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pgr
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Would European Intervention have changed the outcome?

Sun Oct 18, 2015 2:20 pm

So there tends to be a lot of discussion about how likely European intervention was, with an implicit idea that it would have changed the outcome. Lets assume for a moment that Britain and France decide to intervene, what would it have looked like, and would it have changed the outcome?

I tend to think it would have created a mess, but I'm not sure it would have impacted the eventual outcome.

Reason 1: Union mobilization... In the words of Shelby foot "the North fought that war with one hand tied behind its back." A wider war with a risk of invasion would have, in my mind, led folks in the North to rally around the flag. The US probably could have raised armies to make a serious bid to invade Canada, while still carrying on the war in the South.

Reason 2: Distance: Any Anglo-French intervention would have to be supported across the Atlantic, which is no small task...especially in the presence of the Union's rapidly growing naval power. This would greatly limit the number of forces involved. If you look at the French intervention in Mexico, we are talking about an expeditionary force of 20-30,000. Are a couple of French or British corps going to turn the balance?

Reason 3: Other concerns: If the ACW was the only concern of GB and France, perhaps they would have made a major effort, but they both had other global concerns. For France, Prussia is on the move, and the more forces sent away weakens its position in Europe. In 1870, the country falls to Prussia, even without forces spread out in Mexico, Italy, Algeria and other points. GB has the empire, India, and the Great Game with Russia to worry about. Both Bismark and Russia were strongly pro-Union, so any intervention force would have been put together with the need for these powers to keep enough reserves to protect their European interests.

Of course it would depend on how things played out on the battlefield, but I'm not sure the intervention of European powers would have altered the final outcome.

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1stvermont
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Sun Oct 18, 2015 7:08 pm

I think it depends on a few things. First when is the intervention? if its early i think the north does not fight the war. I cant see them as going to war with world and trade powers just to keep some states that no longer want to be part of the country. I think the war was not very popular; as you said the north fought with one hand behind there back. To add European powers, i say the populous outcast Lincoln. I think the outcome would change not on the battlefield but in the norths will to fight that war.


However if we assume the north is all in and brings all its might to the war in such a case. I guess I dont know enough about GB and France at the time military wise to comment. I would have to say if they joined early [ early 63 or before] i would chose the north not winning and if after January 64 than who knows. I do also believe the civil war was the time america showed militarily we had no match. Even though we had beaten Great Britian in wars I just dont think we were viewed by the world as the world power until the civil war. However a divided america with 2 other world powers is allot to ask of the north alone to win.
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Sun Oct 18, 2015 8:15 pm

Good point, 1stvermont, about a very early intervention perhaps preventing the war. I think it very unlikely, though.

What could the European powers, in fact, have done to affect the war? As pgr stated, both England and France had huge commitments elsewhere. Their foreign policy goal was not to fight a major war for Southern independence, but to restore trade links and perhaps impede the United States in its rise a a global power.

France had a strong presence in Mexico and the naval power to conduct troop movements in the Caribbean, but to what effect? I think they would not have landed divisions to be commanded by Confederates. Britain had the naval power to lift the blockade and the possibility of a land campaign out of Canada. We had a big navy, but the armored vessels were all strictly brown water.

The British would not have risked an escalation to all-out war that an invasion from Canada would have entailed, though the possibility would certainly have diverted Federal troops to that border. They could probably have lifted the blockade just by a show of strength. The French would contribute almost nothing. End result, the Union still wins but it takes longer and some lingering bitterness is sown.

kc87
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Sun Oct 18, 2015 11:12 pm

The real European intervention came naturally throughout the war in the form of immigration. Many of these Europeans were captured by the Confederates and were unable to speak a lick of English and still in possession of their 300 dollar sign on bonuses.

