". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

UK Gun-running Lengthened the U.S. Civil War By Two Years

An article in the Independent captioned "Historians reveal secrets of UK gun-running which lengthened the American civil war by two years," by David Keys describes:
200 vessels were purpose-built or upgraded on Clydeside, in Liverpool or in London for the Confederate states – and hundreds of thousands of guns (including heavy artillery) were manufactured in Birmingham, Newcastle and near London for the Confederate Army.
This isn't news, really, at least not to American historians of the Civil War. However, what might be news to our friends in the UK,  is these vastly lucrative enterprises were entirely illegal.  Which is why our U.S. Navy was allowed to patrol the Channel, the upper Thames, and the surrounding coasts, particularly that of Scotland. They sunk many a CSA owned and operated vessel, particularly the privateers.  The British government did not protest, nor did the British navy attempt to engage the U.S. vessels.

Nor does blame-shifting to the UK change the facts that the responsibility for the continuation of the U.S. Civil War 1863-1864 through 1864 - 1865 was directly the responsibility of Jefferson Davis and his fire eaters. New Orleans had been lost, Vicksburg had been lost -- the control of the Mississippi was the Union's. Gettysburg had been lost -- no more opportunity to invade the North, and in most wars, a defensive war only is a losing war.  The CSA had no money, they had run run out of supplies to replace what they'd lost.  The UK had nothing to do with Sherman's March of 1864 after the loss of Atlanta and the last effective railroad.

This was click-bait to get readers to look at what is news --  marine archeology, which found CSA wrecks in the Thames, Channel and particularly around Scotland's coast.

This part of the article provoked very large smiles:
Three other Confederate wrecks around Britain’s coastline are the Iona
1, which collided with another ship and sank in the Clyde in 1862, the
Lellia, which went down in a storm off Liverpool with the loss of 47
lives in 1865, and the Matilda, which sank in dense fog in the Bristol
Channel in 1864.
The newly discovered main secret UK headquarters of the blockade-busting operation was a still extant mansion in the quiet and secluded
Stirlingshire village of Bridge of Allan. At any one time, it housed
around 10 Confederate agents who held their planning meetings there –
and used it as a base from which they could visit top shipbuilding
magnates and others on Clydeside and "test drive" vessels to assess
their speed.
Eliza Wigham, left, and Elizabeth Pease Nichol were leading lights in the Edinburgh Ladies' Emancipation Society. Link to more information about them here.
They seem to have located their headquarters in the countryside so as to avoid the attentions of the various detective agencies which had been appointed by the US Federal government to track them down.
However, their wish for rural anonymity did not prevent some of the southern agents from wearing “big hats and smoking large cigars” – key clueswhich, in early 1864, led the amateur sleuths of the anti-slavery Dundee Ladies’ Emancipation Society to realize who they were – and to inform the US consul in Dundee accordingly. After much pressure had been exerted by the US on the British Government, the exposure of the secret headquarters led a year later to the British preventing the export of a giant, potentially game-changing 130m armoured warship - and four other warships - to the Confederate Navy.
Warning: do not waste time, as I did, reading the comments to this article.  They are  filled with serious false information.  This includes insistance that the Mission to Saint James, who was Lincoln's choice, Charles F. Adams (father of Henry Adams, who has written extensively out of his experience as his father's private secretary in these matters), was run by somebody else -- as well as the inevitable revisionist correcting the author with the news that the U.S. Civil War had nothing to do with slavery, and all the other inevitable bs's of those ilks.

I also disagree with the author of this book quoted in the article, because he says things like this:
“It demonstrates that Britain’s neutrality was, in reality, a complete
sham,” said Dr Graham, the author of a major book on the Civil War
gun-runners, Clyde Built: The Blockade Runners of the American Civil War
If this was true, why were those Dundee Ladies' Emancipation Society so vigilant? Both Keys and Graham seem to  misses the point of their existence and their activities entirely.

That the UK's capitalists were more than willing to make a profit in every way they could manage out of the U.S. Civil War, well, that's not news or surprising.  Gunrunning is part of every war, and by golly, though I hate to say it, that includes a buncha northerners too. Slavery?  A war about it?  It'$ ju$t busine$$ to run guns, evade blockades and cheat on the very lucrative government contracts by providing shoddy goods, over-charging and all the rest.  I'm so sorry that both the CSA and the USA did it too.  So that France and the UK wanted to get them some of that, not a surprise at all.


There is a terrific historical novel to be written in this.

No comments: