Jump to content
tanknet.org

Recommended Posts

It's 1863, and Britain and France have thrown in with the Confederacy. How would an attempt to break the blockade fare?

 

The Europeans would have several factors in their favor:

 

1. The presence of a hostile Anglo-French fleet(s) would force the Union to protect its own coastline against blockade/bombardment, thus diminishing the number of ships available to blockade the Confederate coast. This alone might effectively break the still somewhat tenuous blockade.

 

2. The Anglo-French could sortie from Bermuda and mass against a single point of their choice. It would be difficult for the Union to respond, since many of the blockading vessels were of questionable seaworthiness, and in any case doing so would probably weaken the blockade so much in other areas that it would be "broken" there rather than at the point of the European attack. If things get too hairy, the Euros head back to Bermuda, rinse and repeat. This threatens to unravel the blockade; Union ships spend more time responding to or waiting for Anglo-French raids than they do stopping blockade runners.

 

3. European naval power could potentially threaten the land bases in Confederate territory that the blockade depended on. See Hoke's 1864 campaign in eastern North Carolina- a relatively small number of troops backed by one primitive ironclad captured one of the two major Federal bases in the area. New Bern would have fallen even without the support of CSS Neuse but for lack of time-Hoke was recalled when Grant started making noises in Virginia.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 580
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Posted Images

Even given the complete absence of a blockade in 1863, could this have changed the fate of the Confederacy?

 

I think the writing was pretty much on the wall by then.

352243[/snapback]

 

If we're dealing with a scenario in which Britain and France have recognized the Confederacy in the first place, that presupposes that the Confederacy has had better luck on the battlefield than she did historically(I chose not to go into specifics because I wanted to discuss this hypothetical naval contest).

 

Anyway, the question isn't whether or not the Confederacy would ultimately win, it's how the navies would have fared in battle against each other.

Edited by Grant Whitley
Link to post
Share on other sites

Does anyone have available to them a OOB of the British and French fleets, 1863? Also of interest would be a listing of their overseas commitments--obviously fleet units are needed in support of their various imperial interests, thus significantly decreasing units available for action against the US.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Does anyone have available to them a OOB of the British and French fleets, 1863?  Also of interest would be a listing of their overseas commitments--obviously fleet units are needed in support of their various imperial interests, thus significantly decreasing units available for action against the US.

352251[/snapback]

 

HMS Warrior is something of an unknown- it never saw combat, AFAIK. I don't believe the French ironclad Gloire ever did, either.

Link to post
Share on other sites
They could have been trying to bust the blockade as early as 1862, if we're using the Trent affair as a catalyst for them getting involved.

352259[/snapback]

 

I chose 1863 because the blockade was still pretty hypothetical in most places in 1862.

 

Also, IIRC, the Confederate Navy was operating its own blockade runners by 1863, which means that they'll have military supplies on them, and not the latest Paris fashions.

Edited by Grant Whitley
Link to post
Share on other sites
Even given the complete absence of a blockade in 1863, could this have changed the fate of the Confederacy?

 

I think the writing was pretty much on the wall by then.

352243[/snapback]

 

Exactly. If anything, it would force the Union to really go to full mobilization, and so what if the onfederacy goes from a trickle to a slightly opened tap of supplies (these aren't exactly RO/ROs full of supplies pulling into Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, etc.). The Union Navy still gets a crack and stop the increased flow to boot.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't agree that the Union had unlimited reserves of political will; 1864 in the east showed that it had its breaking point, with all of the media criticism of Grant. It's not too hard to imagine the wheels coming off this wagon. To have achieved European recognition and intervention in the first place, the Confederacy would have already been in a more advantageous position than it was historically. Combine that with higher Union losses in Virginia and some cheap victories against Union bases along the eastern seaboard, and the prospect of attacks against the Union homefront, and things are not looking so hot for the North.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Exactly. If anything, it would force the Union to really go to full mobilization, and so what if the onfederacy goes from a trickle to a slightly opened tap of supplies (these aren't exactly RO/ROs full of supplies pulling into Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, etc.). The Union Navy still gets a crack and stop the increased flow to boot.

352276[/snapback]

 

Not if the Royal Navy shows up at Boston Harbour and isn't looking for tea. Do you realise the bedlam if they bombard Boston, New York, or even worse, sail a few ships up the Chesapeake and land some Royal Marines in Lincoln's backyard? Even if they're repulsed, the puplic would be screaming for ships around metro areas on the coast, which bites into the Union blockade.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Not if the Royal Navy shows up at Boston Harbour and isn't looking for tea. Do you realise the bedlam if they bombard Boston, New York, or even worse, sail a few ships up the Chesapeake and land some Royal Marines in Lincoln's backyard? Even if they're repulsed, the puplic would be screaming for ships around metro areas on the coast, which bites into the Union blockade.

