A heartbeat away from greatness: a timeline of missed opportunities

Not sure about that. There are several barely navigatable spots before you get to Yale where an artillery battery located on the cliffs overlooking the river might wreck havoc with any steamer pushing it's way through. Fort Langley I assume the Brits can hold until Lord's Elgin's forces arrive. But Yale and even Hope might be captured by the Americans.

This is true, but how is artillery going to get there?

This link is pretty good about the whatcom trail, and it doesn't look like it was actually finished, or easily traversable by anything not on foot. And when steamships came in it was apparently sidelined.

http://skagiteec.org/skagit-research-library/sp-files/whatcom-trail-report

I like the below bit. I have hiked in this coast, and it can be as ugly as hell. :)

The general verdict was this was one of the worst trails in the world (Bellingham Bay Mail, April 24, 1880, p 3


No idea what the snowfall in 1859 was, but the height of the the lowest pass on the trail was apparently 4533 ft, and the summit of Mt Baker is nearby at 4300 ft. And annual snowfall there is apparently 647" inches. Or 50 odd ft. Apparently the world record snowfall of anywhere, ever happened there in 96. 95 ft. I remember that winter. It was ugly.



Spolier- if this war does get kicked off expect a post titled "Wendigo".
Man....

Question is- when does WINTER, in the sense of blocked mountain passes, unnavigatable terrain, etc start?
Depends on what is traversing it. A man with snowshoes or skiis can get thru all year barring storms. On the other hand Mudslides and rockslides close major highways in July and August all the time here.
The mount baker ski resort site is pretty good as a gauge i think. The ski area seems around the same height as the passes.

http://www.skiwashington.com/resorts/mtbaker

Their stats for the last 10 years show snow starts in late Oct/November and they are open til end of April.

So probably closed to traffic in November?

Also, I've been reading up on the respective force dispositions and I've come to the conclusion that the Situation for the Brits is somewhat less positive than I thought.

While they have a whopping 2,000 regulars based on Vancouver, only 450 of them are Marines, army engineers and other land troops. The rest are Sailors who cannot be dragooned into long term land campaigns without degrading ship performance too badly- and they aren't prepared for such combat and won't be that good at it anyways (better than Millitia, but not that much).

Baynes OTL started recieving reinforcements after August when the Second Opium war ended- but TTL the SOW drags on well into December so he's on his ownsome until Feburary. The Yanks by Contrast have had two extra months to raise militia in California and Oregon. That's also enough time to stockpile supplies., shift some regulars from further East, by portage through Mexico or Panama and then ship up the coast.

Also, there is quite a lot that can be done in San Juan over the two months of the blockade to make taking the Island a longer and more expensive (though still ineveitable) proposition than I would have thought- particularly since Picket's ground troops face an equal number of land reguilars (though naval bombardment will even this out somewhat).

Bottom line is that The Americans can place a larger ground force on the Washington BC border than Douglas, even reinforced by All of Baynes Marines and 500 of his sailors (or whoever remain avaliable once San Juan is captured) . Their Regular core will be somewhat larger than that of the Brits (Around 1500 men) but will be better trained for land warfare and the yankee millitia auxilaries will substantialy outnumber British millitia (say 3000 to 1000. Though supplying that many men might be a problem)- especialy if the miners in BC join in the fun. If, for whatever reason, "woman killer" storms BC BEFORE, Baynes has a chance to finish up San Juan then they might just be able to beseige Fort Langely before Baynes is free. Taking it is unlikely though.

In Short, they might make some impressive gains in BC, while suffering a bad defeat in San Juan before the British expedionary force in China (15,000 Regulars!!!) makes it across the Pacfic to Vancouver. At that point the Yanks are in big trouble.

thoughts?

P.S. Regarding speculations on AACW and northern secession- not releasing any more spoilers:)


Probably accurate on numbers although i am not sure why the RN would need to take San Juan until reinforcements show up. Land batteries in wood fortifications are not going to be much of an obstacle to the heavier and more numerous guns mounted on Baynes's squadron. Baynes's seems pretty on the ball. Wipe out the guns and then let the garrison starve seems plausible to me. Shell them periodically to keep them honest and land raiding parties to wipe out the US stores depots in Puget sound. With control of the sea the Brits can put their 1000 men anywhere they want, and the Americans have to defend everything.

And in spring accept the surrender of everyone who is starving once Elgin arrives. And then on to San Francisco and Astoria. Play to Strengths.
 
