Trent Affair- What If The South Won British Support?

This video is going to look at a really cool
event that you’ve never heard of. If hindsight is 20/20, we’ve surely lost our glasses when looking
back at the American Civil War, sometimes failing to see the true nail-biter
that it was; and a bloody one at that. The death toll over the 4 year conflict was
a devastating 625,000, roughly 2% of the total population. That’s more than both World Wars, Korea,
and Vietnam, combined. One in four soldiers never returned home. One in thirteen returned home missing an arm
or leg. And it’s easy for us to shorten things in
the history classroom. Why did the North win the war? Well, they had more soldiers and more industry; more cash on hand and more man-power. As historian Richard Current put it, “As
usual, God was on the side of the heaviest battalions” True, but that ignores the event that we’re
going to talk about today; one that almost altered history. This “affair” as it is today so innocently
titled could have given the South a winning advantage; or, at the very least, the means by which
to prolong the war and the bloodshed longer that it did. This moment that nearly changed the war was the product of Northern anxiousness. President Lincoln was under demoralizing pressure. In the summer of 1861, the Union lost the first major battle of the
war in embarrassing fashion. Sent to quell the rebellion early in Richmond,
Virginia, Union General McDowell was nervous about engaging with his 32,000 inexperienced troops. Beleaguered from political pressures to show
strength against the rebels, Lincoln assured him, “You are green, it is true, but they are
green also; you are all green alike.” The 18,000 men with whom McDowell eventually
engaged were routed from battle by the confederates. With the Union Army humiliated and running
aimlessly towards Washington D.C., reality soaked through; blood would likely drench many fields for
longer than anyone had originally anticipated. Off the battlefield, the South was far from
a burgeoning new state; they faced a dilemma of their own, and the
clock was ticking. You may be surprised to know that this problem
wasn’t centered about the strength of their unity, nor the capacity of their leaders and citizens
to engage wholeheartedly for the cause. The biggest southern problem- was cotton. In April 1861, President Lincoln established
a naval blockade of over 3,500 miles of confederate coastline, and 12 major ports. This gradually reduced Southern Cotton exports
by 95%, and limited their ability to transport supplies
effectively to the front-lines. Without cotton-cash from Europe, the South
would surely lose the war. European powers weren’t too pleased about
the blockade either. Though advocating neutrality, countries like Great Britain relied on southern
cotton for their textile mills. Though opposed to the institution of slavery, their de facto endorsement of this northern
blockade directly hurt their economy. This set the stage for conflict. The south needed cash, and fast. If they could convince the French and British
to recognize them diplomatically, then they could potentially end the blockade. It wouldn’t even require Britain or France
to ally with the south; simple diplomatic recognition of the Confederacy
would make the northern blockade illegal according to maritime law, and this might
force the European powers to intervene and break it. And so President Jefferson Davis sent two
diplomatic envoys, James Mason and John Slidell. It would be their mission to run the blockade, sail to Britain and France, and achieve diplomatic
recognition. If successful, Mason and Slidell could change
everything. The two diplomats sailed from Charleston,
S.C., and upon missing their rendezvous with the
CSS Nashville, rerouted to Havana, Cuba, where they awaited transport on the British
mail steamer RMS Trent. On November 7th, 1861, the Trent was intercepted upon leaving Havana
by the USS San Jacinto. Captain Charles Wilkes, acting on a rumor
that Mason and Slidell were onboard, and importantly, without direct orders from the US Government, ordered the southern diplomats “confiscated”
as contraband. Mason and Slidell were arrested and transported
to Fort Warren in Boston as prisoners. Captain Wilkes single-handedly put the Northern
cause in danger. However, the Union was still in shock over
the loss at Bull Run, and this capture of Mason and Slidell gave
the press and populace a reason to celebrate. But this jubilation was ephemeral. When word reached Europe on November 27, the boarding of the Trent and imprisonment
of Mason and Slidell was perceived by the British public as a justification
for war with the Northern States. The British began planning for war, sending troops to Canada, who at the end of
December, numbered at nearly 18,000. More potent, they outlined a sacking of the
Northern blockade in the South, and a simultaneous new blockade on Union ports
to be executed with the aid of the French. President Lincoln had a critical decision
to make. Captain Wilkes, in interrupting Mason and
Slidell’s mission, may have inadvertently accomplished it for
them. The Union could crumble under the weight of
a multi-pronged war. Here’s what Lincoln said… “One war at a time”. Thereafter, the North publicly disavowed the
actions of Captain Wilkes, and eventually released both Mason and Slidell. Conflict between the Union and Europe were
deescalated. Thereby, history as we know it from our history
classrooms, was made.

