CJ AEGIS, on Feb 10 2006, 09:31 PM, said:
You actually raise an excellent point as to how many military resources Britain could spare with Russia breathing down her back. With the Russians likely to jump on England if they pressed the Union too much the Royal Navy would have had to turn their attention in two directions. If anything Russia showed a propensity for tossing in her lot with the United States by applying diplomatic pressure to England during both the Revolutionary and War of 1812. If anything the very public stand of Russia with the Union was very well known. Russia went so far as to send diplomatic communiqués stating that they stood by the Union when England was hostile and would continue to stand by it to the end.
Again, while pressure from Russia was one of many reasons why British military involvement in the ACW was highly unlikely, Russia's wooden fleet, while significant, was massively outmatched by the Royal Navy. As regards Ironclads, Russia's industry was woefully inadequate to support such a fleet during this period- all ironclads that the Russian fleet operated in the 70s and 80s were either foreign manufactured or inferior to contempory British designs. And frequently both.
The greatest American authority, Kent, states in the same sense:
"The right of self-preservation gives belligerent nations this right. The doctrine of the British admiralty on the right of visitation and search ... has been recognised in its fullest extent by the courts of justice in our country."
It was not opposition to the right of search, as is sometimes erroneously suggested, that brought about the Anglo-American War of 1812 to 1814. Rather, America declared war because England unlawfully presumed to search even American warships, on the pretext of catching deserters from the British Navy.
The San Jacinto, therefore, had the right to search the Trent and to confiscate any contraband stowed aboard her.
I'd always be a bit weary of anything said by Marx. In any case, if diplomats count as "contraband", then RN deserters would as well...
British ironclad construction was limited by the requirements of what they needed for the war. British ironclads needed to be large oceangoing vessels that could make long voyages and then maintain a station off the enemy coast. To accomplish this task a vessel could not be as well armored or protected as the Union monitors. Effectively the British ironclads were an armored box for the gun battery and a few other parts of the ship inside a thin metal shell of a hull. A fully armored oceangoing ship with sufficient range and sea keeping capability with built up armored sides was just not within the technological reach of time. Like now warship design was a compromise and the Royal Navy realized that the then more heavily armored monitor style vessels were the wrong type of vessels for them. These types of warships would have never been able to maintain long-term blockade stations to prevent USN monitors from challenging the blockade.
Saying that they were just armoured boxes is a bit of a simplification- it is essentially the start of the "all of nothing" scheme that was adopted in the next century. The interior of the ship was compartmentalised so signficant damage could be taken to the relatively unarmoured sections of the ship before its structure was totally compromised, while damaging the its gun-line or machinary would have been much more difficult- the only serious weakness in the Warrior's protection was the steering.
That said, Warrior's armour was much superior inch for inch to that used on the Monitor, as it was 4.5" rolled plate rather than 1" plates laminated together.
Monitors from the Passaic Class on were more than capable of breaking a distant blockade of the Union. As I have proven through several instances of monitors riding out heavy seas they were seaworthy ships. They may not have had the capability to cross entire oceans or maintain stations off ports for weeks. That said they had more than enough capability to venture out into the sea to defeat a British blockading force and then return to port. On top of that distant sea blockades were not the capable tool that many thought they were at this point. The Union in their blockade of the south found that their large frigates were poorly suited for blockade duty because they maintained station far off the coast and other vessels could easily slip around them. The blockade would have to be maintained at a distance that the monitors could travel out to if they wanted any chance of success.
I agree that the later monitors were seaworthy, in the sense that they would not sink in rough weather. This doess not mean that they could fight in open waters. The limiting factor here is the extent to which they could fight with water breaking over them. Monitors carried their guns low, and reserve buoyancy was minimal. A few good waves striking with the gunports open would quickly make for a very unhappy ship.