Deckhand

Good comment but one query. You say "height of the the lowest pass on the trail was apparently 4533 ft, and the summit of Mt Baker is nearby at 4300 ft" which seems to suggest the trail was above the level of a nearby mountain? Is there a typo there.

I thought you sounded confident about you're comments but didn't realise you lived in the [potential] battle-area.

If it comes to a long war the biggest single advantage is that Britain can reinforce and resupply, from India and Australia as well as the army currently in China while the US will be unable to really add anything it can't supply from its west coast possessions. Hence unless they win big elsewhere, which I am more doubtful about than you, they are likely to end up as net losers.

Steve
 
Yeah, wondered about that too, so i had to look it up again after as it didn't sound right. Mt Baker is actually 10,781 ft tall. I think the source i had was actually referring to the summit of the ski area which is 14 km NE of the actual mountain, and apparently similiar to the elevation of the passes.

Yeah, I have hiked and been on maneuvers in this terrain back in the day. Imagine Norway in winter and you are close. Marching on mud trails in hypothermic weather really sucks, a lot.
 
Whatcom trail Vs Ft langely trail as U.S invasion route.

Back from a four day hiking trek in somewhat less ardorous terrain than BC:)


This is true, but how is artillery going to get there?

This link is pretty good about the whatcom trail, and it doesn't look like it was actually finished, or easily traversable by anything not on foot. And when steamships came in it was apparently sidelined.

http://skagiteec.org/skagit-research-library/sp-files/whatcom-trail-report

I like the below bit. I have hiked in this coast, and it can be as ugly as hell. :)

The general verdict was this was one of the worst trails in the world (Bellingham Bay Mail, April 24, 1880, p 3

Yes, but the Whatcom trail would not be the invasion route- It's a backroute into the upper Fraser Valley which was mainly used by American miners because Douglas would impound their weapons and/or expel them if they didn't. There are no British military or economic assets to attack in the upper Fraser valley- So I don't see any American army marching there. The strategic target is, or should be, An interdictable portion of the Lower Fraser river, either at Fort Langely or farther upriver. Since the British regulars and most of the Militia are at Vancouver Island then interdicting the lower Fraser and disrupting seaborne communication through the Rosario straits should effectively end the Ability of the British to control the Non British population of the Fraser Valley and result into the upriver country falling into U.S control by default (or at least that's what the Americans would think).


The Fort Langely/Semiahmoo trail http://www.surreyhistory.ca/trails.html
connecting the American boundary border commision camp with Fort Langely/Derby would make a much better route which is closer to the American logistic base at Belligham. From a topographic map it appears to be
all under 2000 Ft- but I realize maps may be deceptive and not reflect the actual terrain. You ever Hike that ground? I thruhiked the AT but haven't ever had the chance to do the Coastal range let alone BC.

I think artillery could make it to that point- the question is how quickly the American commander could move and whether Bayne can move reinforcements there quicker. If he can't then an American takeover of Fort Langely is possible.

Which leads to a related question- did the Fraser river freeze over in the winter of 1859? it did in 1862 http://www.vancouverhistory.ca/sunspots_jan.htm and 1858 http://furtradefamilyhistory.blogspot.co.il/2012/05/weather-conditions-in-fraser-river.html- and I assume that there were navigational issues even absent complete freeze. Did communication during winter depend on sleds or did they have Icebreakers during the Gold Rush? I'm not an expert on naval warfare but I assume that trying to besiege a town which is supported by British naval artillery is a dicey proposition even with significant manpower superiority. But would that be an issue at Langely or Hope during winter?

No idea what the snowfall in 1859 was, but the height of the the lowest pass on the trail was apparently 4533 ft, and the summit of Mt Baker is nearby at 4300 ft. And annual snowfall there is apparently 647" inches. Or 50 odd ft. Apparently the world record snowfall of anywhere, ever happened there in 96. 95 ft. I remember that winter. It was ugly.

Doubt I can find any stats for 1859 but from what you say it sounds like any overland communication via the mountain passes is out during December-Febuary. The Weather in the Northern Hemisphere in the mid 19th century was colder than today. Would the passes clear out come April or would it take a bit longer? The timing is actualy critical given American domestic developments (democratic national convention is in late April)


Probably accurate on numbers although i am not sure why the RN would need to take San Juan until reinforcements show up. Land batteries in wood fortifications are not going to be much of an obstacle to the heavier and more numerous guns mounted on Baynes's squadron. Baynes's seems pretty on the ball. Wipe out the guns and then let the garrison starve seems plausible to me.