  1. I'm still working on learning better animations. This is what I can do at the moment. Enjoy!

  2. that wasn't then end of it. britain sent a diplomat of their own to survey and asess the situation. he managed to keep the british out of it.

  3. The Union would have seized Canada after the Civil war had there been any British intervention. The reason that Canada even became a country in 1867 was out of fear the Americans may attack and annex us.

  4. You never really explained what would happen after the affair. I was hoping for more about if the South won the war and became a nation.

  5. The major factor in avoiding war with Britain was time.  News didn't travel very fast, and before the affair could come to a boil big enough to make war, tempers had cooled on both sides of the Atlantic.  I'd wager the British made a great many calculations on possible war with the US, and none of the scenarios would've looked pretty.  Some valuable lessons were no doubt learned from their previous two wars in America, and a third war would've probably bloodied up the British Army even worse.  By 1863,  both the US and Confederate armies were the largest, most heavily armed, and efficient fighting forces in the world.

  6. Oh well the Royal Navy would've smashed the Americans anyway with their OP OP navy. HMS Warrior was an ironclad wasn't it?

  7. I would suspect that if the british would have provided support for the south. The union navy would not tried to stop them.

  8. One thing you missed, and most people do because it gets hidden is Lincoln realized that the British were massing troops on the border with Canada(you got that one); and also on the border with Texas. Lincoln was in a fix contemplating this possible invasion and support for the Confederacy; so he wrote a letter to the Russian Czar who had a navy that was larger than the British at that time(hard to imagine with British always being touted as the largest maritime power in that era).

    Of course Lincoln was going to ask the Czar for assistance against the British and when the Czar received the letter, before he even opened it-knowing about the British troop movements- he stated, "I don't know what's in the letter but I'm sure it's going to be asking me for help, so whatever the letter is requesting I will grant it even before I open it." And the rest is the history which we never hear about and the Czar sent the Baltic fleet into New York harbor and the Pacific fleet into the San Francisco bay harbor where both fleets stayed for 30 days.

    The international bankers wanted to topple the Russian Czar because the Czar still backed the Russian ruple with gold, not permitting the European bankers(British bankers especially with the Rothschild family owning the Bank of England) to leverage the ruple with the leveraged paper check entries on the banks' ledgers, thus watering down Russia's money supply, much the same way as happens today with our Federal Reserve Bank. Russia at that time was the only real check against the British as France had been badly laid away from the Napoleonic Wars, ending in 1815.
    Of course the bankers had to wait until WWI to do this dirty deed.

    If you get a chance to read the book called "The Secret of Jekyll Island" by Edward Griffin about the founding of the Federal Reserve Bank; you will find a couple of picture plates of the actual photos of the two Russian fleets in the American harbors at the time of the Civil War.

    Good presentation; I wasn't aware either of the two emissaries from the Confederacy that were sent to Europe.

  9. Just took the ap us history test… the English common people were HIGHLY against slavery and as such the English aristocrats would have never supported the south. Also, the north had an embargo against the south (similar to what the British did to Germany). And as with both cases, outside powers couldn't support the powers.

