George Washington's likeness in a water closet?’” Lincoln said in a mocking British accent,"‘Yes,’ said Mr. Allen, ‘where it will do good service. The whole world knows nothing will make an Englishman **** quicker than the sight of George Washington.’" There were peals of laughter from the assembled men and the tension bled out from the room almost immediately. Laughing riotously Lincoln wiped a tear form his eye as the laughter subsided.

“Oh I love that story. But gentlemen, we have a long and arduous road ahead of us. Let there be no doubt about that. Enemies foreign and domestic assail our Republic, but the spirit of liberty shall prevail as it has before. We humbled the British in the Revolution, and we humbled them again in 1812, we shall do so now if they come, we must do so. The very essence… no the very spirit, of our republican ideals demands it. Though we may fight them on the seas and in the fields we shall not be humbled until the nation has spent every last drop of blood and every pound of treasure it must, but we shall save our Republic.”


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 11: Are We Prepared?(Cont)

Whitehall, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, February 1862

The day was appropriately overcast, damp, and cold for London in February. The light fog served to hide the remainder of the long plaza of government buildings nestled in the heart of the capital of the British Empire. Built on the site of the old residence of the monarchs, it was now the beating heart of the administrative offices of the largest empire on earth housing the Admiralty and the Horse Guards alongside it. In the imposing hallways and boardrooms of Downing Street the offices were kept warm by coal furnaces and grand old fireplaces, and in a particular board room, the most powerful men in the Empire sat in conference.

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, sat at the head of the conference table, presiding over what was slowly becoming known as the War Cabinet for its composition of the men largely in office overseeing the maintenance of the fighting capabilities. There was Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville, Lord President of the Council, Edward Seymour, 12th Duke of Somerset, First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, Secretary of State for War, Henry Pelham-Clinton, 5th Duke of Newcastle, Secretary of State for the Colonies, and finally His Royal Highness Prince George, the Duke of Cambridge, Commander-in-Chief of the forces.

Few had gotten any real rest in the last number of days, and so far were in the same state of frantic activity which seemed to have gripped all of Britain since late November when the crisis had broken. Palmerston had even taken to sitting to do his work where normally he preferred to stand, and despite a chipper attitude he could see the strain of the last number of weeks frantic preparation etched into the faces of even his far younger colleagues. Orders and reports appeared hourly flowing in and out of the buildings that made up the government. Palmerston sincerely wished he could pry his eyes away from yet another request from some junior clerk in whatever office needed his permission for a few hours with a weekend approaching, but the honor of the nation came first. He shifted in his chair returning to the task at hand.

“And thus far,” Lewis continued on in his update on the despatch of forces from Britain to North America. “There have been thirty-three battalions of infantry dispatched or readied for dispatch to North America from the Home establishments and garrisons, seven regiments of cavalry and two batteries of Horse Artillery, and twelve batteries of artillery accompanying them. This does not include the staff and military train or engineers. Unfortunately, due to the severity of the storms on the Atlantic, two vessels, the Victoria and the Admiral Kannaris, have been forced to turn back after departing which has caused the delay in the dispatch of the 78th Regiment of Foot and the Coldstream Guards alongside a company of engineers and several hundred tons of munitions.”

“This is a poor season for shipping in the best of times; delays are only to be expected.” Somerset said.

“And perhaps,” Palmerston added mildly “we might have avoided some delays earlier had the concerns of many of the men here been addressed in fashion which would no doubt have greatly alleviated the present state of affairs.” Though he addressed no one in particular Somerset shifted uncomfortably in his seat, there was little doubt of who he could be offering the remark to. Lewis coughed slightly and continued.

“While the forces in North America are presently below the minimum we believe necessary to defend against any sudden descent by the Northern forces we do believe that those in place are currently sufficient to hold off all but the most determined assaults from across the border. With the numbers of men being prepared for duty it seems that once the campaigning season opens in spring we will be able to counter a thrust by the Americans towards Montreal or Quebec.”

“I believe it can be safely presumed now that the American forces are not able to mount any sort of decisive assault over the frontier until the campaigning season opens up in May.” The Duke of Cambridge said.

“This is agreed upon by our military planners Your Highness?” Palmerston asked. Cambridge nodded.

“Quite emphatically! All the horrors of Moscow would be repeated should the North be so foolish as to plan an assault on any of our possessions in British North America at any time in the winter months. General Winter will be no more forgiving an army encamped outside Montreal than he was the one Napoleon brought to bear on Moscow!”

“Though what is the state of our forces in the colonies should this perhaps unthinkable event happen?” Palmerston asked. Lewis pulled a file from the pile of papers in front of him on the table and began reading.

“As of Williams latest dispatch, some two weeks old I’m afraid, there were fourteen battalions of foot present in the Province of Canada, that does not include the Royal Canadian Rifles of course, and in the Maritime colonies there were seven other battalions present as well. Of course this does not include any of the other troops dispatched in the last few weeks who may or may not have made it to the North American stations yet. He also wrote that he had six field batteries available to him, and the one regiment of cavalry. No accurate numbers have yet been made available to me of our whole force currently on station.”

“This is all well and good, but what news of the Colonials has there been? I’ve had multiple assurances from Monck myself but all the military minds put to the task have agreed that the defence of the Province of Canada should be impossible without the firm support of the people there.” Cambridge said putting on an authoritative air.

“I’m afraid Your Highness that other than similar dispatches received from Monck about preparations and meetings we have not had any solid information on the disposition of the militia forces available to us in North America. The only new report across my own desk has been the muster of some six-thousand volunteers in Nova Scotia in January.”

There was some grumbling around the table about the lack of information available and Palmerston could not help but share the chagrin of the others. Unlike the late war with Russia where information could be couriered from the seat of war to ports on the continent where British consuls could cable the news to Britain in a few days news crossing the Atlantic was painfully slow. Unlike the flurry of activity in November and December where urgent messages seemed to arrive weekly from merchants and courier boats, now the whole series of unfortunate events leading up to the current crisis had led to an eerie quiet across the whole diplomatic front as the British demands were debated in Washington. The waiting time for news from the Americas made everyone nervous, and it was well known that events could easily spiral out of control as they had so clearly done from October to December. The simple fact was that even at the best of times it took two weeks for a fast steamer to cross the Atlantic and deliver news or orders to the British representatives who then had to act on those orders. Even then at best it still took two weeks for confirmation of the receipt of those orders to be carried back to Britain. Even with a steady stream of news crossing the Atlantic it was a month or more before those in Britain could be certain of any events in North America. Not as terrible a delay in information as had been the case in either earlier war, but it was vexing non-the-less for the men seated around the table. Palmerston sighed irritably and shifted in his seat.

“Rather than reflecting on what we do not know for the moment, I would prefer to turn our attention to what we do know. What is the state of the preparations in the true striking force of the empire? How fares the navy?”

All eyes turned to Somerset who, with an irritating calm, picked up one of his notes and began reading.

“We have taken many steps to alleviate the concerns of this cabinet in preparing the navy for war. Since the 6th of December the men of the naval dockyards have been working double shifts to prepare us in case of war and we opened the steam reserve soon after and have been inspecting the gunboat reserve since the end of that month.”

“And what is the number of vessels made available to us by this effort?” Newcastle asked.

“Thus far from the reserve we have activated some three line of battle, five frigates, twelve corvettes and sloops and over a dozen steam gunboats for service. As well there are another three line of battle, five frigates, and seven sloops and corvettes fitting out for service in harbor as we speak here.”

“No further gunboats?” Palmerston asked with an edge of concern in his voice. Somerset nodded.

“The sheds hosting the fruits of the Great Armament put forward from the last war with Russia have been checked infrequently of late, and it has been discovered that at least thirty of the older gunboats have either rotted so as to require extensive repair, or have simply rotted out so much as to be completely unsuitable for service. We are seeing what can be salvaged and what must go to the breakers, but so far it seems that the expense of repairing many of the older boats would vastly outweigh the cost of simply building new ones.”

“A pity.” Gladstone said almost absently. He seemed to be tallying figures in his head as he listened. Palmerston for his part was merely eyeing his First Lord of the Admiralty with some appreciation, but more than mild disdain. Had the fool listened to my warnings months ago we might have known this much earlier! Now though it seems the least we can do is avoid public anger and inquiry by pointing to our preparations.

“While this is all well and good gentlemen,” Lewis said interrupting Palmerston’s thoughts “,who precisely will be manning these vessels? The Good Lord knows that we have enough seamen in the Empire to man a thousand warships should we so choose, but where are we going to find enough capable seamen for this force? I’m no admiral, but I remember well some of the earlier debacles in the Baltic from the last war.”

“I am glad you ask that.” Somerset said with a proud smile “For we have at present, some odd thirty-thousand men capable of being called into service in an emergency from the men on shore. These include the men of the recently created Royal Navy Reserve, some ten-thousand, the near ten-thousand marines on shore, some four-thousand coast guard on shore, forty-four hundred able bodied naval and marine pensioners, and several hundred riggers from the dockyards. However, were I to include the Coast Volunteers we would have a further eight-thousand men for service putting some forty-thousand men at our disposal for the manning of Her Majesties ships. It is from these reserves we have already the ships from the reserve, more men will be working up the ships as they are readied for service.”