That's a good point. But bear in mind that the fort is earthworks which is not completely ineffective against the artillery of that time. There are several questions involved:
1. Could whatever artillery Pickett have hide out in the wooded interior of San Juan and "snipe" at shipping to a sufficient extent to make storming San Juan a political necessity even if it makes little military sense?
2. How much food Can Pickett stockpile during the period of tensions- and how much food does Bayne THINK he has? bear in mind that until the war actually breaks out his men can fish and receive supplies to their heart's content.
3. How advanced are naval mines at this time point? Are there specialized Minesweeper ships at this point. Would U.S forces in the pacific be supplied with them? in OTL Crimean war and ACW they proved a major factor in limiting the ability of British/Union naval forces to operate in coastal and riverine waters.


And in spring accept the surrender of everyone who is starving once Elgin arrives. And then on to San Francisco and Astoria. Play to Strengths.

That seems like a likely scenario- but of course, depending on timing, Bayne might not be certain he's going to be receiving reinforcements from Elgin in the near future, since communication lags mean at least a month long delay between Tianjin and Vancouver. He may be driven to counter any American gains on land with the destruction of the American garrison on San Juan both for national (negotiating cards) and personal (not being sacked for lack of achievements) political reasons.
 
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#32a Winter is coming


November 4th, 1859, Fort hope

Governor Douglas had always favored a personal touch in his relations with the boisterous immigrants to his mainland territories (1). The rough men who swarmed into British Caledonia in search of Gold and fortune had little respect for forms or institutions. But a strong, self confident man- that was something they could understand. That was something they could respect (2). And that personal touch was all the more necessary when dealing with the heathen Chinese. That personal touch was all the more required given that he had precious little time to act. In a month's time the Fraser river would be closed to shipping as ice floes developed along it's course. Even if the river did not freeze all the way to it's mouth as it did the previous year(3), steam boat navigation east of fort Langely would prove impossible.

He knew enough about the Celestials to understand something of the organization and hierarchies of those who had immigrated to British Columbia. They had little patriotic feeling to their dynatsy and seemed uninterested in the war the British empire was waging with the Qing. Their loyalty was primarily to their family, clan, and to the shadowy secret societies, part criminal, part religious and part anti-Qing which had taken root even in this new land. It was with the leader of one of those organizations that Governor Douglas was conversing.

"Our men came to this land to mine gold and trade their skills to the men who mine the gold." Said Zhou Rong in surprisingly fluent English. "Why should they leave their businesses and take up arms to fight for a land in which they are not welcome?" (4)

"Those who sign up in the militia will be relieved of certain currently existing prohibitions (5). Also, all those fighting in the militia,Chinese as well as whites, shall have a reserved and free first claim to the Cariboo fields"

Zhou Rong nodded thoughtfully. "The men of the middle kingdom might be persuaded to fight under such conditions. But many new to this land would be doubtful if they were not reassured by their own countryman... a man they could trust"

Douglas sighed. "A proper… bounty, and rank, might, of course be provided to those who succeed in signing up their countrymen"

Several hours later Douglas wished he could be more certain of the course he had chosen- arming and organizing the subjects of a nation the British Empire was formally at war with would be bound to raise eyebrows back in London. Nor did he have any illusions about which men Zhou Rong and the other Triad leaders he had spoken to would provide- debt ridden men more fearful of the shadowy retribution of their leaders than the Bayonets of the Yankees.

But there were too few British citizens in British Columbia to form enough militia formations and so he had, perforce, to rely on the Chinese to fill the ranks and on the barely controllable Indians to furnish the scouts and skirmishers that might counterbalance the American presponderance in numbers.

More to the point, he needed them to provide the critical mass of men required to disarm the American miners. While he was uncertain on how steady the chinamen might be against American regulars and Militia he had no doubts at all as to their morale when facing their American counterparts.


(1) That's the way Douglas thinks about British Columbia. As "His".
(2) Need I repeat that this reflects the way Douglas thinks rather than my own opinions?
(3) in other words I found no data on weather conditions in 1859
(4) Chinese in BC were not quite as badly treated as those in California. But they still needed to pay a Poll tax, were prohibited from working new claims and suffered from a variety of official and unofficial discriminatory
(5) Not quite citizenship, but an abolition of the Poll tax and various other measures.
 