Hypothetically the British and French Armies at the time lacked the efficient organization and command structure of the large land Armies needed in the American Civil War. The British still allowed the purchase of officer commissions and aristocrats continued to block reforms which saw the continuation of an outdated Army structure at the command level. Politically it would have been an unpopular move after the difficulties of the Crimean War in 1856. Britain had no Army reserve which meant it would have fielded all inexperienced soldiers or be forced to shift veteran soldiers from important posts and locations leaving the Empire vulnerable. Militarily the amount of logistics and troops needed to effectively intervene would have been too costly for the British Empire, and the French were even less likely to intervene with their ongoing quarrels with Austria and Prussia.

If there was an intervention by land I imagine the attrition would be great from disease, probably more-so after the long trip across the Atlantic packed tight on ships. By 1863 both the South and North had large numbers of veteran soldiers and experienced field commanders. European Armies would have been largely inexperienced and would have been exposed to the same folleys of the early war with the potential for disastrous and lackluster results.

When it comes to naval intervention, crossing the entire Atlantic Ocean only to find one of the largest modernized fleets waiting for you would be extremely risky. This would severely limit the possibilities of where the British or French could intervene and mount a land operation safely. There were already large numbers of US warships patrolling off the coast of Canada looking for blockade runners operating out of Halifax and the blockade could have been easily extended across the Canadian coast.

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Mon Oct 19, 2015 1:25 pm

I suppose it could have, but I don't think so. The only way intervention from UK or France would have worked was if they actually mobilized an expedition force and sent it via sea transports to the continent and worked in conjunction with CSA forces to defeat the Union. I doubt the British forces available in Canada at the time would have had the strength to both defend the border AND act as an offensive force to invade Northern US territories.

Ultimately, the only way to victory for the South was winning massive victories in battle that eliminated Union armies, allowing for invasions of Northern states by the CSA. The only real way the South could win was destroy the Union armies, march on Washington and put a gun to Lincoln's head demanding that he sign the peace treaty... and that was a hill too steep for just about anyone to climb. And like Shelby Foote once said, the North fought that war with one arm tied behind its back, and if the South had a won a lot more battles, the North would have just pulled its other arm out and gone over to total war industry and troop production.

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tripax
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Mon Oct 19, 2015 4:01 pm

My guess is ultimately the outcome would be the same. I've written a few guesses below. In a flight of fancy, I've also written a possibility in a second post, but it is just for fun and very much not serious.

In my opinion, European intervention after the Emancipation Proclamation would be fractious in Europe and might have led to at least some of Russia entering the war in a limited way for the North. Also, I doubt the UK would politically be able to commit land troops or even offensive navy ships once Emancipation was signed. However, I think the North would immediately give up the greater blockade efforts and focus on control of the Chesapeake Bay. Without control of the sea, the North would have difficulty supplying New Orleans until after Vicksburg and would also have to retreat from the Sea Islands. While this would increase the concentration of Northern troops, fewer southern troops would be required to garrison ports and more Northern troops would be required to garrison its ports. Also, French troops in Mexico would make for an interesting situation in the far west.

Basically, intervention after Emancipation could be a disaster for European states politically and, while there would be a limited effect on the blockade, ultimately Europe would not be able to send many/any troops and outcome would have been the same.

France sent troops to Mexico in December of 1861. Especially after that point, Lincoln became very politically attuned to Europe. While he didn't always do the right thing, he was politically very adept and may have been able to minimize intervention were it declared after that date. Possibly this would be by moving up his Emancipation Declaration, I'm not sure. But again, I'd guess that if intervention was declared after December 1861, Lincoln would have enough warning to make it a political minefield for the Europeans and their support for the south would be limited. In this case, the north's extra arm would be untied and it would win the War. However, the outcome would be quite different, as the North would be more militant. Assuming Lincoln is still assassinated, there might be more guerrilla war-type actions and there would also more likely be longer lasting military government of the South. In this case a re-eruption of the war might go worse for the North. If Lincoln is not assassinated, I think the outcome would likely be similar, with the increased power of the North's militancy being balanced against Lincoln's political acumen.
Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history -- we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history. - Reverend Clementa Pinckney

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tripax
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Mon Oct 19, 2015 4:06 pm

This answer is just for fun and I don't really think it would go this way, but what if...

