Helping Preserve the Union

“The most important duty of the diplomatic representatives of the United States in Europe will be to counteract by all proper means the efforts of the agents of that protected Confederacy”

William H. Seward
United States Secretary of State
March 26, 1861

During the Civil War, the major task of U.S. diplomats was to keep European powers from providing aid and comfort to the Confederacy. Ambassador Charles Francis Adams’ efforts in London in this regard have become legendary. U.S. diplomatic objectives included preventing the Europeans from entering the war on the Southern side, preventing the Europeans from supplying the South and easing irritations to other nations caused by the U.S. blockade of southern ports.

The U.S. minister to Great Britain during the Civil War, Charles Francis Adams, constantly protested the Confederates’ purchase of British-built ships. “None of our generals, not Grant himself,” wrote poet James Russell Lowell, minister to Great Britain 20 years later, “did us better or more trying service than he in his forlorn outpost of London.”

The U.S. minister to Great Britain during the Civil War, Charles Francis Adams, constantly protested the Confederates’ purchase of British-built ships. “None of our generals, not Grant himself,” wrote poet James Russell Lowell, minister to Great Britain 20 years later, “did us better or more trying service than he in his forlorn outpost of London.”

The Union blockading fleet waits off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina, during the Civil War.

The Union blockading fleet waits off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina, during the Civil War.

The Wivern was one of two ironclads built for the Confederacy by the Laird Company in Great Britain, but never delivered because of U.S. diplomatic protests. The working plans for the Laird ships included twin gun turrets, iron plating four and one-half inches thick, and a bow reinforced with wrought iron for ramming enemy ships. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London, England.

The Wivern was one of two ironclads built for the Confederacy by the Laird Company in Great Britain, but never delivered because of U.S. diplomatic protests. The working plans for the Laird ships included twin gun turrets, iron plating four and one-half inches thick, and a bow reinforced with wrought iron for ramming enemy ships. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London, England.

Daniel E. Sickles (1825-1914)

Daniel E. Sickles

Daniel E. Sickles was appointed minister to Spain in 1 869, the culmination of a flamboyant public career. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Sickles raised a brigade of volunteers in New York City and maintained them at his own expense until they were taken into the Army. He led the “Excelsior Brigade” into battle and rose to the rank of major general and the command of the Third Corps of the Army of the Potomac. In the spring of 1865, Sickles conducted a diplomatic mission to Colombia to arrange the passage of U.S. troops through Panama. Sickles was appointed minister to Spain as a reward for his early support of Grant’s campaign for the presidency.

Daniel Webster, 1850-1852

Daniel Webster
Secretary of State
1850-1852

Edward Everett, 1852-1853

Edward Everett
Secretary of State
1852-1853

William Learned Marcy, 1853-1857

William L. Marcy
Secretary of State
1853-1857

Lewis Cass, 1857-1860

Lewis Cass
Secretary of State
1857-1860

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