American Civil War and International Diplomacy

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American Civil War and International Diplomacy: 1861-1865

In 1861, eleven states seceded from the United States to form the Confederate States of America, and, over the course of the next four years, the U.S. fought to bring the Confederate States back under control. During the Civil War the Confederacy repeatedly sought international support for its cause, often calling upon foreign reliance on its cotton exports to obtain it. The Union, on the other hand, strove to prevent other nations from recognizing the Confederacy as a legitimate nation and from getting involved in the American conflict. In an attempt to starve the Confederate economy and to cut it off from its international supporters, the Union engaged in a blockade of Confederate ports--a move that was of questionable legality in international law. Despite the Confederacy's significant international commercial ties, the lack of definitive military victories for the South, and the success of Union efforts to link the Confederacy with the institution of slavery ultimately prevented any of the European powers from officially recognizing or supporting the South. See also: Preventing Diplomatic Recognition of the Confederacy and The Trent Affair.

Source: U.S. State Department

Recommended Reading: King Cotton Diplomacy: Foreign Relations of the Confederate States of America. Description: On its initial publication King Cotton Diplomacy was hailed as a definitive study of Confederate foreign affairs. It was most highly acclaimed for its fresh interpretations of the reasons why England and France refused to grant recognition and aid to the Confederacy. Harriet Chappell Owsley presents a new and revised edition . . . and has in many places tightened and improved the literary style, but she has permitted the new volume to retain both the substance and the flavor of the earlier edition. Continued below.

This book is the exhaustive, definitive study of Southern attempts to gain international support for the Confederacy by leveraging the cotton supply for European intervention during the Civil War. Using previously untapped sources from Britain and France, along with documents from the Confederacy’s state department, Frank Owsley’s King Cotton Diplomacy is the first archival-based study of Confederate diplomacy.

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Recommended Reading: Secret History of Confederate Diplomacy Abroad (Hardcover). Description: One of the South's most urgent priorities in the Civil War was obtaining the recognition of foreign governments. Edwin De Leon, a Confederate propagandist charged with wooing Britain and France, opens up this vital dimension of the war in the earliest known account by a Confederate foreign agent. First published in the New York Citizen in 1867-68, De Leon's memoir subsequently sank out of sight until its recent rediscovery by William C. Davis, one of the Civil War field's true luminaries. Both reflective and engaging, it brims with insights and immediacy lacking in other works, covering everything from the diplomatic impact of the Battle of Bull Run to the candid opinions of Lord Palmerston to the progress of secret negotiations at Vichy. Continued below...

De Leon discusses, among other things, the strong stand against slavery by the French and a frustrating policy of inaction by the British, as well as the troubling perceptions of some Europeans that the Confederacy was located in South America and that most Americans were a cross between Davy Crockett and Sam Slick. With France's recognition a priority, De Leon published pamphlets and used French journals in a futile attempt to sway popular opinion and pressure the government of Napoleon III. His interpretation of the latter's meeting with Confederate diplomat John Slidell and the eventual mediation proposal sheds new light on that signal event. De Leon was a keen observer and a bit of a gossip, and his opinionated details and character portraits help shed light on the dark crevices of the South's doomed diplomatic efforts and provide our only inside look at the workings of Napoleon's court and Parliament regarding the Confederate cause. Davis adds an illuminating introduction that places De Leon's career in historical context, reveals much about his propagandist strategies, and traces the history of the Secret History itself. Together they open up a provocative new window on the Civil War.


Recommended Reading: Union in Peril: The Crisis over British Intervention in the Civil War. Review: The Lincoln administration feared that Great Britain would officially recognize the Confederacy during the Civil War, thereby granting legitimacy to secession and undermining the U.S. Constitution. What did happen, and why, is brilliantly described by Howard Jones in Union in Peril: The Crisis over British Intervention in the Civil War. Continued below.

“An attractively written, cogently argued study that merits a prominent place on the bookshelves of Anglo-American and Civil War scholars.”—Journal of American History

(Journal of American History)

“Jones offers a fresh revision . . . on why England failed to intervene in the American fratricidal struggle. . . . [His] book combines a delightful writing style with excellent bibliography and footnotes. It is based on solid research, primarily in original sources. It is a work that will serve well both the scholar and the general reader.”—American Historical Review (American Historical Review)

“Thought-provoking . . . Jones does a laudable job of presenting both the British arguments for and against intervention and the foundations of the crisis in the relationship between [Great Britain and the United States].”—Library Journal

(Library Journal)

About the Author: Howard Jones, University Research Professor in history at the University of Alabama, is the author of numerous books, including To the Webster-Ashburton Treaty: A Study in Anglo-American Relations, 1783–1843 and Course of American Diplomacy: From the Revolution to the Present.