Palmerston was about to make what he thought would sound like a congratulations when a knock on the door silenced him. A clerk entered and bowed to the assembled notables.

“My Lords.” He said straightening “I beg your pardon for the interruption, but the most recent despatch’s from North America have arrived.” He produced a case and acceded to Granville’s motion to enter and placed it on the table before leaving. The case sat there for a few moments before Palmerston reached over and opened it. With a calm he had not expected to experience in receiving this news, he read over once the letter from Lyons and placed it quietly on the table.

“I fear it is to be war after all gentlemen.” He said into the dead silence of the room.

“And how long can it last?” Granville asked into the silence. Suddenly Somerset seemed unable to contain his enthusiasm.

“This will be a great opportunity to once and for all demonstrate the superiority of British arms on the North American continent! With our navy on the waves and our armies checking their advance on land they cannot hope to overcome us!”

“Six months my lords!” Cambridge said exuberantly “In six months they shall be asking us for terms as their shores burn and their armies are broken on our bayonets!”

To Palmerston this all seemed a reasonable assumption. He had no doubt that the Northern armies could not hope to prosecute a war against both Britain and do their bloody work in subjugating the South at the same time. He knew that British valor was better than the nation of shopkeepers which resided across the sea. Their form of government was anarchy personified, without order or reason, certainly their devolvement into civil war proved that! Still though, a nagging thought tugged at his mind. Are we prepared for the storm?

Outside, a light rain began.


Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 12: Send On Your Burial Cases
“It is, from my opinion as an officer, that we are now on the verge of the greatest war which has taken place in our days.” - Garnet Wolseley to Robert Biddulph, December 1861

“Let me say, I am shocked by the readiness with which the people and government of Great Britain have commenced war… it is as though the whole civilized English world has gone mad with rage.” - Charles Sumner to John Bright, March 1862

“The American response arrived in London on the 5th of February. The reaction of the government was clear, the government of the United States had refused the terms of the ultimatum despatched to Washington and so had refused the only terms Britain was prepared to offer. The American offer of international arbitration was rejected and on the 6th of February 1862, Her Majesties Government declared that a state of war now existed between the British Empire and the United States of America.

At the American legation in London the American Minister, Charles Francis Adams, Sr. was ordered out of the country. Adams, the son and grandson of presidents and ambassadors, had inherited nothing less than the great diplomatic prowess from his esteemed forefathers; however news of the rupture saddened him greatly. However much he felt that the administration in Washington had done little to keep him abreast of the events happening at home, he was a man of duty to the Adams family name, and his nation, and would attempt to put the best face possible on his departure to the many foreign diplomats who inquired as to his nations attitude in the days leading up to closure of the legation. He wrote to Lord Russell before leaving the British capital “Though I could do naught but pray for peace and despise the thought of bloodshed between our two nations, I regret to say that if it is to be war, then my countrymen shall be glad of it. We shall not suffer such dishonor as has been heaped upon us…I may not speak for my government, but I fear they shall invite you simply; ‘send on your burial cases’.

He and the legation were allowed a swift departure from London, and many other Americans in Britain would take the opportunity over the next few weeks to relocate from these hostile shores. The legation itself would relocate to Belgium awaiting further orders from Washington and meeting with the previous diplomatic mission dispatched by Seward and led by Thurlow Weed in Brussels. Others would choose to stay in order to see what aid they might provide as events unfolded…

…In London itself opinions were all for war. Lewis for his part was grimly confident of victory writing that “we shall soon iron the smile out of their face” predicting a short war which would see Britain restore its national honor. Palmerston himself assured the Queen that “Great Britain is in a better state than at any former time to inflict a severe blow upon and to read a lesson to the United States which will not soon be forgotten.” an expectation which the Queen herself would come to share. Lord Clarendon even managed to make the whole affair sound inevitably mundane, writing that “They have been long desirous for an opportunity to quarrel with us. I believe that now that is has come sooner, it is all the better. For we are not likely to ever have a better case to go to war about, nor shall we ever be better, or they worse, prepared for war.”

