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Subject: British/French/Mexican intervention in the ACW rss

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Has anyone come across any research into the British, French or Mexican (or anyone else's) armies 1861-65, the makeup of the armies and fleets they might have committed, and any strategic plans they might have made for possible intervention in the ACW?

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Curtis Kitchens
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No specific research. British through Canada, French through Mexico? Big Ifs.
 
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Rex Stites
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One of the computer Civil War games (AGEOD's American Civil War??)allows the possibility of British intervention. It might be worth checking out to see how they handle it.
 
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Bob Zurunkel
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Doubtful either country got as far as planning for an intervention. As to what they might have sent, you could start with what France and Britain sent to the Crimean War and extrapolate from that.
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Bill Eldard
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France and Mexico were preoccupied with each other about the time of the ACW -- not likely that either was in a position to intercede. To create an alternative history, one would have to start with the assumption that Napoleon III refrained from invading Mexico.

Also, France had growing problems in Europe with the rise of Bismarck's Prussia. Just five years after Appomattox, Prussia attacked France.

Perhaps a better question would be: Would Canada -- as Britain's proxy and perhaps reinforced with a token British army expeditionary force -- have intervened? Canada became a dominion in 1867, but perhaps London had more leverage in 1862-1863 to gain Canada's cooperation (Did Canada have a choice?). I think after 1863, Britain would be hesitant to jump in on the CSA's side.
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Chris Stimpson
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AFAIK, the British were in an awkward position: they had ended slavery in Britain some 80 years (?) earlier, yet a significant part of their economy was tied to the Southern states (cotton going to Lancashire for the clothing business - think Brass: Lancashire). Then again, the USA, as represented by the North/Federal side of the ACW, was the entity that had defeated them in the War of Independence, so perhaps the notion of a separate country being created with strong trade ties to Britain would have struck them as payback!!!
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Bill Dickerson
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cstimpson wrote:
AFAIK, the British were in an awkward position: they had ended slavery in Britain some 80 years (?) earlier, yet a significant part of their economy was tied to the Southern states (cotton going to Lancashire for the clothing business - think Brass: Lancashire). Then again, the USA, as represented by the North/Federal side of the ACW, was the entity that had defeated them in the War of Independence, so perhaps the notion of a separate country being created with strong trade ties to Britain would have struck them as payback!!!



You're close on the date, but the UK Slavery Abolition Act happened in 1833. With the ACW happening less than 30 years later, it was wishful thinking on the part of the South that Great Britain might intervene. The Emancipation Proclamation put it fully out of reach once and for all.
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Robert Stuart
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There was no way Canada would have intervened. For one thing, Canadians did not like slavery. Secondly, they fronted the wrong border. They were in no position to aid the South, short of invading the North. To have tried to invade across that border would have drawn very serious reprisals, and enkindled a very long period of enmity at the very least. Britain would not have endangered its valuable colony by allowing it to take sides.
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Paul H
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Emeraldhunter wrote:
The Emancipation Proclamation put it fully out of reach once and for all.


One could also say it was the Battle of Sharpsburg / Antietam that hurt the CSA's chances. To that end, in Shelby Foote's Civil War narrative he mentions that France (and sections of the UK opposition) were still considering recognition of the CSA in 1863. It was the double hammer of Vicksburg and Gettysburg that convinced them the CSA could not win.

Sort of the Battle of Saratoga in reverse.
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I agree that it was, particularly in hindsight, highly unlikely. But I'm more curious about the type of army that would've been involved, where, doing what? Would the foreign powers have sent? What did they have to send? A small expeditionary force? Committed mainly to fight the blockade? Fancied a land invasion from Canada? Mexico taking some land?
 
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Pete Belli
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Direct military intervention is a classic "What if?" red herring found in bad novels and goofy game designs.

British recognition of the Confederacy would have massive economic, diplomatic, and military repercussions. The impact on the Union blockade of southern ports would probably be enough to bring about an armistice.