  10. When you are speaking about casualties please specify if it is a grand total or just a total for the military of one nation. Your stats ate the beginning are very misleading.

  11. The South could have won French support if the Americans helped the Mexicans during the battle of Puebla.

  12. Robert Conroy wrote a what if style book about this very topic, called 1862. An interesting look at what might have happened.

  13. What would happen if a state in the Deep South like florida wanted to be part of the northern union vice versa?

  14. it's easier to blockade a country with no navy than one with ironclads that sink wooden navy's Britain and france both only had one iron clad and Our friends the Germans and Austrians would have been happy to lend their Navy's to further freedom

  15. It could have easily spiraled into a world war. In any case the CSA and UK would have been bff till this day.

    Deo Vindice!

  16. Interesting that Britain and France would form a military alliance in the 19th century, given all the wars they fought against each other.

  17. In a nut shell … Slavery was mooted as the cause of the war to stop the UK & France kicking the unions arse. Nothing whatsoever about the Constitutional Rights of States to suceed…. Hmmm sounds familier.

  18. People say Brtian would never openly support a slave nation in a war. This may be true if both countries have an equal relationship to Britain, but that wasn't the case at all here. The British were angry that the US attacked one of their ships, and Britain already disliked the US for weakening it's influence in America. It's entirely feasible that Britain would ally with the CSA with a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" sentiment.

  19. What if South Carolina had not fired o Ft Sumpter, but waited until the end of April, when the fort would have run out of food, and would have had to surrender?
    Not giving Lincoln a casus bellum for at least a few more months, if not a year, could the CSA have been better prepared, and more likely to survive?

  20. 1:00 God sure didn't decide to side with the British during the revolution… God doesn't always side with the heaviest batallions. The man who said that is a moron.

  21. In my honest opinion, if not for Prince Albert, I think the Trent Affair would have brought the British in as a common enemy to the North and the South. Queen Victoria's interest would have been to put an end to slavery in the South, while the House of Commons would have an interest in retaking the former British colonies. The Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh would be the one to be in charge of the British forces in America. Basically the title would be shortened to the Duke of Gloucester.

    The Northerners would spell it Gloster, the Southerners would pronounce the name "Glue-Kester". Three battle scenarios: Union and Confederate infantry in battle and British cavalry approaches; the commanding officer yells "Blues and Greys, take them all! Tally Ho!!". Union and British infantry and Confederate cavalry; "Limeys or Yankees it don't matter! Let's get 'em boys!!". Confederate and British infantry and Union cavalry; "Redcoats or Rebels it makes no difference! Get 'em guys!!".

    Although Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the war between Union, Confederate and British continue because the House of Commons keeps it secret from Queen Victoria, who would have ended British involvement in the war citing the Crown had served its purpose in America.

    In 1865, Queen Victoria finds out about the Emancipation proclamation at the time the Confederacy surrenders. The Queen orders the Duke of Gloucester (The Queen not having command of the British military, she orders Gloucester as his peer) to travel to Appomattox and meet General Robert E. Lee and surrender their swords to General Ulysses S. Grant. The Headline on the newspaper "The Union Times" reads "ROBERT E. LEE SURRENDERS" with a sub headline beneath it reading "DUKE OF GLOSTER FOLLOWS SUIT".

    Then following the end of the war, many British lords remain in America and become bounty hunters. They are just as skilled with a "shooting iron" as their American counterparts and in many cases, some of the few draws worthy to cross with the likes of Billy the Kid and other "fast guns".

    The IMDB plot summary for the 1965 'spaghetti western'; "For a Few Dollars More" reads like this: "Three bounty hunters with the same intentions team up to track down a Western outlaw. The actors are Clint Eastwood (Monco), Lee Van Cleef (Col. Douglas Mortimer), Sir Laurence Olivier (Lord Thomas Howard-Hewes, 95th Duke of Winterbottom) and Gian Maria Volontè (El Indio – The Indian).