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yboxman

Interesting. Sounds like things are coming to a head there and Douglas has already decided to act against the US miners. [One question comes to mind here in that who are, and possibly equally importantly who are perceived to be US miners?] Other Europeans who have come via the US or possibly more to the point the Californian fields might be scooped up in the net. Alternatively if he can identify them such people might also be willing to help controlling the US miners, both because they want to mine rather than have it disrupted by war and because that could well free up more claims for them.

I think there's a bit missing from the end of the 1st paragraph as it stops rather abruptly. Presumably its about the river freezing up?

Steve
 

katchen

Banned
The lowest pass into Puget Sound is Snoquolamine or Stampede Pass, Southeast of Seattle, and they are about 3500 feet (also miserable with wet snow in the winter). Alison Pass goes from the Okanogan Valley and the Columbia Basin directly into the Fraser Delta and it is I recall, 4300 feet. The Columbia River Gorge had sheer cliffs to the water's edge until roads and railroads were cut through them in the 1880s OTL, though by the 1880s steamboats are operating through it to the rapids at The Dalles, and I believe, above the rapids to the next set of rapids at what is now Richland-Kennewick.
Come to think of it, it might be possible for Byrnes to get some reinforcements from both the Mormons in Utah and the Federal garrison at Ft. Douglas "protecting" them--maybe a couple thousand, who could make it to Puget Sound within 60-90 days over the Oregon Trail. Which could set up butterflies in terms of a permanent Mormon presence in the Pacific Northwest. TTL.
If the Russians do get involved, officially or unofficially, several thousand Trans-Baikal Cossacks might be landed (there were at least 14,000 military from a host that Count Muraviev had formed in 1851 out of released convicts, Buryats and Evenks en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baikal_Cossacks ) who could offset troops the British might land from the 2nd Opium War. Along with militia from California and Mormons, these forces could tie a lot of British troops down fighting as guerillas even if British regulars were successful at occupying New Westminister and the San Juan Islands initially.
And in Eastern Canada, we should not assume that sentiment in Upper Canada, at least at the time was in favor of remaining British. Because of commercial links with the US, there was a lot of sentiment in favor of US statehood. And if the US occupies Quebec, perhaps we shouldn[t discount the possibility of Napoleon III entering the picture as a spoiler, with French Canadians agitating for a return to France. They, along with the Irish, have after all, been terribly discriminated against by the British. The longer a war with the UK (entered into to prevent secession by the South--which was Seward's idea by the way) drags on, the more the US will need outside allies and the better the kind of deals European allies make with one another will look to the US President--particularly if he is still James Buchanan rather than the more doctrinaire Lincoln. Lots of possibilities for Russia to manipulate the US and France into a coalition with it against the UK here.
 
East-West passes Vs north-South trails

The lowest pass into Puget Sound is Snoquolamine or Stampede Pass, Southeast of Seattle, and they are about 3500 feet (also miserable with wet snow in the winter). Alison Pass goes from the Okanogan Valley and the Columbia Basin directly into the Fraser Delta and it is I recall, 4300 feet. The Columbia River Gorge had sheer cliffs to the water's edge until roads and railroads were cut through them in the 1880s OTL, though by the 1880s steamboats are operating through it to the rapids at The Dalles, and I believe, above the rapids to the next set of rapids at what is now Richland-Kennewick.

All those are East-West passes across the cascades/continential divide to Western Washington or from Eastern Washington/Idaho to Eastern BC. Their condition is relavent insofar as U.S reinforcements to the Pacific Northwest AFTER the war begins. There should not be any trouble in reinforcing up to early December. Except, of course, for it being a bloody long way to march! Frankly, I had mostly considered reinforcements as taking a southerly route to California or the Pacific by sea and then northwards to Washington. long, slow, but I think still more settled and practicle logistics wise.

December-Feburary, once the war and the British blockade gets kicked off I think those passes are still traversible but logisticaly impracticle compared to the southern alternatives.

At any rate what I would realy like information on is not the condition of the East-West passes but that of the coastal North South trails between the lower Fraser Valley and the Puget sound region of the Washington territory. Tried looking up specific details and came up dry.