With the declaration of war Britain’s first duty was to send word to each of her distant stations and colonies that hostilities had broken out between the United States and Her Majesties domains. Fast steamers were immediately chartered for this purpose and dispatched with orders and news of the declaration. The Admiralty also issued the order that all ships going to and from North America and the West Indies must now travel in convoy, a move which though proved unpopular at first due to the increased costs from slower travel times, soon became seen as a wise policy…

…In North American waters themselves the now Vice-Admiral Alexander Milne was put upon to carry out the conditional orders he had been given in December. The first action of course was to ensure all the forces at his command were aware of the outbreak of war and that he would be ready for movement as soon as possible.” The World on Fire: The Third Anlgo-American War, Ashley Grimes, 2009, Random House Publishing

“News of the British declaration of war arrived in Washington on February 19th 1862. A special envoy was landed at Baltimore from a British ship flying a flag of truce and soon a white gloved Queen’s messenger was placed on a special train and shuttled to Washington with all speed, where he solemnly delivered the official word Her Majesties Government to the administration. To Lincoln this news was hardly unexpected, and he reacted accordingly. In a statement drafted for the consumption of the nation on the 20th of February he stated: “Though this nation has been for the past ten months engaged in a contest for its very survival, we have shown hostility to none save our enemies domestic who threaten the integrity of our nation... Now we face grave injustice as new foreign enemies circle our shores seeing an opportunity to pounce upon what they believe to be easy prey. It is in my estimation that they shall soon be disabused of this notion… And so we shall fight them on the seas and in the fields, but we shall not be humbled until the nation has spent every last drop of blood and every pound of treasure in her defence, and then, God willing, we shall have the rewards of victory and justice.”

Lincoln and his policy makers had hardly been idle in these circumstances. War plans lain in the winter months were soon activated, and the state governments had hardly been idle with schemes of fortifications and the raising of volunteers. Only the bank panic of late December had stalled these measures, but with the passage of the Legal Tender Act on February 22nd and the authorization of 250 million dollars of United States Notes, this soon became practical and work was redoubled as men and materials were organzied from the ongoing mobilization of the North’s resources and redirected towards the defense of the nations’ coasts.

All the while men marched north to positions planned out only weeks before, and Colonel Waite stepped aside to lend command of this new northern frontier to a man deemed by the Cabinet to be of a great military mind, Major General Henry Halleck…

...While all these preparations were underway though, a great tragedy would strike far closer to the heart of the nation in the halls of power itself…” To Arms!: The Great American War, Sheldon Foote, University of Boston 1999.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – Matthew Chapter 5, verse 4

“Ever since my first introduction to Mrs. Lincoln I had been engaged in continuous labor as her modiste, designing many new items for her wardrobe. The war had now been in earnest since April and news from the front was near constant, but little action had taken place in the tense months of December and January, save for the remarkable events in the Bahama Channel and off St. Thomas. The White House had been a stir of politicians and diplomats much like an ant hill overturned by a curious child, and Mrs. Lincoln was in a constant effort to reassure the public.

The first public appearance of Mrs. Lincoln that winter was at the reception on New Year's Day. This reception was shortly followed by a brilliant levee. The day after the levee I went to the White House, and while fitting a dress to Mrs. Lincoln, she said:

"Lizabeth"--she had learned to drop the E - "Lizabeth, I have an idea. These are war times, and we must be as economical as possible. You know the President is expected to give a series of state dinners every winter, and these dinners are very costly; Now I want to avoid this expense; and my idea is, that if I give three large receptions, the state dinners can be scratched from the programme. What do you think, Lizabeth?"

"I think that you are right, Mrs. Lincoln."

"I am glad to hear you say so. If I can make Mr. Lincoln take the same view of the case, I shall not fail to put the idea into practice."

Before I left her room that day, Mr. Lincoln came in. She at once stated the case to him. He pondered the question a few moments before answering.

"Mother, I am afraid your plan will not work."

"But it will work, if you will only determine that it shall work."

"It is breaking in on the regular custom," he mildly replied.

"But you forget, father, these are war times, and old customs can be done away with for the once. The idea is economical, you must admit."

"Yes, mother, but we must think of something besides economy."

"I do think of something else. Public receptions are more democratic than stupid state dinners--are more in keeping with the spirit of the institutions of our country, as you would say if called upon to make a stump speech. There are a great many strangers in the city, foreigners and others, whom we can entertain at our receptions, but whom we cannot invite to our dinners."

"I believe you are right, mother. You argue the point well. I think that we shall have to decide on the receptions."

So the day was carried. The question was decided, and arrangements were made for the first reception. It now was January, and cards were issued for February.

The weather of that sad period was changeable, and the constant comings and goings of the White House, and Mrs. Lincoln’s own hectic schedule of public appearance soon began to tell. The children, Tad and Willie had developed a bad cold, it was believed through the regular exercise of their fine ponies, but Mrs. Lincoln had as well come down with a bad cold which deepened into fever. Such was her commitment to duty that though she ordered the children to be confined to their beds she continued abreast of her social functions until she near collapsed while entreating with the Russian Ambassador the Baron de Stoeckl.

