The American Civil War was the bloodiest conflict ever fought in the western hemisphere of the world and, as such, attracted a great deal of attention from other powers. Previously, I have discussed on these pages how a war between two factions of republicans actually had a tremendous impact on the monarchist cause in the Americas. Most of the ‘Great Powers’ of Europe had an interest
in the War Between the States. The British Empire had an economic interest with southern cotton feeding the textile mills of England while the industrial centers of the northern states were major competitors. Indeed, only a few decades after the war ended with the north victorious, the United States of America surpassed Great Britain as the world’s largest economy and has remained so ever since. The tentative steps of the Kingdom of Spain to rebuild the Spanish Empire
in Latin America, the French-backed restoration of the Mexican Empire and the French plans for a “Kingdom of the Andes” in South America all depended on the Confederacy being victorious due to opposition to all such endeavors by the Union government in Washington DC.
|Emperor Francis Joseph|
The northern states were also home to large numbers of European immigrants who had fled their countries after failed revolutionary movements, so there were many Irish republicans in the north who detested the British Empire and many liberal Germans who had fled in the aftermath of the Revolutions of 1848. The only ‘Great Power’ to be seen at least as supportive of the U.S. government was the Russian Empire and this was mostly due to the fact that Britain and France were seen as friendlier to the Confederacy and the Russians hoped to counter this such as when Russia sold Alaska to the United States in order to prevent it being added to Canada by the British in a potential future conflict. The Austrian Empire was not extremely concerned about events in America, having many pressing problems of their own to deal with at the time, but that is not to say that they were not interested at all. Although the Emperor of Austria, Francis Joseph, had opposed the whole adventure, his younger brother was Emperor of Mexico and thus his fate, and that of the Austrian volunteer corps sent to aid him in Mexico, also depended almost entirely on the Confederates winning their independence.
|Captain Ross at Gettysburg|
As also pointed out previously, the Confederacy was also greatly influenced by the style of the Austrian Empire. The uniforms of the Confederate army were inspired by those of the Austrian light infantry and the first Confederate national flag was inspired by the ensign of the Austrian Empire, both being designed by the Prussian artist Nicola Marschall
. The Emperor of Austria also had his own “eyes on the ground” so to speak, in the person of Captain FitzGerald Ross, a British-born officer of the Sixth Austrian Hussar Regiment. He made quite a stir in the southern states with his waxed moustache and braided Hussar uniform, in fact he was almost mobbed by admirers after being persuaded by some Confederate officers to wear his full dress uniform, fur busby, dolman and all, for a ride with them. He witness the Battle of Gettysburg, then went to Richmond, Charleston and then Chattanooga, Tennessee where he observed the fight from the lines of the Confederate General Braxton Bragg. He also visited the Gulf coast, Mobile, Alabama and so on. Like many, he was very impressed by the Confederate military and, like many more, was also impressed by the southern ladies. He became an ardent Confederate sympathizer, even to the point of picking up a rifle and taking part in a battle during his long stay in the south. When Ross finally returned to Europe, no matter what bad news reached him, he remained confident that the south would ultimately win.
Such a thing would have, inadvertently, greatly expanded Austrian influence in the New World given that the establishment of a Habsburg monarchy in Mexico (or rather the ‘reestablishment’) would have given Austria a sort of foothold in the region. Confederate President Jefferson Davis was certainly aware of this and tried to enlist the Prussian observer, Captain Justus Scheibert, as an envoy to Emperor Napoleon III of France. He proposed a sort of Franco-Confederate alliance, pointing out that in the Mexican War (of which Davis was a noted veteran) the U.S. had defeated Mexico with only 12,000 men and that if Napoleon would lift the Union blockade of the southern coast, which Davis believed could be done with ‘the stroke of a pen’ and would ensure a Confederate victory, he would supply 20,000 Confederate troops to aid the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, explaining that southern troops were adjusted to the climate and familiar with the fighting style of the Mexicans.