While France sent only about 25,000 troops to Mexico, together France and the UK sent 500,000 to Crimea, so there is precedent for large land armies moving long distances over sea from those countries in that time period. Near as I can tell, the UK and France didn't have a great causus belli in the Crimean War, so I think the precedent isn't a bad one. If European powers intervened in 1861, say shortly after Bull Run, I'd guess that Kentucky would succeed and the war would end. I don't know what Maryland and Missouri would do, but the South would have gotten caught in a bloody mess in Cuba in the mid 1860s and in Indian Country throughout the period and the North would capitalize by keeping control of most of the Far West.

The state of Sequoia gains autonomy in modern day Oklahoma and includes parts of Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. The Mormons stay with the North to get US support against further Indian incursions. Spain might jump in to the South's Cuba fiasco and the South is forced to give Spain some Florida swamp land.

Also, Haiti sends troops to start a slave uprising in the Sea Islands off the Carolinas. This nearly leads to a genocide, and many blacks in the South flea to the North, to the Sea Islands, to Haiti, and to Africa. Souths that remain are granted freedom immediately, I'm not sure how this one goes.

Let us say the North keeps Missouri and loses Maryland. The capital would probably move back to Philadelphia, but I'm not sure. The hard feelings between the UK and the north would not end and Canadian independence would not be politically feasible in the mid to late 1860s. The Fenian raids in the early 1870s and British territorial actions in Vancouver would mean the 1871 Treaty of Washington is not signed. I'm not sure how that one works, but perhaps there would be another war of 1812 type action. If the Franco-Prussian war goes the same way again in 1870-1871, France wouldn't get involved, and I'd guess this one would go badly for the US/North and it would lose Seattle and everything else north of Minneapolis and west of Detroit. Possibly this would be when the US loses Missouri to the south.

It might be different depending on who gains power in the North as a result of the loss. For instance, if McClellan avoids taking the blame, maybe he'd gain power. I'm not sure, but maybe he'd be more willing to create a war economy and the North would be able to outlast/defeat the UK in the US-Canadian War of 1870.
Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history -- we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history. - Reverend Clementa Pinckney

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pgr
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Mon Oct 19, 2015 7:31 pm

tripax wrote: together France and the UK sent 500,000 to Crimea
Indeed, but they were fighting for reasons that were much closer to home. The French and British didn't want the Russians to get too much influence in the Middle East (sound familiar doesn't it...). The Brits in particular were worried about overland Russian expansion threatening their the jewel of India. Plus they had a local ally, Turkey, that was more or less holding the line. (Plus the whole thing turned into a bloody mess, which kinda turned the public off on those sorts of adventures.)

The thing is, the Brits and the French still have the Russian problem in the 1860's...plus Italian unification, crises with Greece and the Ottoman Empire, and good old Otto Von Bismark cobbling those German states together into one state. That's a lot of plates in the air.

Getting back on track a bit, lets assume they come in in 1863. A big objective they could have conceivably had a huge impact on would have been the "liberation" of New Orleans... would that have been a game changer? (Opening the Mississippi for confederate communications and closing down the North West's access to the sea...could have made it hard for Lincoln in the elections of 64).

And what if they intervened BEFORE Lincoln, during Buchanan's lame duck session? That would have sealed the deal I suppose... (unless you want to argue that intervention early like that would have enraged upper Southern states like Va into staying in the Union to fight foreign aggression and rebellion...but I tend to doubt it.)