The CSS Virginia had 4 inches of armor. The 11” Dahlgren guns armoring the monitor and some wooden Union warships was capable of penetrating this amount of armor without a problem. The issue with the Battle of Hampton Roads is that the USS Monitor was restricted to firing half charges. No one knew what a full charge would do if fired in the turret because there was no time to test. No one wanted the one chance to counter the Virginia damage by a hastily fired full charge. Even with half charges the Monitor cracked the Virginia’s armored plate. Subsequent testing showed that the full charges were safe to use in the turret. If the Monitor had been using full charges the Virginia most likely would have been disabled due to penetration into her hull.
The metal used in Virginia's was hardly armour grade- the Confederates had had to use railway track to armour the boat. That the Monitor should have been able to penetrate this less than ideal protection scheme does not suprise me.
The Dahlgren 11” was actually tested against existing European and Confederate armor scheme and it was found with full charges and increased charges that it could punch clean through them. Even wooden warships in the USN armed with Dahlgren cannons would have been able to punch through the armor of the Defence Class or HMS Warrior. The Dahlgren cannons were easily the superiors to any weapon that armed Royal Navy warships.
The armour scheme used on the Warrior had also been tested and found largely impervious to any gun available at the time. Granted this changed very rapidly but then again, only a few years after Warrior had been built the RN had new ironclads that made it look obsolete by comparison.
The Dahlgrens were quite low-velocity guns - superb shell-firing guns, but sub-optimal against armour. Theitr best chance of breaking armour was to shatter the frames and armour attachments by repeated heavy impacts, and the 18" of teak backing behind Warrior's plate was intended specifically to damp shock waves in the bolts holding the
armour to the hull. At point-blank ranged I don't doubt they'd break though, but at that sort of range Warrior would be firing down onto the deck of the Monitor and into the turret top.
Also, a range of heavy high velocity smoothbores were available in Britain by 1863 including 100pdr Somerset guns and Armstrong guns up to 300pdr.
The British never came up with an effective countermeasure to the 44 gun frigates of the USN following the War of 1812. The only solution they had was to throw enough vessels at the problem that they could bottle up those vessels. This was due to the fact that the Royal Navy realized in ship to ship matches they were inferior to the 44s.
I agree, ship for ship, the 44 gun frigates were superior to the smaller frigates of the Royal Navy. However, the US Navy had no chance at all of going toe to toe with a fleet of Royal Navy ships-of-the-line. This is why it was American shipping, and not British shipping, that was swept from the seas.
In addition your suggestion to pull Warrior off the coast of England would have placed England in a position of naval inferiority to the French and perhaps Russia also.
This only matters if France or Russia actually declare war on Britain. Historically Warrior was actually assigned to the North Atlantic Station during the Trent Crisis- clearly, the Admiralty felt it was justified.
The monitor class vessels were fairly unique and complicated naval vessel that was largely the genius of John Erickson. I don’t see the Royal Navy being able to replicate the unique turret and constructing of these vessels in a relatively short amount of time. The design as was met a lot of resistance in the US Navy and would have likely met more resistance in the Royal Navy. I doubt the Royal Navy would have taken this change of tactics without having already suffered losses by their conventional ironclads to monitors. By this point the British public is likely to be clambering for the heads of the government officials to get them out of the war.In addition CSA ports are too far away from Union ports to be in anyway an effective way for coastal ironclads to blockade ports in the North. The final point is the Dahlgren 11” and 15” cannons were a lot of the reason why the monitors were so effective with the British seriously lacking in guns that equaled their throw weight or capability of both cannons.
The assumption by so many people that the British government and military high command never fail to act so stupidly in their alternate histories never ceases to amaze me.
While the admiraly historically did act rather conservatively (not suprisingly as they wanted to maintain a status quo that gave the RN massive naval superiority) they were very quick to act to threats. When the Glorie began construction the admiralty did not simple copy the design, but deliberately moved onto a superior class of vessel and proceded to build them in greater numbers. During the Crimean war when it was found that wooden ships of the line were not ideal for taking on Russian forts. In response, the British built ironclad coastal vessels and towed them over, all without having to undergo a major naval disaster.
If the British had faced Union designs that were increasingly uparmoured and upgunned guess what their response would have been?