  22. Many say we would never support a slave nation, but many British folks actually had sympathies for the Confederacy, we viewed them as being like the American colonies and Lincoln as the new King George III, Charles Dickens actually wrote that the Northern onslaught upon slavery was nothing more than specious humbug [misleading deceptive talk] to hide the fact that the North wanted to economically dominate the South, we saw the unfair taxes and tariffs the South had to pay so the North could get rich off of, which bankrupted many Southerners, the South paid the majority of the taxes and had no say in how the money was used, and felt sympathetic towards them for it.

  23. I`m not clear as to how the North was able to impose the blockade. I assume that before the Civil War,the US Navy was evenly spread around the country. When the South succeeded wouldn`t they have had the Navy ships that were already down there which they could have used to break the blockade?

  24. Most people know that the UK and Second French Empire were nearly willing to assist the rebels.

    What most people don't know is that the Kingdom of Prussia and the Russian Empire were willing to step in and assist the US Government.

    Russia had docked a large naval fleet in New York and California, and the Admirals were told by the Russian Government that if a global war against Britain, France and the rebels did break out, then the Russian Navy would be integrated with the US Navy, and placed under the supreme command of President Lincoln.

  25. What about the claim I've heard of the Tzar sending a fleet to support the Union if the British and French got involved?

  26. Hmmm, England was against slavery. This is one of many lies.

    Too bad you didn't talk about Wilkes' intentionally trying to start the war for the benefit of England.

  27. Britain totally controlled all – all – oceans during The Civil War. In fact, twenty years before Fort Sumter, in 1841, during Queen Victoria's reign, emboldened in a Pax Britannica world, slavery was abolished in The British Empire, a quarter of the world, but British actively targeted all suspected slave ships. A prime example of British acceptance back in 1858 was a Blackman, James Douglas, The Governor of The Colony of Vancouver Island. Moreover, though a mostly white population, even had a largely Black militia. Just google B.C. Black History month and search for group picture of 'em. Back then, Victoria was Home to The British Pacific Fleet.

  28. My understanding is there was a market glut of Southern cotton in England. Britain is wasn't wringing her hands over the lack of cotton. In fact, India and Egypt were coming online to rival the Southern cotton monopoly. I may be wrong, and if so, I appologise, but I'm fairly sure this is accurate.

  29. Thank you for making this understandable…I doubt many of my grade school history teachers really understood this which of course would affect their ability to get what happened through to the students…but still, God Bless History/Social Studies Teachers!

  30. Rebellion? We were invaded by the yankee oppressor. We were treated as a foreign nation. When tyranny becomes law, resistance becomes duty. And that’s what Lincoln was. A tyrant.

  31. I have been seeking details of what you've called the "Trent Affair" for decades, having only read the briefest note that two prominent people were captured on the high seas by the North and that Britain said release them or we'll crush the North. I have also read the famous response by Lincoln that you so clearly stated: "One war at a time."Thank you so very much. (it was worth the wait.)

  32. The european powers were utterly foolish not to support the south. A child could have forseen that a united North America would be the arbitor of european dispute, being able to divide and rule at will.

  33. The Union would have crushed this alliance with equal competency as it did historically.
    It would have not made any difference.

  34. i know about this, and i feel you left out quite a lot, including the most important part. you did not speak any untruths, like so many do, but you left out, and did not clarify, quite a lot.

    the graphics were fine.

  35. If the British had joined the south, the North to save itself (because it had the worst Generals and would have never won a battle) would have given up it's invasion and two nations would be born; the South still a republic but like Canada part of the British Commonwealth, It's likely with british investment and it's massive Railway industry; the south would have been a lot more prosperous (so long as Slavery was abolished!) In the end all the nations were family and would have formed alliances over time, different country's but with a Special Relationship!