|Austrian officers in Mexico|
However, this, as we know, did not come to pass. Although tempted, none of the European powers ultimately were bold enough to risk war with the United States by recognizing the Confederacy (though Pope Pius IX did address a letter to Jefferson Davis as President of the C.S.A.). When the Confederacy fell, the effort to spread monarchy in the Americas quickly fell apart. The U.S. government dispatched an army to the south Texas border and warned the French to withdraw or face war. Napoleon, not wishing to see the enterprise be for nothing, hoped that the Austrian Empire would take up the French cause of supporting the Mexican imperialists. A further 2,000 Austrian volunteers (roughly) were assembled at the port of Trieste, ready to embark for Mexico and fight for Emperor Maximilian. It was, though, at that point that the Union government stepped in by way of U.S. Minister to Vienna John Lothrop Motley who went to the Hofburg and informed the Austrian Emperor quite bluntly that the U.S. recognized only Benito Juarez as the leader of the legitimate Mexican government and that if the Austrian troops were allowed to leave, the U.S. would consider the Austrian Empire to be at war with the Mexican Republic and the U.S. Navy would take retaliatory action on behalf of Mexico.
The expedition was thus canceled, the Austrian soldiers disbanded and the Austrian Volunteer Corps
already fighting in Mexico was promptly recalled. Many had already been slaughtered at the Battle of Santa Gertrudis
where, seeing which way the winds were blowing, their comrades of the Mexican Imperial Army had deserted in the middle of the battle to join the republicans. The surrender of General Lee at Appomattox Court House in 1865 had set the dominos to falling, the Austrians pulled out and shortly thereafter the Habsburg Emperor of Mexico was captured and shot, the Austrian Emperor then even having a difficult time retrieving the body of his slain younger brother. The Imperial House of Habsburg had had a presence in the Americas ever since Philip the Handsome and Charles V had held their Spanish crowns until the succession was taken up by the Bourbons of France. In 1864, however, another Habsburg returned to, he hoped, usher in a new era of monarchy in the Americas but with the fall of the Confederacy, it was inevitable that the Habsburgs would once again lose their place in the New World.
You noted that both North and South were republican factions, but do you recognize any notabless difference between the aristocratic republic in the South and the democratic republic of the North or do you hold both forms to be contemptible?ReplyDelete
Not at all. Although neither were ideal, one was definitely more traditional than the other. The First French Republic and the Republic of Venice were both republics too but one was a waking nightmare while the other was pristine by comparison. As with all things, not all republics are created equal.Delete
Personally, I feel the Confederacy was the more "American" of the two republics. Regardless of the morality of slavery, the Confederacy preserved the original culture that the colonists had descended from in a far better manner than the Union had, and considering the Thirteen Colonies were always prior to the Constitution distinct entities, it is what they still are and no piece of paper can ever change that (Though as you noted in the past, demographics can change a lot). As such, even though I am from a Northern State I can at least sympathize with the State's Rights aspect of the Confederacy.ReplyDelete
My position is that the USA only gained validity when King George III recognized the independence of the 13 colonies. Those colonies voluntarily joined the Union, first the Articles of Confed. and then the current Constitution and, as such, had every right to leave voluntarily.Delete
What do you think of the idea that tariffs were an important cause of the civil war?Delete
Had you lived then would you have fought for the confederacy or not at all?ReplyDelete
I would've been for the Confederacy, which is not to say the Union had no case at all either. However, in my case, I'm from Texas and Texas joined the union by treaty. The USA had recognized the Republic of Texas as an independent, sovereign entity prior to that which is why a treaty was required, it was an agreement between two, equal, independent countries. As such, just as Texas voted to join, Texas later voted to leave and if the one was valid then the other must be too.Delete
It's the left. I do agree with the union's hypocrisy in not letting them leave, but I am not surprised by the left's hypocrisy anymore and more and more people seem to agree. Across the world, the lefts are starting to lose seatsDelete
I'd consider myself an Anti-revolutionary basically for the reasons explained by Thomas Hobbes. The Confederates were very wrong to rebel against their sovereign and start a civil war.ReplyDelete
Texas was annexed by Joint Resolution of Congress. The treaty of annexation was unable to secure a 2/3 vote in the US Senate and thus was not ratified.
I don't have anything against Monarchy and would support the King or Queen if I lived in a monarchy.
I'm not very traditionalist. How much to change tradition is up to the sovereign (whether Monarch or Republic).