Mr. Lincoln ordered her to bed rest immediately and she obliged, but would incessantly visit to fuss over her children against her doctors orders. Throughout late February both Willie and Tad would fluctuate fiercely between good health and mortal peril. Mrs. Lincoln would worry herself constantly, and when she was too ill to rise she would entreat me to visit them on her behalf to cheer their spirits. I am not ashamed to say that it was in this difficult period that she and I became quite close in bonding over the health of the children, for she feared they would waste away and she would be left with a single child, having already endured the loss of one in the early years of her marriage.

Even Mr. Lincoln himself would call on me to inquire on the health of his wife and children when duty pulled him away from the tense deliberations of those bleak winter months. In January the British minister, Lord Lyons, had departed and soon we feared that war with Britain was imminent, the great reason for Mrs. Lincoln’s commitment to her schedule.

As the days dragged wearily by she grew weaker and more shadow-like. She could hardly rise from bed by the end of February, and so grew more dependent upon my constant visits to her children, who seemed to be improving at the same time. I fear her constant worries and agitations over the state of Willie and Tad weakened her constitution, and she struggled to regain her own strength. It was Friday the twenty-first of February I last spoke to her.

“Lizabeth,” she said to me “You must tell me how the children are doing.”

“They are doing well Mrs. Lincoln. Tad has even rises from his bed and is walking around with Willie. Their strength seems to return by the day.”

“Oh this is wonderful news! Blessed be the Lord!”

“They ask when they can visit you.”

“I cannot risk letting their strength fail, not while I am so deep in the throes of this terrible fever. Oh Lizabeth, I fear my time has come!”

“Mrs. Lincoln! You cannot say such a thing!” I was genuinely shocked to hear such dreadful words from her mouth. She was quick to assure me though.

“Perhaps not yet, but I feel my strength failing. You must look after them for me Lizabeth, you must watch the children if I am to be gone!”

I would attempt to comfort her for some time, but she grew tired and eventually I withdrew to let her sleep, and hopefully regain her strength. It was only the next morning that it was discovered she would not wake. I was summoned to the rooms by the doctors as they inquired on what state she had been in before I left her for bed.

Finally Mr. Lincoln himself appeared. I never saw a man so bowed down with grief. He came to the bed, lifted the cover from the face of his beloved wife, and gazed at it long. Great sobs choked his utterance. He buried his head in his hands, and his tall frame was convulsed with emotion. I stood at the foot of the bed, my eyes full of tears, looking at the man in silent, awe-stricken wonder. His grief unnerved him, and made him a weak, passive child. I did not dream that his rugged nature could be so moved. I shall never forget those solemn moments--genius and greatness weeping over love's idol lost. There is a grandeur as well as a simplicity about the picture that will never fade. With me it is immortal--I really believe that I shall carry it with me across the dark, mysterious river of death.

Mrs. Lincoln was laid to rest in the cemetery with solemn ceremony, and the White House was draped in mourning. Black crape everywhere met the eye…”Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, Elizabeth Keckley, New York: G. W. Carleton & Co., Publishers, 1868[1]

“The death of Mrs. Lincoln shook Washington society. Despite rumours and gossip regarding her spending on the White House and her widely reviled sense of fashion, the passing of the First Lady was seen as a great tragedy. The whole capital was draped in black and Lincoln himself would not wear any other color for the rest of his presidency. Observers in those dreary February days described him after his wife’s funeral as “shrunken” and “bowed with grief” and it was perhaps only the survival of his children which pushed him to further efforts.

The service for Mary Lincoln was conducted in the East Room on the 26th of February 1862 at 3 p.m conducted by Phineas Gurley, minister of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Gurley attempted to bring a message of consolation and hope to the room and by all accounts it served to raise Lincoln’s spirits.

In spite of this though, Lincoln would produce no official correspondence for over a week, and he would not properly return to the running of the nation’s affairs until the end of March, leaving events largely in the hands of his cabinet…” Snakes and Ladders: The Lincoln Administration and America’s Darkest Hour, Hillary Saunders, Scattershot Publishing, 2003


Mary Todd Lincoln, 1818 - 1862

“The news of the official outbreak of war arrived in Quebec on February 20th and Williams was quick to issue orders to his officers in the field. The first was the dispatch of orders to Doyle at Halifax, and then to the frontier at Woodstock where the 62nd Regiment of Foot was stationed in two wings headquartered at Woodstock under Lt. Col James Daubney, and at Tobique under Col. William Ingall. These wings were ordered to seize the border posts at Houlton and Fort Fairfield.