Come to think of it, it might be possible for Byrnes to get some reinforcements from both the Mormons in Utah and the Federal garrison at Ft. Douglas "protecting" them--maybe a couple thousand, who could make it to Puget Sound within 60-90 days over the Oregon Trail. Which could set up butterflies in terms of a permanent Mormon presence in the Pacific Northwest. TTL.

That I haven't considered. I think Buchanan's relations with the Mormons after the Utah war are a bit too fraught for them to consider enlisting- but might they consider doing so in return for promises of statehood? Or at least more control over the territorial government? OTL this was impossible until the Church renounced Polygamy. but OTOH the republicans were far more rabidly against the mormons than the Democrats. Which means... what? In any event, I think that the Fedral garrision might be moved to the Northwest in time for the war, being replaced by Federals from further East (for Laramie). Of course, all these billiard ball movements might result in a clash with the Sioux, Nez percez, or other Indian tribes...

If the Russians do get involved, officially or unofficially, several thousand Trans-Baikal Cossacks might be landed (there were at least 14,000 military from a host that Count Muraviev had formed in 1851 out of released convicts, Buryats and Evenks en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baikal_Cossacks ) who could offset troops the British might land from the 2nd Opium War.


Those troops are going to be otherwise engaged (semi-spoiler). And the Russian government would never consider open war with Britain at this point which would be what "lending" the U.S those troops means. Bear in mind that as far as Russia is concerned they are leaving North America come May- they are glad to see the U.S and Britain embroiled in a scuffle but they want no part of it. What might happen is that Russia makes "Demonstrations" on the Alaska-BC frontier and/or offer to act as a "honest broker" and push a pro-U.S armistice. But that's it.

Also, all other things being equal, the Trans-Baikal Cossacks, certainly at this point, are most definately NOT the equals of British regulars in firepower, training, discipline or doctrine. This isn't the long established Don host (which also isn't the equal of the British regulars). this is a melange of political convicts (many of them poles), Buriat tribesmen and the dregs of others hosts. Even by 1905 it would largely be an internal peace keeping force rather than a even second line formation. The Russians also lack naval resources (or a Ice free port-winter is coming) to transport them across the pacific.That's assuming they could get many of them to the coast- most of this host is west, rather than East of lake Baikal and that's a far way to go to the Pacific.

And in Eastern Canada, we should not assume that sentiment in Upper Canada, at least at the time was in favor of remaining British. Because of commercial links with the US, there was a lot of sentiment in favor of US statehood.

I think that sentiment is overblown. The tendency towards Canadian nationalism was well advanced at that point and the war of 1812 had largely spoiled pro-American sentiment. If the U.S actualy wins an overwhelming victory and occupies upper Canada without atrocities and offers statehood then the upper Canadians will probably be incorporated without too much trouble- but that doesn't mean they will help the U.S during the war.

Further West, in the Red river country, anti-British sentiment is stronger. But Anti-British does not mean pro-American.

And if the US occupies Quebec, perhaps we shouldn[t discount the possibility of Napoleon III entering the picture as a spoiler, with French Canadians agitating for a return to France. They, along with the Irish, have after all, been terribly discriminated against by the British.

In Canada, actualy- no. The French had been granted fairly decent treatment by the Brits, enjoy a privellaged position in the forming Canadian government and would generaly prefer continued British rule or federation with the Rest of Canada to Being a U.S state. They might prefer independence to either choice but return to French colonial rule is not something they ever agitated for or something that even Napoleon III would seriously contemplate (ruling a far away enclave surrounded by the U.S? that's an achiless heel even for an empire with no continental enemies and far larger resources). It's far more likely he will use U.K distraction to make a move on the continent. In Short, if (in the spartan sense), the U.S wins an overwhelming victory, then they can probably form Quebec into a friendly Satellite state or even incorporate them into the U.S (though I don't think Buchanan would want to) after a MUCH harder interregnum than upper Canada but they will get no help from the Canadiens in getting there.

The Irish are another story. OTL, the Fennian raids in the late 1860s and 1870s (was wildly suprised to read about them) seem to have been, in practice, state sponsred, or at the very least tolerated, terrorism by the U.S government against Britain in retaliation to pro-confederate sympathy during the civil war. But the Irish immigrants are already there in 1859, at least in the East. Might Buchanan sponser their raids before the war breaks out to pressure the British? or allow the Fennians to raise their own militia under their own flag and commanders during the war?