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Mon Oct 19, 2015 9:27 pm

This is fun what if discussion.
I don't think, they would made big landing force. Not enough political will for casualties back home (also familiar). But they would surely lift the blockade of the South. Would that help the South to win the war. Most likely not. Even if they had all the resources in the world, South was still undermanned by far. So, it would come to the battle of exhaustion. Would the South make the Union bleed so much they would simply say enough is enough. Well, I don't think US has ever lost a war in its entire history, they don't know how to loose a war if they think cause is just. And I think they viewed their cause as just as it can be.
So, bottom line Union victory, but after much more blodshed...

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Tue Oct 20, 2015 12:55 pm

The so called Trent Affair, where a Union warship illegally stopped a British flagged vessel and seized two Confederate diplomats, caused enormous public outcry in England. A plan was actually formulated to go to war. The Brits take maritime matters very seriously. The Canadians were going to field 100k volunteers. The English navy would gain sea control by bottling up the Union Atlantic fleet or sinking it. This would prevent any Union blockade of the CSA as a byproduct. A British force would then be transported to Canada. This would consist of professional army regulars with experience from the Crimean War, armed with modern breech-loading rifles and artillery versus a Union army as green as a field of grass. They would stage in eastern Canada and then invade parts of the Northeast.

IMHO, even if the Union wasn't invaded, a force necessary to counter 100k+ soldiers on the Canadian border would have drained off too many Union troops to have made any offensives in 1862 possible. A "sits-krieg" would have really drained Northern resolve as would a Royal Navy blockade of Union shipping. Lincoln would not have gotten to pin the Emancipation Proclamation to a battle victory. The Union blockade was one of the cornerstones of the eventual victory and this would be gone as well. So the rebels would have access to European markets where they could trade cotton for an arsenal. This might have added several years to the ACW.
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pgr
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Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:57 pm

Gray Fox wrote: armed with modern breech-loading rifles and artillery versus a Union army as green as a field of grass. They would stage in eastern Canada and then invade parts of the Northeast.


Breech loaders? I didn't believe the British army had those until 1866 at the soonest. As for breech loading cannons, they invented Witworth rifled cannons, but my understanding was that the breech was quite tricky and weak....nothing like those french 75s of 40 years later

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James W. Starnes
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Thu Jan 28, 2016 12:35 am

I wouldn't look so much at the military advantages. I see this mistake made by a great many of historians. The C.S.A. had a huge disadvantage on paper in virtually everything. So you may wonder, why even fight then? Sure they have great generals to put to the test, but would that really make up for losing on every other advantage? Well let's dive deeper into military culture of the C.S.A. The C.S.A. had what you would call a "celtic influence." This cause an undisciplined, arrogant, and offensive, yes I said offensive, military culture. Yet the men were physically hardy overall, courageous, and proud. Now how would this come to play in a disadvantage? Though the Union had a disadvantage of invading a foreign land known by southerners, come most battles, southerners were the ones who attacked. At this point, you might be wondering, "why in the hell would they not give up in the beginning to prevent more deaths?" Here is the answer; quite simple: Public support, public support, public support. Lee himself knew this. The ONLY way to win, which was a very possible way indeed, and almost happened on a great many occasions, was TO DESTROY NORTHERN WILL. If the Union lost at Antietam, it was almost guaranteed that the Northern public pressure would force Lincoln to sign a treaty, recognizing the Confederate States of America. Here's why. This was the first major battle fought on Northern soil, so not only was the Northern populace frightened by the string of losses, but they WOULD HAVE LOST ONE ON THEIR OWN LAND. That would be enough, but it wouldn't stop their. It was also guaranteed Great Britain would join the C.S.A. if that battle on Northern soil was won. So hopefully that would answer all or most of your answers. I'm only 15 years of age, so I have a lot more to study! Have been for over two years now. If you found any of this intriguing, there was a lecture at Vanderbilt University that goes in depth of the AoNV's strategy/culture. I can't post links, so just add this line in after "watch" when you get on Youtube. ?v=Zy3OWWWARvw

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pgr
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Thu Jan 28, 2016 10:10 am