Sending troops to intervene (as so often seen in alternative history ACW scenarios or optional rules) is a weak narrative used to add cool units to a game.
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Bob Zurunkel
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colditz wrote:
I agree that it was, particularly in hindsight, highly unlikely. But I'm more curious about the type of army that would've been involved, where, doing what? Would the foreign powers have sent? What did they have to send? A small expeditionary force? Committed mainly to fight the blockade? Fancied a land invasion from Canada? Mexico taking some land?


If there was intervention (which was highly unlikely), most probably it would have been focused on breaking the blockade, supplying the South with war materials, and putting diplomatic pressure on the North to make peace. Anything other than a token land force, such as harbor security, I just can't see happening.
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PJ Killian
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Between 1861 and 1863 Egyptian cotton exports quintupled, which pretty much killed off the hard-hearted economic case for UK intervention on the Southern side. Antietam not only proved that the CSA would have a much tougher time attacking the US than defending their own turf, it also gave Lincoln the political cover to pull the Emancipation Proclamation out of his desk drawer -- the UK government had a much tougher go of explaining why they were thinking about intervening to defend an institution most British people thought was barbaric. Short of Lincoln doing something uncharacteristically moronic on the diplomatic front it's hard to imagine the US doing something to honk off the Limeys enough to make them want to commit to a big war that would disrupt Atlantic trade, threaten control of Canada, and forever taint their moral authority as THE anti-slavery global power.

The French were never going to intervene unless the British were too. They were busy in Mexico, which wasn't going phenomenally well, and they had less interest in the cotton trade than the British did.

Mexico was a weak, poor and divided country -- which is why the French were there in the first place. Assuming that we're still on the historical timeline, they were too busy with a civil war of their own to effectively intervene in ours. And if we assume an alternate timeline in which there is no French invasion, the Juarez government would have little incentive to intervene on behalf of a slaveholding republic headed by people who had actively participated in conquering them 15 years ago who they (presumably and correctly) suspected had imperial designs on Latin America if they survived the Civil War.
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Bob Zurunkel
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Somewhat off topic - There's a good movie, "Major Dundee", directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Charlton Heston, about a mixed unit of Northern soldiers and Confederate prisoners sent to stop an Apache raiding party on the Mexican border. It's based on a true story, and the final battle is between Heston's men and French Lancers.
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Antonie van der Tweel
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If Lincoln had not told Adams to consider the letters from Seward as advice and not as orders, the Trent incident could easily have spiralled out of control; culminating in the British fleet breaking the blockade of the Southern ports.
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Lance McMillan
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CmdrOverbite wrote:
Between 1861 and 1863 Egyptian cotton exports quintupled, which pretty much killed off the hard-hearted economic case for UK intervention on the Southern side.


Exactly. Plus there was already a glut of raw cotton in Britain; the textile industry had already cut back their purchases significantly. The South may have believed that "Cotton was King," but by the start of the war it was already, at best, a rather impoverished baron.

There were, realistically, only two reasons that the UK would have intervened:

(1) If he USA had done something so egregious that it forced Britain to act (e.g. an escalation of the "Trent Affair"), or

(2) If the British rivalry with France had quieted down at the same time as the CSA did something so spectacular militarily, over a protacted period (not talking a single battlefield victory, but a chain of events that made it clear the tide had irrevocably turned) that Britain saw it as an opportunity to hamstring a potential economic/global competitor. Of course, in this case you have to wonder why, if the USA is losing, the British feel it necessary to intervene on the CSA's behalf in the first place...

I have to wonder why this tired old Lost Cause trope keeps coming up. Aside from wishful thinking on the part of some of the more deluded Southern gentry, intervention wasn't going to happen unless the USA did something spectacularly stupid, and even then it was unlikely to result in anything more than naval actions -- British ground forces being committed to battle alongside CSA troops is just about as "fantastic" as the Orcs of Mordor showing up.
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Pete Belli
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Quote:
...British ground forces being committed to battle alongside CSA troops is just about as "fantastic" as the Orcs of Mordor showing up.


At least the Orcs wouldn't have to worry about marching on stony Pennsylvania roads in bare feet.
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Andrew N
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It's doubtful any of them would have intervened directly, for all of the reasons already stated. Direct economic/diplomatic aid would have been more likely, if the Confederates had been more successful. The big problem was that they never looked like they were going to win.