  36. The South was gambling on both a short war and gaining international support. Many in the CSA were certain that a short war with some victories would both put pressure on Pres. Lincoln and England. But…the CSA was never recognised and the blockade was effective. As well, Lincoln proved to be very adept and practical. Facing the anticipated opposition from the Democrats through the war , he also faced increasingly stiff opposition from Repubicans. The Democrats never supported the War and many Republicans always expected a quick victory. As the casulties mounted and the war dragged on many were questioning openly if the cost was worth it. Lincoln continued to sell the idea that the Union must be preserved at all cost

  37. Many citizens of Great Britain – mainly the middle and working classes – would have starved. Because the U.S. would have withheld much needed grain from Europe.

  38. If they joined early enough the us would lose and accept peace pushing them into the central powers in ww1
    (Keep in mind im only going very broadly with this )

  39. Context as the South as a future compare as the South in a culture or a America as a South as goverment in a national goverment by America.

  40. But… I thought this video was going to be about the alternative path, in which the CSA did get British (and French) support. You didn't explore it!…

  41. So funnily enough Wilkes was known as a "Loose Cannon", he did some amazing things but he also fucked up. Lincoln loved the fact he (Wilkes) gave zero fucks in this situation but to save face with the British he had to punish Wilkes. Funnily enough Wilkes is related to another famous Wilkes (Booth). Yes this man who supported to North in such a way as well as the US afterwards (Look up Wilkes pretty much helping find certain portions of Antartica) is related to John Wilkes Booth. How do I know this? I'm actually related to both men on my fathers side.

  42. I’m just wondering, but would the confederate states of America (if it actually became a country) have seen its founder as George Washington or Jefferson Davis

  43. Everything Lincoln did was illegal that's why National Guard does everything you can't form the Army on American soil and you dam sure can't attack your own people some of the things he said where good but the things he did was not

  44. The Confederacy did trade with the British by running the blocade. Where do you think the CSA infantry got all those British enfields from?

  45. A Naval Blockade was not illegal because the USA in its view was guarding it's own coast because of an internal insurrection. The CSA was never considered a country.

  46. The north didn’t give a shit about blacks. As a matter of fact northern troops outright refused to arm and fight alongside black soldiers, and anytime they “freed” slaves they worded them twice as hard with less food.
    Lincoln didn’t free any northern slaves till after the war, he made the French and British believe he was fighting a just war over slavery (he very clearly didn’t care about slavery like in the letter to Horace Greeley)

    They could have bought the freedom of near all slaves with the amount they spent on the war.

    Oh and something else every likes to forget is the fact that American Indians were enslaved longer… but nobody wasn’t to talk about the fact California had the largest American Indian slave populations… and y’all wonder why the Indians fought alongside the south (google Cherokee Braves)

  47. Union army was over 600k

    Con was half of that

    Britain’s standing army at that time was 125k spread through out the world.

    After the unions victory in the war the union army was over 600 thousand and there was rumors to use the “ The Great Continental ARMY “ to invade and take Canada because the British would not be able to move or raise a army big enough to make a difference. Obviously Abraham Lincoln declines the idea and focuses on the healing of America.

  48. My friend has a weird flag from the 60s that has the stars of the rebel flag on the British union jack. Imagine the behemoth those two countries would be combined

  49. Because of the wait-and-see attitude
    of the british foreign minister Palmerston( Read wikipedia article (trent affair), the british waited long enough that the Union released the prisoners and the war didnt break out. An other foreign minster might had declare war much faster, than Palmerston.

  50. So the northern states attempt to avoid war with europe by kidnapping the southern diplomats which inevitably starts war?

  51. So what happened to the captain? Was he humiliated? Commit suicide? Live to be old and fat? Court martial? Killin me

  52. Russia would of joined the Union since they essentially said they would if the UK and France started shit with the Americans. There was also a decent chance Prussia, and a few other German states, would of at the absolute least heavily supported them if not outright joined them just due to political goals greatly aligning with them.

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