Welcome to the Forum James. I think you are correct in thinking that the only way the South wins is if the North gives up. I would suggest there were only two moments where that was truly possible: The Congressional Elections of 1862 and the Presidential Election of 1864. Anti-war Democrats spent most of the War calling for a negotiated in to the war. Everyone talks about how Lincoln's re-election was in doubt in the Summer of 64, but people tend to forget that the Republicans suffered big losses in 1862, and lost their absolute majority in the House. The only thing that kept the War going were the 25 "War Democrats" that caucused with the Republicans and gave Lincoln a majority. The anti-war Democrats ran most strongly in the in the Mid-West, and I think a case can be made that if Bragg's Invasion of Kentucky, Lee's Invasion of Maryland or some other event (say the attempt to capture New Orleans going badly) had happened differently, then anti-war democrats could have gained control of Congress, and forced an end to the war...

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Thu Jan 28, 2016 11:36 am

pgr wrote:Breech loaders? I didn't believe the British army had those until 1866 at the soonest. As for breech loading cannons, they invented Witworth rifled cannons, but my understanding was that the breech was quite tricky and weak....nothing like those french 75s of 40 years later


Fergusson was issued in 1777, limited numbers, Snider in 1853 was a large scale introduction.

Whitworths were used by the ANV https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=KHSn_TeKbZIC&pg=PA974&lpg=PA974&dq=whitworth+artillery+defects&source=bl&ots=E8F3xSiTFK&sig=GuBdmhJEtA-7fVB8G8xExArmuoM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi468DGp8zKAhWlEHIKHeixDP8Q6AEIODAD#v=onepage&q=whitworth%20artillery%20defects&f=false

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James W. Starnes
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Fri Jan 29, 2016 12:16 am

pgr wrote:Welcome to the Forum James. I think you are correct in thinking that the only way the South wins is if the North gives up. I would suggest there were only two moments where that was truly possible: The Congressional Elections of 1862 and the Presidential Election of 1864. Anti-war Democrats spent most of the War calling for a negotiated in to the war. Everyone talks about how Lincoln's re-election was in doubt in the Summer of 64, but people tend to forget that the Republicans suffered big losses in 1862, and lost their absolute majority in the House. The only thing that kept the War going were the 25 "War Democrats" that caucused with the Republicans and gave Lincoln a majority. The anti-war Democrats ran most strongly in the in the Mid-West, and I think a case can be made that if Bragg's Invasion of Kentucky, Lee's Invasion of Maryland or some other event (say the attempt to capture New Orleans going badly) had happened differently, then anti-war democrats could have gained control of Congress, and forced an end to the war...


Thank you for the welcome, and I think you definitely brought out the point I was trying to make!

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Fri Jan 29, 2016 5:19 am

James W. Starnes wrote:Thank you for the welcome, and I think you definitely brought out the point I was trying to make!


To add my two cents worth, North and South, leaders were infatuated with the Napoleonic notion of the destruction of the opposing army. The South, especially, noted that an army of an inferior strategic position won against all odds. From Shiloh through the Bragg and early Lee campaigns the goal was to destroy a Union Army. So to second pgr and to maybe add a bit, the South did not do an economic calculus, but a calculus of elan.

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pgr
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Fri Jan 29, 2016 11:42 am

Durk wrote:To add my two cents worth, North and South, leaders were infatuated with the Napoleonic notion of the destruction of the opposing army.


Well and not to veer too off topic, but old Bonaparte came wound up having trouble after people stopped having the good taste to give up after loosing the battle! (Thing Spain and Russia 1812...)

Not that destroying the enemy army wasn't a worthy goal. It's just hard to do. It took tell 1864-5 for Union forces to be technically proficient enough to do it (I'm thinking Nashville and Appomattox). Given that no one on either side had really commanded a force larger than a few companies (let alone drilled in brigade, corps, or army level tactics), It's not surprising it took a while to prefect the art.

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