Daubney had made a discreet reconnaissance of Houlton in mid-January writing that “The Town consists of scattered houses extended over more than a mile in length & lying at the bottom of a hill. The only garrison in the place were 60 Volunteers, whom I saw marching in the Town without arms to the inspiring air of Yankee Doodle played on a solitary fife accompanied by a big drum, so that the 62nd would not have had a hard task to preform.” Indeed even planners in Washington had recognized the weakness along the frontier there, as it lacked railroad connections with the rest of the state, the European and American Railroad being unfinished past Bangor, making its reinforcement in winter a difficult proposition.

And so on the morning of the 22nd of February, two wings of the 62nd Foot marched across the frontier, each numbering some 300 men, to make the first British offensive of the war. Well supplied with ammunition, and even supported by two small gun batteries of the New Brunswick volunteers, each column made good time to their objective. Opposed only by small companies of United States Volunteers armed with an assortment of weapons from shotguns to hunting rifles the resultant “battles” of Houlton and Fort Fairfield saw little actual fighting and the grand total of casualties were one American killed and three wounded in return for a single British soldier wounded during the occupations. These small skirmishes were relatively bloodless, and served to give a false sense of ease to the British officers, and buoyed the confidence of the Canadian people. In the United States though, they provoked an outpouring of outrage and a call to arms. The war had begun in earnest.

Two days later, on the Niagara Frontier, two explosions broke the morning calm. The men of the Royal Engineers had destroyed the Suspension Bridge below Niagara Falls and the old Lewiston Bridge in order to deny their use to the enemy on Williams orders. That thunderous morning would only be eclipsed in its fury as the snow melted in the spring thaw and armies mobilized for war…” Blood and Daring: The War of 1862 and how Canada forged a Nation, Raymond Green, University of Toronto Press, 2002


[1] Parts of this piece has been directly lifted from Mrs. Keckley’s memoir as a framing device and to help capture the “voice” of Mrs. Keckley, but by and large the account is fictional for my own purposes.
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Nov 21, 2014
Chapter 13: Turncoats and Patriots All

Richmond, Virginia, Confederate States of America, February 1862

Inauguration Day, and not coincidentally, George Washington’s Birthday, was cold and wet in Richmond. A gray sky delivered a great deluge upon the assembled masses who huddled in Capitol Square to watch a historic day. The number of umbrellas present gave the look of a massive field of toadstools, but many more simply had old carpets and strips of canvas held above their heads to remain some semblance of dry in the great storm that engulfed them.

There on the canopied platform which had been erected for the occasion, stood an assemblage of notables from across the Confederate States. The whole of the cabinet was gathered on stage, flag officers and generals stood next to the politicians, and newspaper reporters were much in evidence. For all the fine suits and gold braid on display all eyes were on two figures near the head of the platform, the Right Reverend John Johns, Episcopal Bishop of Virginia in his dark satin vestments, and President-elect of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis. Davis stood in a dark black suit seemingly oblivious to the weather around him, cutting an imposing, but painful, figure to look upon. Hawkish and with eyes that seemed to sink into his head, he seemed ill, or at the very least looked a man who was walking towards his own execution.

However, as Davis received the blessing from the Reverend he stepped forward to address his constituents:

“Fellow citizens, on this the birthday of the man most identified with the establishment of American independence, and beneath the monument erected to commemorate his heroic virtues and those of his compatriots, we have assembled to usher into existence the Permanent Government of the Confederate States. Through this instrumentality, under the favor of Divine Providence, we hope to perpetuate the principles of our revolutionary fathers. The day, the memory, and the purpose seem fitly associated.

It is with mingled feelings of humility and pride that I appear to take, in the presence of the people and before high Heaven, the oath prescribed as a qualification for the exalted station to which the unanimous voice of the people has called me. Deeply sensible of all that is implied by this manifestation of the people's confidence, I am yet more profoundly impressed by the vast responsibility of the office, and humbly feel my own unworthiness.

In return for their kindness I can offer assurances of the gratitude with which it is received; and can but pledge a zealous devotion of every faculty to the service of those who have chosen me as their Chief Magistrate.”