As for Britain lacking the ability to build turret armed coastal ironclads- they had put a turret equipped vessel through trials *before* Monitor had even begun construction.
In this case at least Palmerston was a hothead and Albert was clearly the man who kept a level head. The initial demands that were altered by Prince Albert did not give the United States enough time to seriously consider the content of the messages. Two messages were sent with one stating that the British ambassador would be pulled out of Washington in seven days if the government failed to respond in a favorable manner. In addition Albert changed the demand for an apology to a request. In addition he changed the language to suggest that the British hoped the American captain acted without direction from the government. This gave Sec State Seward that out that he needed to save honor and face and avert war.
I don't believe a single letter was the difference between war and peace. Palmerston might well have been hopeing for some grovelling from the Union (which he might well have gotten) but given the choice between a protracted war that gains nothing and peace with a country the British really have no axe to grind against he would have chosen the latter.
In any case, a more strongly worded letter would not have changed the validity of Seward's reply (We regret what happened, but nice to know you agree about our reasons for war in 1812 etc)
In the scale of the Civil War 13,000 troops would be a drop in the bucket. We were losing that many troops in a single day of combat in many cases during the major battles. Considering the lack of British resolve when the Boer’s inflicted losses on them I question whether the British would have the stomach to send their men into the meat grinder that was the Civil War. Unlike World War I the Union is a distant power that is no threat to England and the South is fighting to preserve slavery. I give resolve of the British Public a very short time when the body count starts rolling up into the tens of thousands from a conflict with a country
At least 50,000 regulars would have been available for service if a war broke out in early 1862 which, added to the local militias, would have been entirely efficent to conduct a defence of Canada given the state of the Union Army at the time. While such forces would not have been sufficent to conduct a land invasion of the US this is unlikely to have been a serious objective for the British unless the war really escalated; by which point British recruitment would have been seriously expanded.
On top of this those thirteen transports are a fairly miniscule number of vessels to support the operations of a large army in the field on a distant continent. They might be able to make two trips with men before they would be reduced to having to carry supplies to support that army in the field. Toss in Union Navy raiding forces hitting the supply lines and the British could easily find themselves in a serious supply crunch.
No less than 275,000 Crimea medals were issued to all members of the British forces who took part in the Crimean war which should give some of British ability to support forces. I find it beyond belief that the world's largest merchant marine would have had difficulty supporting a mere 50,000 men.
Even with your figures the Union had a massive pool of manpower that was never exploited to its fullest potential. One thing to consider is that the Civil War against the south often introduced some division into the conflict but never enough to deter the north. Britain declaring war on the Union would have introduced an outside threat. If anything the people of a nation tend to rally around the military and political leadership when an outside threat as dire as another nation state presents itself. This would have brought up enlistment in the Union Army and pushed it past those levels that the British could have countered.
Available British manpower was greater than available Union manpower.
I acknowledge that public support for the war would have been a major factor in the war, but if this is to be considered seriously then it must be equally applied to both sides. Sorry, I cannot accept as serious an argument that, as she was warring against a foreign nation state, the Union would have been able to mobilize quicker and better than historically with no moral problems at all while Britain, faced with the same problem, would have been wracked with protests and the ability to even build extra warships.
Or they’ll just use their political clout to force the British government into dropping out of the war after suffering several embarrassing losses against the Union because winning the war wouldn’t give them any benefits.
Every time that British merchant shipping was badly threatened historically the first response was demands to eradicate the problem from the sea, not capitulate to their demands.
Incompetent leadership on the part of the senior general in charge of the Union Army until that pattern was turned a bit by Meade and then changed forever by Grant. The same could be asked why it was such a big fight for France and Britain to beat the backwards and inferior Russian forces in the Crimean War.
The Russian forces outnumbered the Allies nearly two to one in the Crimea, and suffered casualties far in excess to what the Allies took. Can the Union claim the same?
In any case, I am not the one claiming that the French and British won the Crimean war "with one hand tied behind their backs".