352287[/snapback]

 

But that's also assuming no forts have any effect (dunno the weapon loadout arcana, but DC, the Chesapeake, etc. had a series of fairly modern forts controlling waterways), and the US Navy doesn't intercept French/Brits out to sea. I mean, they were sinking Confederate blockade runners directly off the coast of France, so the notion that there aren't high seas intercepts is too much of a hand wave.

Link to post
Share on other sites
But that's also assuming no forts have any effect (dunno the weapon loadout arcana, but DC, the Chesapeake, etc. had a series of fairly modern forts controlling waterways), and the US Navy doesn't intercept French/Brits out to sea. I mean, they were sinking Confederate blockade runners directly off the coast of France, so the notion that there aren't high seas intercepts is too much of a hand wave.

352291[/snapback]

 

The types of vessels that went after blockade runners and even ships like the Alabama were not ships of the same caliber as the big seagoing ironclads like Warrior. One of the big USN weaknesses in this scenario is the limited number of full blown ocean going warships, whereas the British and French are going to be ocean going all the way. Did the USN have any armored ocean going ships?

 

I think the major card the USN would have to play is coastal beasties like the New Ironsides- but for reasons outlined above, their effect would be limited, mostly because of availability.

Edited by Grant Whitley
Link to post
Share on other sites
The types of vessels that went after blockade runners and even ships like the Alabama were not ships of the same caliber as the big seagoing ironclads like Warrior.  One of the big USN weaknesses in this scenario is the limited number of full blown ocean going warships, whereas the British and French are going to be ocean going all the way.  Did the USN have any armored ocean going ships?

 

I think the major card the USN would have to play is coastal beasties like the New Ironsides- but for reasons outlined above, their effect would be limited, mostly because of availability.

352293[/snapback]

 

Wouldn't there be three New Ironsides classs by that time? And if international relations really shit the bed, what was the turnaround on building some more of the class?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Wouldn't there be three New Ironsides classs by that time? And if international relations really shit the bed, what was the turnaround on building some more of the class?

352294[/snapback]

 

From my readings on the blockade, the Union definitely didn't have the ability to shit out warships as it pleased. Despite the fact that the Confederate Navy offered next to no resistance, the blockade didn't really start to become effective until 1864 or so, and that was with land bases in the South. And that was all due to lack of ships, and mind we're not talking about real warships that could take on a professional ocean going navy. The Union had enough trouble scraping up ex-commercial vessels that could be converted into picket vessels.

Link to post
Share on other sites

If London and Paris got involved in the ACW, the only blockade in 1863 would be the one inflicted on the NORTH.

 

Just being cut off from trade with the UK and France would hurt Washington and the Unions war effort.

 

shane

Link to post
Share on other sites
If London and Paris got involved in the ACW, the only blockade in 1863 would be the one inflicted on the NORTH.

 

Just being cut off from trade with the UK and France would hurt Washington and the Unions war effort.

 

shane

352304[/snapback]

 

Yea, and cutting off that trade would have been unpopular in the UK, and France to an extent. People liked eating even back then.

 

Also, I doubt the brits would have been interested in continuing hostilities in North America once they realized the Union army wasn't the Continental army of 1779.

 

Top that off with the logistical requirements of an early ironclad operating in a forward deployed station with it's main logistical base under serious threat from land forces, and you have a deal killer right there.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Top that off with the logistical requirements of an early ironclad operating in a forward deployed station with it's main logistical base under serious threat from land forces, and you have a deal killer right there.

352310[/snapback]

 

That sounds like a description of the USN situation, not the British/French.

Link to post
Share on other sites
If London and Paris got involved in the ACW, the only blockade in 1863 would be the one inflicted on the NORTH.

352304[/snapback]

 

I don't think that they could have imposed a blockade on the North. Not enough ships, and the Union could fight back with some pretty nasty vessels in close to the coast. Raiding would have been another matter- definitely doable(or would have required lots of resources to prevent), and could have had a devastating effect on Northern morale.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Either the British OR the French could have force the union to lift the blockade of the southern coast.

 

While not really very good, Conroy's book "1862"!looks at a Brit declaration of war after the Trent affair. Basically, no union capture of New Orleans and no Vicksburg campaign. The Brits bombard New York harbor and some of the ships get carried away and there is a lot of damage to the city.

Link to post
Share on other sites

HMS Warrior was impervious to any of the US's Dahlgren guns. In other words it could have systematically dismantled each and every one of the US coastal forts and port cities on its own, the only problem the RN would have had would have been keeping ammunition and coal up to it. The Monitor and Merrimack were just not comparable to Warrior, or to several other ships the RN had either in service or just about to enter service.