The longer a war with the UK (entered into to prevent secession by the South--which was Seward's idea by the way) drags on, the more the US will need outside allies and the better the kind of deals European allies make with one another will look to the US President--particularly if he is still James Buchanan rather than the more doctrinaire Lincoln. Lots of possibilities for Russia to manipulate the US and France into a coalition with it against the UK here.

I'll be exploring that possibility. But bear in mind that if the war starts it won't be because Buchanan PLANNED it- it will be because his sabre ratteling and loose cannon subordinates got out of hand. His aim will be to get out of the war as soon as possible and with as many gains as possible, not to become part of a global war. Binding external alliances are something U.S congresses up to WWII have been allergic to. And Buchanan's position in both congress and his own party is one of the weakest in American history- that's not going to lend itself to a wider commitment to non American interests.
 
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Back from a four day hiking trek in somewhat less ardorous terrain than BC:)

Your significant other was not along? :) Or did you mean arduous.

Yes, but the Whatcom trail would not be the invasion route- It's a backroute into the upper Fraser Valley which was mainly used by American miners because Douglas would impound their weapons and/or expel them if they didn't. There are no British military or economic assets to attack in the upper Fraser valley- So I don't see any American army marching there. The strategic target is, or should be, An interdictable portion of the Lower Fraser river, either at Fort Langely or farther upriver. Since the British regulars and most of the Militia are at Vancouver Island then interdicting the lower Fraser and disrupting seaborne communication through the Rosario straits should effectively end the Ability of the British to control the Non British population of the Fraser Valley and result into the upriver country falling into U.S control by default (or at least that's what the Americans would think).


The Fort Langely/Semiahmoo trail http://www.surreyhistory.ca/trails.html
connecting the American boundary border commision camp with Fort Langely/Derby would make a much better route which is closer to the American logistic base at Belligham. From a topographic map it appears to be
all under 2000 Ft- but I realize maps may be deceptive and not reflect the actual terrain. You ever Hike that ground? I thruhiked the AT but haven't ever had the chance to do the Coastal range let alone BC.


That makes sense, if the choke points on the Fraser can be seized, the control of the hinterland is generally assured, or at least access to it in winter. I have not hiked it, although i did golf at Semiahmoo resort once. :). I have hiked similiar terrain in the area though, and the problem will be the streams. The heavy rainfall tend to make very steep ravines, which are ok for men on foot, but anything heavy, and even animals sometimes will have to be rope swayed down, and then up. That will be fun in winter. But doable i think, just slow

I think artillery could make it to that point- the question is how quickly the American commander could move and whether Bayne can move reinforcements there quicker. If he can't then an American takeover of Fort Langely is possible.


Which leads to a related question- did the Fraser river freeze over in the winter of 1859? it did in 1862 http://www.vancouverhistory.ca/sunspots_jan.htm and 1858 http://furtradefamilyhistory.blogspot.co.il/2012/05/weather-conditions-in-fraser-river.html- and I assume that there were navigational issues even absent complete freeze. Did communication during winter depend on sleds or did they have Icebreakers during the Gold Rush? I'm not an expert on naval warfare but I assume that trying to besiege a town which is supported by British naval artillery is a dicey proposition even with significant manpower superiority. But would that be an issue at Langely or Hope during winter?


According to the fur trade site above the freeze of 61 was a very bad year. The one of 1858 was "normal". So if we assume that 59-60 was "normal", the Fraser will not freeze over as far down as Fort Langley until late in the season if it does at all, and steamships moving constantly were able to break up the ice and keep the passage open fairly far up in any case. There is also however the factor that Fort Langley was really a jumped up HBC fort, and only really designed to hold off indians, so if the american move in force i could easily see the defenders torching the fort and moving across the Fraser to New Westminster, which with the new road to Port Moody has a Sea supply route from Burrard Inlet.

The other factor though, and this was a big one not just in BC but across the continent, is that the US army was equipped with the 1855 Springfield rifle, which according to "Firearms: The Life Story of a Technology" by Roger Pauly, Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. Had a new kind of firing primer made of flammable tape, that.

"In the field, the Maynard tape-primer proved to be unreliable. Tests conducted between 1859 and 1861 found that half of the primers misfired, and also reported that the tape primer springs did not feed well.[3] The greatest problem was the actual tape itself. Despite being advertised as waterproof, the paper strips proved to be susceptible to moisture. An attempt was made to remedy this problem by making the tape primers out of foil, but despite the improvement this brought, the Ordnance Department abandoned the Maynard system and went back to the standard percussion lock in later muskets like the Model 1861"

So apparently at this time in history, the entire US regular army is equipped with a rifle that has a 50% misfire rate, and in the rain turns into a spear. That is not very good to say the least if one is contemplating a campaign in winter. It may be that the most effective american infantry forces will be their Militia, as their older weapons will actually fire.