Canada’s population at that time would have been somewhere around 3 million or so if I recall correct. The population of the Union around this time was somewhere near 20 million. So overall Canada had no capability to even dream of challenging the military resources of the Union. On top of this the Union was mobilized for war and had the capability to mobilize at a more rapid pace if they needed to. Canada on the other hand had a few ragtag militia troops and a handful of regular troops. The cited number of 50,000 troops is not enough to even consider defending that much territory.
Available Canadian militia was an additional 50,000, and planned to be double to 100,000. Comparing the Canadians directly to the Union is meaningless as the Union would not be able to focus their assets solely on the Canadians.
These troops were often poorly equipped with many British troops still carrying the Brown Bess compared to the rifled muskets of the Union. The Fenians (not even a real military) were able to trounce two Canadian militia forces in the Niagara Raid. The Fenians were only forced to retreat when the USS Michigan cut off their ability to get additional reinforcements. Considering the Canadian Militia was in danger from the ragtag Fenians then the Union Army would have steamrolled them in a few weeks. Effectively Canada with her existing forces that were present would have been quickly steamrolled. Most of the settlements were along the border with the US within easy reach of the Union Army.
Inexperienced and under-equipped Canadian militas would quickly have become experienced and well armed from British stocks in the event of a serious war rather than just raids from rebels.
As regards Niagara, while the Michigan was responsible for preventing escape and forcing surrender, I seem to recall that the reason the Fenians were retreating in the first place was because a large force of British regulars were about to turn up?
This is not 1812 with a under equipped small US Army facing Canada but rather them facing the most advanced, largest, and most experienced army in the world with meager forces. The war in Canada would be over before Britain could send in significant numbers of troops or raise/train troops in Canada.
In 1862 the Union Army was still going through serious growing pains before it became the mighty military machine of 64/65. While it might have been possible to bulldoze through Canada fast enough to prevent Britain landing troops it would have been very hard to do this and I find it unlikely. Further, what forces the Union could spare from the Confederate front would at this point have not been much more experienced than the Canadian forces they would be oppossing.
Napoleon and both World Wars directly threatened Britain and the fight was a matter of survival in the eyes of the people. The United States had no interest in conquering England. A war against the Union is war that has no payoff for the British except restoring pride that was hurt in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Trent Affair.
I think you underestimate how important sea power was to Britain at the time. Union privatations on British shipping, like the Trent affair, would have been seen as a direct threat to British survival. Remember that Britain is an island nation- a threat against her fleet not only threatens her great power status, but her very existance as an independent nation.
The south represented a economic system that the British public had long since rejected and would have liked to of seen vanish. Southern Cotton was a direct competitor with cotton resources within the Empire. Toss in losing tens or hundreds of thousands of troops and bleeding out the Empire in North America the British Public is not going to stomach this war for long.
This is exactally why they were unlikely to get into a war in the first place.
The British Public and government didn’t even manage to stomach a long-term fight to the end with the infantile United States in 1812. The war instead ended in maintaining the status quo despite several humiliating defeats on the seas for Britain. Give the Union Army and Navy enough time and they would have bloodied the British enough that they would have lost the will to fight a conflict that they forced themselves to fight through bad diplomacy.
Er... the British were in the middle of a conflict against France that has been waging on and off for twenty years. Saying that the British couldn't stomach a sideshow in the US shows a lack of understanding of Britain's overall commitments at this time period.
The British had never wanted a war in the Americas in the first place. Whether you argue the US was justified or not it was the US that initiated hostilities. While ambitions may have expanded in 1813 after the total failure of the US military effort in 1812 all the British basically wanted was an end to hostilies having had to fight Napoleon for some two decades. When the opportunity for such a peace came they took it.
Using the same argument, the American Public didn't even manage to stomach a long-term fight against massively overstretched British forces. The war ended in maintaing the status quo despite several humiliating American defeats having solved nothing that brought the Amerians into conflict in the first place. Give the British Army and Navy enough time and they would have bloodied the Union enough that they would have lost the will to fight a conflict that they forced themselves to fight through the over-aggression of one USN captain.