He continued on with his speech outlining the reasons for the war, the “malignity and barbarity of the Northern States” their use of “bastiles filled with prisoners, arrested without civil process or indictment duly found” the tyranny enabled by the suspension of habeas corpus by executive mandate and the imprisonment of an entire State Legislature “whose avowed principles suggested to the Federal Executive that there might be another added to the list of seceded States”. He proclaimed that:

“True to our traditions of peace and our love of justice, we sent commissioners to the United States to propose a fair and amicable settlement of all questions of public debt or property which might be in dispute. But the Government at Washington, denying our right to self-government, refused even to listen to any proposals for a peaceful separation. Nothing was then left to do but to prepare for war.”

As to the great contest itself he continued in a different vein:

“The first year in our history has been the most eventful in the annals of this continent. A new Government has been established, and its machinery put in operation over an area exceeding seven hundred thousand square miles. The great principles upon which we have been willing to hazard everything that is dear to man have made conquests for us which could never have been achieved by the sword. Our Confederacy has grown from six to thirteen States; and Maryland, already united to us by hallowed memories and material interests, will, I believe, when able to speak with unstifled voice, connect her destiny with the South. Our people have rallied with unexampled unanimity to the support of the great principles of constitutional government, with firm resolve to perpetuate by arms the right which they could not peacefully secure. Battles have been fought, sieges have been conducted, and, although the contest is not ended, the final result in our favor is not in doubt.

The day is near at hand when our foes must sink under the immense load of debt which they have incurred, a debt which in their effort to subjugate us has already attained such fearful dimensions as will subject them to burdens which must continue to oppress them for generations to come.

That day has come ever nearer with the news from across the seas, where in their unspeakable arrogance the Northern States have sought to twist the tail of the lion, only to discover they have taken the lion by the ear! The Empire of Great Britain has declared war on the North! Now the false Union finds itself with enemies on all sides, and must not just look now to subjugating the fair states of the South, but with trepidation to the North where the subjects of the Queen now stand ready to repel the armies mustered by Washington for the purposes of conquest.

The power arrayed against the tyrants in Washington is almost too great to comprehend. Can the illegal blockade we have suffered under be maintained in the face of the mighty British fleet? Will the legions from the Northern States be so bold in their assaults when the armies of Britain are loosed upon them and the cities of the Atlantic seaboard are opened to devastation? I think not. For all the strength of our Northern foe they have not the resources or courage to match the men of the South and those of Great Britain! They have not ships enough to harass our shores and repel the might of the Royal Navy.

We may take solace now in the welcome news that we no longer fight alone. The powers of Europe have seen our peril and the plight the Northern States have placed the world under with their tyrannical offenses against our sovereign rights has brought the wrath of Heaven upon them! The world knows the value of these Southern States, and we may rest assured that with the powers of Europe now looking on at our contest that we will have vindication for our cause and independence for our children!

With confidence in the wisdom and virtue of those who will share with me the responsibility and aid me in the conduct of public affairs; securely relying on the patriotism and courage of the people, of which the present war has furnished so many examples, I deeply feel the weight of the responsibilities I now, with unaffected diffidence, am about to assume; and, fully realizing the inequality of human power to guide and to sustain, my hope is reverently fixed on Him whose favor is ever vouchsafed to the cause which is just. With humble gratitude and adoration, acknowledging the Providence which has so visibly protected the Confederacy during its brief but eventful career, to thee, O God, I trustingly commit myself, and prayerfully invoke thy blessing on my country and its cause.”

The crowd erupted in applause as Davis finished his speech. Despite the chill and damp many found themselves feeling warm. Deep down most knew they were witnessing something historic, for it was a lucky man indeed who was able to witness the birth of a nation.

Fort Lennox, Canada East, February 1862

The snow clung thick to the ground on the banks of the Richelieu River, and thick ice stopped up its flow giving the land a quaint winter look one might find in a painting. Spoiling this picture was the sound of continuous work emanating from the walls of the fort placed on Île aux Noix and the continuous flow of sled traffic which churned up the snowy roads leading north into the interior of the Province of Canada. Men, guns, ammunition, foodstuffs, all were flowing south with commendable speed to help establish this redoubt on the frontier with the United States.

The original fortifications had been constructed by the French in 1759 to give the British advance on Montreal pause in the Seven Years War. From there the island had been fortified numerous times for varying reasons, but always with an eye towards the southern frontier. A new fort built in 1778 was used by the British to supply their campaigns on Lake Champlain in the War of 1812, and in 1819 those older fortifications were completely demolished to make way for the present fortifications which were expanded to cover the river and its banks and prevent any uncontested advance up the Richelieu. Those fortifications completed in 1829 it served as a posting for British troops in North America throughout many crisis following 1815.

