A naval snippet!

When British mariners fought in British made ships on behalf of the American Southern Confederate States against the USA, in the civil war of 1861-1865 in which they inflicted heavy damage on the USN.


I have always had an interest in wars per se, which of course must include civil wars. In ours, the antics of the Commonwealth Navy are of great interest, as are those of Robert Blake, the most famous of our 17th century admirals and whose warring and political achievement have never been surpassed. He was Cromwell's joint chief of the  army  and navy, holding simultaneously the ranks of general and admiral. History long ago dubbed him with  the grand title of "Father of the Royal Navy".

One of my daughters-in-law is from 'Johnny Reb' territory [by residential qualification] hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, and she married my eldest son Steven twenty four years ago, living since that event in SE London, chiefly in the Greenwich/Charlton areas.  They came together at Chicago University. Yes, she is indeed a southern belle, and because she's from the South she cannot be called a Yank - thankfully - because there is a type of a cockney rhyme which associates a Yank with a septic tank, and that's not nice! Since leaving Atlanta several years ago, she is more familiar with the north, specifically with the State of Minnesota and the twin cities of Minneapolis and the State Capital, St Paul's.  A lovely area which I can vouch for.

Matthew Maury was a naval commander and by all accounts loved his navy the USN, his country the USA,  and his US State of Virginia. When the American Civil War broke out in April 1861, Virginia took sides with the Confederate States, and Matthew was forced into resigning his commission from the United States Navy [USN], taking up a new commission in the Confederate States Navy [CSN]  again as a commander. He designed an ‘electric torpedo’ – a device which today we would call a mine, a contact device – which created havoc for the USN, sinking more of their ships than did any other stand alone invention or direct enemy action.  However, of perhaps a greater significance – or at least that is as he saw it – being by that time an established national figure in the sciences of hydrography and navigation and rapidly becoming recognised on the international stage,  he was considered by the President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis,  to be a more valuable asset to the Confederation as an ambassador, rather than as a fighting naval officer, and was duly whisked off to England. His task was two-fold, chiefly to drum up support to interfere in North American politics, hoping to stop the war and the bloodshed, whilst in the meantime and quite overtly, purchasing ships, ammunition and supplies for the Confederate Navy, both approaches winning much British support not to mention pity for the plight American’s had got themselves into. Maury’s so-called diplomatic reason for being in Britain was never endorsed by the British Government nor necessarily welcomed.  In Britain, the south were supported by a sizeable group of well shod gentry, but the north were supported by a vast part of our population, many emigrating to the USA to join  the damn Yanky army led by General Grant.  Britain was quick to show all protagonist but specifically Lincoln, Davis, Grant and Lee, that they were not taking sides in a civil war nor did they from beginning to end. However, Britain, now starved of cotton from the south because of the war, and in great need of grain from the north, played one off against the other, sending goods and munitions to both sides in return for  the resources and materials much in  demand.  The south fell out with Britain [where virtually all trading came to a halt] and France, both of whom could have stopped the war but refrained from doing so, whereas the north kept diplomatic contact with Britain [and traded more or less as before the war started]  with a good working friendship, until a naval event took place which temporarily soured that relationship. Maury secured two fine British warships for the south, which did considerable damage to ships of the USN. They were the CSS Alabama and CSS Shenandoah, manned in the main by British seamen. When the war was no more, the victors, the USA were compensated by many millions of dollars in an international court,  for the damaged inflicted upon their ships by the aforementioned CSS ships. The procurement of these two vessels from a UK ship builder direct and the provision of British crews were nothing to do with the British Government, which seemingly wasn’t approved of.

We lost the Colony of North America in the War of Independence fought over a long period 1775-1783, but in a protracted and perverse way, we helped to bring the former enlarged and enlightened  colony back as a friendly ally of the hitherto mother country, and much changed for the better in that world-beating country after 1865 and the world at large, first working together after thirty five years in China during the Opium Wars in 1900.

Take care and thanks for reading this story.