If anything looking through the recent historical scholarship there seems to have been a fear in Britain over France exploiting the situation. The Earl of Clarendon wrote that he would have been glad for war with the Union: “I shall be glad of it, if I did not feel sure that Napoleon will instantly leave us in this lurch and do something in Europe that we can’t stand”. Napoleon was no friend of England but rather an ambitious man who sought to gain an upper hand over any potential opponent. Europe was the ultimate prize to gain influence over and with British eyes on the Americas Napoleon would have had the perfect opportunity to stab the British in the back. Now he might not have done that for sure but you can rest assured the British would have it in mind in their military deployments.
I'm rather more interested in what Napoleon wrote than what the Earl of Clarendon wrote. The French were active in Mexico, they wanted influence there, and this could have earily been obtained by siding with Britain against the Union, rather than risking total defeat against the world's most powerful sea going fleet.
When you have wireless you can maintain an effective blockade at that type of distance. Your vessels can then communicate with each other over long distances to maintain the solidity of the blockade. In addition the quality of optics by the time of World War I had vastly improved so it was far easier to spot vessels trying to slip through the holes. The Union Navy tried distant blockades of several Southern ports and just found it to be technologically unfeasible.
Fair point. I've done a bit of reading and the Union blockade was actually pretty 'sieve like' until 1863/64 onwards.
I would say that war would likely break out sometime around March or April of 1862 in earnest. As I noted the 50,000 troops into Canada would really be little more than a drop in the bucket for the defense of Canada. The British in their own war council meeting consisting of Palmerston, Lewis, Somerset, and Newcastle concluded that Canadian militias were wholly outnumbered, untrained, and undersupplied for a war. In addition there was no armaments stocked for the reinforcements that would be incoming. By March the British would have sufficient troops in Canada to at least consider fighting something of a defensive war if the Union turned north.
I consider an offensive land campaign by the British to be highly unlikely- most of their actions are likely to be naval. Given available Regular troops reinforcements its highly likely a credible defence of Canada would have been made given the need to keep large numbers of troops facing the Confederates and guarding ports against possible RN operations.
That said kicking off general hostilities and striking at the Union with naval forces before the buildup in Canada was completed would just invite the Union to turn north and cutoff Canada from Britain before they could buildup could accomplish anything. The British are unlikely to forget that the States had attacked Canada during the winter in the War for Independence. While those efforts were a failure the Civil War introduced railroad a supply system that could still move goods during the winter and supply a winter foray into Canada. A winter campaign might not be able to defeat Canada but it could take the major population centers and leave the British off balanced for the start of the campaign season. All the US has to do is cut the Saint Lawrence to make the hold on Canada far less sustainable.
Another major factor in the failure of the winter expeditions during the Revolutionary war was that the Americans were counting on local support. Unfortunately for them, the local populance wanted to stay British. The US assumed the same thing during the initial campaigns of 1812, that the Canadians didn't want to be part of the Empire.
In addition the Royal Navy is likely to be wary to send the Warrior across the Atlantic to face the Union Navy not just because of the long stand rivalry with France but because of the Russians breathing down their necks. Russia had the third largest Navy and in conjunction with the Union Navy they could have put a world of hurt on the Royal Navy. I can’t see Britain sending off her defensive wild card to the Americas when the Russians are breathing down on the British Isles. On top of this the Russian Navy had an ironclad vessel in the form of the Opyt. I have to dig around and find information on this vessel since it seems to be very scarce. Even a poor man’s ironclad could present sufficient threat to the wooden vessels of the RN to keep Warrior tied to the British Isles.
Historically the Warrior was assigned to the North Atlantic Squadron during the Trent Affair, clearly the Royal Navy was prepared to send the ship across the Atlantic.
I'd like more information on the Opyt, although I doubt it was any more capable than the decrepit floating batteries the Royal Navy possessed.
So overall it would have been inadvisable and extremely out of character for the British to commence general hostilities before March or April of 1862.
It would have been inadvisable and extremely out of character for the British to commensce general hostilities at all.
Edited by Talkie Toaster, 14 February 2006 - 10:13 AM.
Blessed is the mind too small for doubt.