Another reason that's not discussed as much is that the Brits were really worried by the naval technology that the US Navy was deploying. There was a bit of an arms race with both the US and Brits vying to field the largest rifled, explosive shell firing guns. There was also the USN fleet of monitors, which were armed with these powerful guns (mounted in turrets) and well armored/difficult to hit because of their low profiles. There's a great book about this subject called Clad In Iron by Howard J. Fuller.
 
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Dave Cruces
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See here: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/civil_war-england...

Read this:
https://www.amazon.com/World-Fire-Britains-Crucial-American-...
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Bob Zurunkel
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pete belli wrote:
Quote:
...British ground forces being committed to battle alongside CSA troops is just about as "fantastic" as the Orcs of Mordor showing up.


At least the Orcs wouldn't have to worry about marching on stony Pennsylvania roads in bare feet.


It is good that Orcs are so terrible, else we would grow too fond of them.
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David Alexander
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Cannot discount the threat of Russian aid to the Union. Russia made it very clear by sending its Baltic Fleet to the United States in 1863 that the U.S. would not stand alone against British machinations.

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Robert Wesley
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pete belli wrote:
Quote:
...British ground forces being committed to battle alongside CSA troops is just about as "fantastic" as the Orcs of Mordor showing up.


At least the Orcs wouldn't have to worry about marching on stony Pennsylvania roads in bare feet.
soblue "Yetisburg"! surprise
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Bill Eldard
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Westie wrote:
Somewhat off topic - There's a good movie, "Major Dundee", directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Charlton Heston, about a mixed unit of Northern soldiers and Confederate prisoners sent to stop an Apache raiding party on the Mexican border. It's based on a true story, and the final battle is between Heston's men and French Lancers.


And a rather rousing Peckinpaugh film at that. Heston, Richard Harris, Senta Berger, Jim Hutton, James Coburn, and a great supporting cast.
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Bill Eldard
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bob_santafe wrote:
There was no way Canada would have intervened. For one thing, Canadians did not like slavery. Secondly, they fronted the wrong border. They were in no position to aid the South, short of invading the North.


That's ther strategic strength of such a plan. They were facing the USA's most vulnerable border. Almost all of the Union forces were fighting to the south. A British/Canadian invasion from the north -- where it was closer to supply centers -- would've posed as a huge challenge to the Union and forced Lincoln to divert troops northward. It may have hastened McClellan's firing.

bob_santafe wrote:
To have tried to invade across that border would have drawn very serious reprisals, and enkindled a very long period of enmity at the very least. Britain would not have endangered its valuable colony by allowing it to take sides.


As demonstrated in the War of 1812, Canada was no stranger to US invasion, and in that war, it did well. The loyalty of the Quebecois was validated.

In the ACW, the Royal Navy would've posed a huge threat to the USN blocakde and ensured open SLOCs to Canada. With a strong British commitment, it may have been a game changer.

There was no love lost between the US and Canada, as the post-ACW Fenian adventures illustrate. But without British political will, Canada certainly had no interest in getting involved.
 
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An argument could be made that if Jefferson Davis had not chosen to place a self-imposed embargo on cotton trade to Europe, and instead had even reduced tariffs and provided other incentives to increase trade with Europe, that Britain and other nations might have been more interested in breaking the blockade through diplomacy, or possibly military intervention. There were some British-supported blockade runners, but their impact was negligible. Since the whole war for the CSA hinged upon being recognized and supported by Europe, Davis should have invested much more resources in diplomacy before things started to heat up. Thinking that Europe would be forced into action by "starving" them of cotton was complete idiocy by Davis.

I also wonder what level of debt Southerners had with British and other European banks and importers prior to the Civil War. I have no idea, but my understanding was that the South was in general spending more money on European imports of expensive manufactured goods than they were making on exports of inexpensive cotton and other agricultural products. If significant, British debt holders would have had some incentive in avoiding the bankruptcy and destruction of their debtors and supporting diplomatic intervention to end the war quickly. But these same debt holders may have felt they could afford to take a loss on the South and make more profit funding the Union's war effort, perhaps even hoping the war would go on and rack up greater debt.
 
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