Doubt I can find any stats for 1859 but from what you say it sounds like any overland communication via the mountain passes is out during December-Febuary. The Weather in the Northern Hemisphere in the mid 19th century was colder than today. Would the passes clear out come April or would it take a bit longer? The timing is actualy critical given American domestic developments (democratic national convention is in late April)

Heavy snow in the passes currently speaking is from Dec thru end of March. So 4 months generally speaking. November and April are dicey. I assume 150 years ago it was worse. The Fraser doesn't freeze over as much any more at any rate. The last time was 2008 i think.

That's a good point. But bear in mind that the fort is earthworks which is not completely ineffective against the artillery of that time. There are several questions involved:
1. Could whatever artillery Pickett have hide out in the wooded interior of San Juan and "snipe" at shipping to a sufficient extent to make storming San Juan a political necessity even if it makes little military sense?
2. How much food Can Pickett stockpile during the period of tensions- and how much food does Bayne THINK he has? bear in mind that until the war actually breaks out his men can fish and receive supplies to their heart's content.
3. How advanced are naval mines at this time point? Are there specialized Minesweeper ships at this point. Would U.S forces in the pacific be supplied with them? in OTL Crimean war and ACW they proved a major factor in limiting the ability of British/Union naval forces to operate in coastal and riverine waters.

Agreed, and in many cases earth works can be more effective than stone, and the OTL american camp was also quite high in altitude. Apparently the site was engineered by U.S Engineer 2nd Lt.Henry Martyn Robert, he of the famous rules of order.

I was trying to find out what sort of guns both sides would have and came across this site.
http://www.nps.gov/sajh/historyculture/the-pig-war.htm

Which states the Americans OTL had 14 field guns, which i guess to be 12 pounder Napoleons or 6 pounders, as those were pretty standard, and both had ranges just over 1500 yards. There were also 8 32 pounder naval guns taken from USS Massachusetts and mounted in the above earthen battery.
Those would only be moveable with heavy effort. They had a maximum range of about 4000 yards. Haro straight is nearly 10000 yards wide. I don't see how the American can close the straight with the guns of the period. Baynes Flagship was the 84 Gun HMS Ganges, which carried 28 of the above 32 pounders, and the screw frigate HMS Tribune had 30.

The island had several HBC sheep farms, amounting to 4500 animals all told so it doesn't look like the American garrison will go hungy any time soon.

There definitely were primitive mines in use in the period, and the British did not have customized sweepers, but they did sweep them with normal ships in the Crimean war with some success.

According to this site
http://www.hartshorn.us/Navy/navy-mines-history.htm

They were US army controlled, not navy, and were mainly thought of for use in harbour defense. If the US has them on the west coast i would think they would definitely be at San Francisco, but to use them at San Juan they would have to lay them, and i don't know how they would do that pre conflict or how effective they would be in an open straight with heavy current.


That seems like a likely scenario- but of course, depending on timing, Bayne might not be certain he's going to be receiving reinforcements from Elgin in the near future, since communication lags mean at least a month long delay between Tianjin and Vancouver. He may be driven to counter any American gains on land with the destruction of the American garrison on San Juan both for national (negotiating cards) and personal (not being sacked for lack of achievements) political reasons.

Yes, the whole thing may light up locally, and it will be a month before Washington and London even know.
 
November 4th, 1859, Fort hope

Governor Douglas had always favored a personal touch in his relations with the boisterous immigrants to his mainland territories (1). The rough men who swarmed into British Caledonia in search of Gold and fortune had little respect for forms or institutions. But a strong, self confident man- that was something they could understand. That was something they could respect (2). And that personal touch was all the more necessary when dealing with the heathen Chinese. That personal touch was all the more required given that he had precious little time to act. In a month's time the Fraser river would be closed to shipping as ice floes developed along it's course. Even if the river did not freeze all the way to it's mouth as it did the previous year(3), steam boat navigation east of fort Langely would prove impossible.

