A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War

A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War

Amanda Foreman

Language: English

Pages: 798

ISBN: 0375756965

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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In this brilliant narrative, Amanda Foreman tells the fascinating story of the American Civil War—and the major role played by Britain and its citizens in that epic struggle. Between 1861 and 1865, thousands of British citizens volunteered for service on both sides of the Civil War. From the first cannon blasts on Fort Sumter to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, they served as officers and infantrymen, sailors and nurses, blockade runners and spies. Through personal letters, diaries, and journals, Foreman introduces characters both humble and grand, while crafting a panoramic yet intimate view of the war on the front lines, in the prison camps, and in the great cities of both the Union and the Confederacy. In the drawing rooms of London and the offices of Washington, on muddy fields and aboard packed ships, Foreman reveals the decisions made, the beliefs held and contested, and the personal triumphs and sacrifices that ultimately led to the reunification of America.

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to send a ciphered telegram to Lord Lyons: “I consider a man-of-war essential here immediately to receive and protect British Black crews.” Lyons replied that HMS Challenger was on its way, but the warship would not reach New York for at least another twenty-four hours. Archibald could not wait that long. In desperation, he contacted the French consulate, which arranged for Admiral Reynaud to offer the Guerriere to British blacks. The French frigate steamed into the harbor, opened the gun ports,

office, across the parched park of Lafayette Square, Lord Lyons was writing his assessment of the president’s future. The situation was indeed bleak, but “there is still a possibility,” Lyons insisted to Lord Russell, “of some military successes before the winter, which might make a great change in public feeling.”21 Lyons had hoped for some sign of progress before he left for Canada to discuss with the governor-general, Viscount Monck, how to restrain Confederate operations in North America. The

1862. 7. Ibid., Malet to Lady Malet, December 2, 1862. 8. The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan: Selected Correspondence, 1860–1865, ed. Stephen W. Sears (Cambridge, Mass., 1992), p. 517, McClellan to Lincoln, November 2, 1862. 9. Richard Wheeler, Voices of the Civil War (New York, 1990), p. 203. 10. The 12,000-strong corps was principally made up of German immigrants, and most of its commanders were foreign-born. A hero to many German Americans on account of his military leadership of

23, 1863. 16. W. C. Ford (ed.), A Cycle of Adams Letters, 1861–1865, 2 vols. (Boston, 1920), vol. 2, p. 59, Henry Adams to Charles Francis Adams, Jr., July 23, 1863; Economist, August 1, 1863, quoted in Hugh Brogan, “America and Walter Bagehot,” Journal of American Studies, 11/3 (Dec. 1977), p. 340. 17. Charles Vandersee, “Henry Adams Behind the Scenes: Civil War Letters to Frederick W. Seward,” 71/4 (1967), p. 259. 18. Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, pp. 204–55. 19. Ford (ed.), A Cycle

honest. When Russell bumped into him on July 16 at Washington Station, McDowell admitted that he was there looking for two missing batteries of artillery. The army had started its march toward Manassas that morning and already there was utter chaos at his headquarters. Even “the worst-served English general has always a young fellow or two about him,” thought Russell pityingly as the forlorn figure walked up and down the platform, poking his head into each train carriage. He was almost tempted to

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