Recommended Reading: One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the American Civil War. Review: One War at a Time - Lincoln's axiom for Union diplomacy- refutes the opinion of most historians and biographers that Lincoln played only a minor role in U.S. foreign relations. It reveals his continuing efforts to avoid a war with England or France while using the threat of war to prevent European recognition of Confederate independence. Mahin covers Confederate efforts to obtain diplomatic recognition, the construction of warships for the Confederacy in Britain, the British role in the blockade-running operation, and the postwar "Alabama claims" against Britain. Mahin also provides the first full analysis of U.S. and Confederate reactions to the French intervention in Mexico and to the efforts to establish an imperial government in Mexico.

Recommended Reading: A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War. Acclaimed historian Amanda Foreman follows the phenomenal success of her New York Times bestseller Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire with her long-awaited second work of nonfiction: the fascinating story of the American Civil War and the major role played by Britain and its citizens in that epic struggle. Even before the first rumblings of secession shook the halls of Congress, British involvement in the coming schism was inevitable. Britain was dependent on the South for cotton, and in turn the Confederacy relied almost exclusively on Britain for guns, bullets, and ships. Continued below...
The Union sought to block any diplomacy between the two and consistently teetered on the brink of war with Britain. For four years the complex web of relationships between the countries led to defeats and victories both minute and history-making. In A World on Fire, Amanda Foreman examines the fraught relations from multiple angles while she introduces characters both humble and grand, bringing them to vivid life over the course of her sweeping and brilliant narrative. Between 1861 and 1865, thousands of British citizens volunteered for service on both sides of the Civil War. From the first cannon blasts on Fort Sumter to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, they served as officers and infantrymen, sailors and nurses, blockade runners and spies. Through personal letters, diaries, and journals, Foreman has woven together their experiences to form a panoramic yet intimate view of the war on the front lines, in the prison camps, and in the great cities of both the Union and the Confederacy. Through the eyes of these brave volunteers we see the details of the struggle for life and the great and powerful forces that threatened to demolish a nation. In the drawing rooms of London and the offices of Washington, on muddy fields and aboard packed ships, Foreman reveals the decisions made, the beliefs held and contested, and the personal triumphs and sacrifices that ultimately led to the reunification of America. A World on Fire is a complex and groundbreaking work that will surely cement Amanda Foreman’s position as one of the most influential historians of our time. About the Author: Amanda Foreman is a Visiting Research Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London. She won the Whitbread Prize for Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, which was adapted for the screen as The Duchess. Educated as an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College and with master’s and doctorate degrees in history from Oxford University, she is now married with five children and lives in New York.


Recommended Reading: Civil War High Commands (1040 pages) (Hardcover). Description: Based on nearly five decades of research, this magisterial work is a biographical register and analysis of the people who most directly influenced the course of the Civil War, its high commanders. Numbering 3,396, they include the presidents and their cabinet members, state governors, general officers of the Union and Confederate armies (regular, provisional, volunteers, and militia), and admirals and commodores of the two navies. Civil War High Commands will become a cornerstone reference work on these personalities and the meaning of their commands, and on the Civil War itself. Errors of fact and interpretation concerning the high commanders are legion in the Civil War literature, in reference works as well as in narrative accounts. Continued below.

 The present work brings together for the first time in one volume the most reliable facts available, drawn from more than 1,000 sources and including the most recent research. The biographical entries include complete names, birthplaces, important relatives, education, vocations, publications, military grades, wartime assignments, wounds, captures, exchanges, paroles, honors, and place of death and interment. In addition to its main component, the biographies, the volume also includes a number of essays, tables, and synopses designed to clarify previously obscure matters such as the definition of grades and ranks; the difference between commissions in regular, provisional, volunteer, and militia services; the chronology of military laws and executive decisions before, during, and after the war; and the geographical breakdown of command structures. The book is illustrated with 84 new diagrams of all the insignias used throughout the war and with 129 portraits of the most important high commanders.


Recommended Reading: Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe. Description: While many view our 16th president as the nation’s greatest president and hero, Tom Dilorenzo, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, through his scholarly research, exposes the many unconstitutional decisions of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln Unmasked, a best-seller, reveals that ‘other side’ – the inglorious character – of the nation’s greatest tyrant and totalitarian. A controversial book that is hailed by many and harshly criticized by others, Lincoln Unmasked, nevertheless, is a thought-provoking study and view of Lincoln that was not taught in our public school system. (Also available in hardcover: Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe.)

Try the Search Engine for Related Studies: American Civil War International Diplomacy History, US Confederate Diplomatic Efforts with England, France, Europe, European and International Foreign Recognition and Support for Confederacy as a Nation, Foreign Country Effort for the Confederate States

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