Though it had not served its military purpose for two years it had rapidly been reoccupied at the end of December as the crisis winter had deepened. First with a battery of garrison artillery, then a company of the Royal Canadian Rifles, and finally in late January a new Volunteer battalion, the 23rd “Richelieu Light Infantry” Battalion of Volunteers under Lt. Col. Frederic Marchand.

The current commandant of the post though was Bvt. Lt. Col. Charles F. T. Daniell, commanding the troops and being charged with the overseeing of the fortifications. He had served as a brigade major in the 3rd Division in the Russian War, seeing action in the battles of Alma and Inkerman, and at the siege of Sevastopol. He had been assigned to particular service in North America in December and had crossed the Atlantic with the other cadre of officers charged with organizing the Canadian militia and had received the local rank of Lt. Col to avoid trouble with ranking in the militia.

Daniell currently sat in his office in the fort barracks going over what seemed an endless amount of paperwork related to the preparing of the fortifications and the militia expenses. He sighed and rubbed his eyes in the mid afternoon light, he was at the very least warm and ensconced in a comfortable office, far different from how he had conducted his field work in the Crimea. A knock on the door interrupted his revelry on a hatred of clerks and a sergeant from the Volunteers entered and saluted smartly, if somewhat clumsily.

“Sir, sentries have picked up three men who presented themselves on the shore.”

“Spies you believe?” Daniell asked.

“They claim to be deserters from the Northern army, sir. Canadian born and raised they say.”

“Very good, send them in. We shall see what they know.” Daniell said waving the man away. The militiaman offered another clumsy salute and withdrew. These would not be the first Canadians crossing the frontier for home. A steady trickle had been arriving since the end of January with the departure of the British legation from Washington, most had seen the writing on the wall and sensed that war was imminent. They had been forced to make a moral choice of honoring their enlistment to a foreign nation, or of honoring their native country and homes and leaving an enemy army. Some had presented themselves here to enlist in the Volunteers, but you couldn’t be sure how many had simply fled for home to sit the current fighting out and avoid the moral dilemma. He had little sympathy for men like that.

The sergeant returned accompanied by an armed private of the Volunteers leading a group of bedraggled looking men into the office. Swathed in thick coats and with snowshoes on their backs they looked as though they had been roughing it in the woods for weeks. The eldest couldn’t have been more than twenty or so, while the youngest looked barely sixteen. The eldest, marked by a thick, full, moustache stepped forward.

“Sir,” he began gravely “my name is Alfred Wolverton and these are my brothers, Alonzo, Jasper, and Newton. We were formerly in the service of the Federal armies in the United States, but when Lord Lyons departed from Washington, we knew war was coming. We made our choice and so have defected from the service of the United States to return to our home country. We offer ourselves to your custody and protection.”

Daniell eyed the four brothers levelly for a moment.

“In what capacity did you serve in the Federal armies?” he inquired.

“My brothers and I were all serving as teamsters in the Army of the Potomac outside of Washington sir.” Alfred said “We ferried supplies between the city and the camps. I never held a rifle my entire time there.”

“Fairly said lad.” Daniell said nodding. “Would you be willing to take up a rifle against the enemies of the Queen and in defence of your home?” Without even a moments hesitation the eldest brother answered.

“Sir it would be my honor to take arms alongside the men of my country. I do not doubt that my brothers would be glad to take up arms as well, but I would ask one boon of you sir.” Alfred said.

“Ask away.”

“I would request that you send my brother Newton home. He is not of age to enlist, and besides our sisters, we are the only children my father has. I could not in good conscience allow my family line to be extinguished.” The youngest, Newton evidently, shot the eldest brother a dirty look. The other two merely stood and watched for the officers’ reaction.

Daniell nodded. The other three would be good additions to the Volunteers, the other son would most likely enlist in time, but for now it would be of no consequence to let him return home for a while to help his family.

“Where do you boys come from? I can arrange for you to be sent out, working mind you, on a shipment.”

“We’re from Wolverton, in Canada West sir.” Alfred said. Daniell didn’t even blink at the distance from home they were. In his career as a soldier he had gone much farther afield. Instead he merely nodded.

“I can send you on with a letter of introduction and a recommendation that your brother work a shipment heading out to Kingston. I can’t guarantee him an unmolested trip all the way home, but I can get him started.”

“That would be much appreciated sir.” Alfred said, gratitude plain in his voice.

“It is the least I can do as an officer and a Christian gentleman. Now you lads will spend the night here, but I’ll have you working the next shipment back to Montreal. There you can find employment or enlist as you see fit.”

“Thank you sir.” Alfred said smiling.

“Godspeed gentlemen. Now find yourselves a hot meal and the sergeant will put you to work for the night.”