 

On the other side, the RN's Armstrong rifles left everybody else's heavy guns completely in the shade. I've seen this topic hashed through at great lengths on a couple of the naval boards and the consensus by some fairly expert people is that the USN and the US's coastal defences and cities were pretty much toast.

 

The scenario works something like this - while Warrior is systematically reducing coastal defences to open up the cities and shipyards for bomb ketches to come in and destroy them the RN's ironclad steam frigates are running down every USN ship at sea and sinking it.

 

End result, given the more positive early results for the CSA, is that the Confeds survive, but probably only for another 10-15 years, given the social changes that had occured during the war.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Yea, and cutting off that trade would have been unpopular in the UK, and France to an extent. People liked eating even back then.

 

Also, I doubt the brits would have been interested in continuing hostilities in North America once they realized the Union army wasn't the Continental army of 1779.

 

Top that off with the logistical requirements of an early ironclad operating in a forward deployed station with it's main logistical base under serious threat from land forces, and you have a deal killer right there.

352310[/snapback]

 

Bras, there wouldn't have to be a blockade of the North to eliminate the majority of the Unions war related imports - most of them were sourced FROM Britain and France, or other European players who'd care more about Anglo-French opinion than American trade. Nor would such an embargo spell ecconomic ruin for Europeans. I agree that Europeans like to eat, but the Unions blockade of the south had already snatched the food from their tables, or rather the cotton from their mills. The bulk of impports from America to Europe were agricultural, drawn mostly from the South. Reopening the southern ports (that would take most of the goods previously sent north) could well do as much ecconomic good as the loss of northern markets did harm.

 

No the Union Army wasn't the Continental Army. But then it couldn't walk on water either. So I don't see how its going to invade Jamacia, Bermuda, Newfoundland or the British Isles - you did say 'logistical base' and we're talking about a blockade :)

 

The North could invade Canada and the UK wouldn't be able to stop them. If Crimea is any example they could get a pretty reasonable force into the theater and probably maintain an army above the St.Lawrence. Getting a French force over would add an interesting twist too. But imposing a blockade of Union ports and just as importantly breaking the Union's blockade of the South, doesen't hinge on Canada, even if the actual chances of a such war starting did.

 

Then there's the other side of the coin, any Union force moving against Canada is not fighting the South. Either the Union has to raise more troops or they have to ease up on the Confederates (just as Richmond was recieving an infusion of material and money from their new allies). There's no doubt more troops could have been recruited, the manpower was there. But the additional forces would need to be equiped from a reduced supply pool and without a couple of months for training the initial quality of these new units will be low. So its not like Lincoln can just wave his hand and invade Canada in crushing weight overnight.

 

As to the mechanics of an RN blockade, I understand this hyperthetical is based on both the British and the French being involved against the US. So this automatically frees up the bulk of both navies. The RN also had substantial reserves of both ships and stores and from memory the ACW provoked a mild shipping slump anyway, so the manpower to mobalise them isn't too much of a worry. As we're still in the age of sail Time on Station for a blockading force can be measured in months for everything but coal, but then steam would be reserved for 'special occasions.'

 

So I'd rate the chances of maintining a squadron with a couple of 1st/2nd rates and a frigate or two off each of the major US ports as quite high. The USN certainly could not stop their blockade of the south being rolled up, and that opens southern ports to support the RN. I agree they probably would not be able to lock up every Union port on the East Coast, but then they don't have too. With Britain as an enemy, that automatically eliminates over half the worlds shipping from even wanting evade an RN blockade, IIRC the French had the second largest Merchant fleet and its ditto for them. While the US merchant marine wasn't all that large to start with and had been gutted of manpower to expand the USN.

 

So there's not going to be many merchies trying to bust the blockade. For those that are there will be RN and MN frigates cruising the world looking for them. It won't be a water tight effort, material will get through, but then that hardly matters. And with all due respect there's not much the USN can do about it. Even raiding is going to be hard work. In terms of giving battle and driving the blockde off... I don't even think British incompetance would do the trick.

 

The only advantage the USN has is in shallow water, which puts the RN's inshore frigate screen in line for some trouble. But with steam on both sides the frigates can run out to mother in the face of anything they can't handle. On the other hand the US frigates are not going to tangle with the liners off shore.

 

I am not trying to make some chest thumping case about RN superiority here, or have a go at the US. But the only real loser from such a war would be America. An Anglo-French alliance would pay a hefty price for the privlidge, but they were in a position to seriously degrade the Unions abiity to wage war on the Confederacy, bloster the South's resistance and pay havoc on the West Coast, while all the US could do in reply is take a chunk of a colony and mess with international trade. I'm bloody glad it didn't happen and the repurcussions into our time would be unpleasent to say the least. But honestly, it would not be a cakewalk for Union.

 

shane

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...