He knew enough about the Celestials to understand something of the organization and hierarchies of those who had immigrated to British Columbia. They had little patriotic feeling to their dynatsy and seemed uninterested in the war the British empire was waging with the Qing. Their loyalty was primarily to their family, clan, and to the shadowy secret societies, part criminal, part religious and part anti-Qing which had taken root even in this new land. It was with the leader of one of those organizations that Governor Douglas was conversing.

"Our men came to this land to mine gold and trade their skills to the men who mine the gold." Said Zhou Rong in surprisingly fluent English. "Why should they leave their businesses and take up arms to fight for a land in which they are not welcome?" (4)

"Those who sign up in the militia will be relieved of certain currently existing prohibitions (5). Also, all those fighting in the militia,Chinese as well as whites, shall have a reserved and free first claim to the Cariboo fields"

Zhou Rong nodded thoughtfully. "The men of the middle kingdom might be persuaded to fight under such conditions. But many new to this land would be doubtful if they were not reassured by their own countryman... a man they could trust"

Douglas sighed. "A proper… bounty, and rank, might, of course be provided to those who succeed in signing up their countrymen"

Several hours later Douglas wished he could be more certain of the course he had chosen- arming and organizing the subjects of a nation the British Empire was formally at war with would be bound to raise eyebrows back in London. Nor did he have any illusions about which men Zhou Rong and the other Triad leaders he had spoken to would provide- debt ridden men more fearful of the shadowy retribution of their leaders than the Bayonets of the Yankees.

But there were too few British citizens in British Columbia to form enough militia formations and so he had, perforce, to rely on the Chinese to fill the ranks and on the barely controllable Indians to furnish the scouts and skirmishers that might counterbalance the American presponderance in numbers.

More to the point, he needed them to provide the critical mass of men required to disarm the American miners. While he was uncertain on how steady the chinamen might be against American regulars and Militia he had no doubts at all as to their morale when facing their American counterparts.


(1) That's the way Douglas thinks about British Columbia. As "His".
(2) Need I repeat that this reflects the way Douglas thinks rather than my own opinions?
(3) in other words I found no data on weather conditions in 1859
(4) Chinese in BC were not quite as badly treated as those in California. But they still needed to pay a Poll tax, were prohibited from working new claims and suffered from a variety of official and unofficial discriminatory
(5) Not quite citizenship, but an abolition of the Poll tax and various other measures.

Well, it is all in the fire now. If Douglas is successful he will be the greatest hero in British Columbia History, and he may have just butterflied away or ameliorated a bunch of nasty Canadian Racism. Of course he just jumped up anti chinese racism in the US too a few notches.
 
Your significant other was not along? :) Or did you mean arduous.

Groan:eek: will you native English speakers give me a break? some of us were not born as Anglo Saxons in this incarnation. Perhaps if we write sufficiently interesting timelines we will be rewarded in the next one. And she was as a matter of fact, together with an Ex AND they BOTH gave me a hard time when they decided a third hiker was flirting with me so I guess that in some respects the trek was both arduous and ardorous:p.


According to the fur trade site above the freeze of 61 was a very bad year. The one of 1858 was "normal". So if we assume that 59-60 was "normal", the Fraser will not freeze over as far down as Fort Langley until late in the season if it does at all, and steamships moving constantly were able to break up the ice and keep the passage open fairly far up in any case. There is also however the factor that Fort Langley was really a jumped up HBC fort, and only really designed to hold off indians, so if the american move in force i could easily see the defenders torching the fort and moving across the Fraser to New Westminster, which with the new road to Port Moody has a Sea supply route from Burrard Inlet.

So the questions are:
a. Can the Americans bring enough heavy artillery on the Langely trail to interdict the river ( I think yes.)
b. Is the Fraser large enough and Ice free enough in December to permit Bayne's capitalships to advance up the river to fort Langely in late December? (I assume no)
c. What kind of armaments can the steam boats which DO ply the Fraser carry? Enough to silence dug in and fortified positions at a chokepoint? (Not neccesarily Fort langely- the best place to place the chokepoint is at a "natural" chokepoint where the river narrows/is rapid/rocky of which several exist between Langely and Hope)- (Again, my assumption is probably not)
d. Again, mines and Torpedoes. If the Americans have even a few and manage to get them to the Fraser..... (Unlikely)

The other factor though, and this was a big one not just in BC but across the continent, is that the US army was equipped with the 1855 Springfield rifle, which according to "Firearms: The Life Story of a Technology" by Roger Pauly, Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. Had a new kind of firing primer made of flammable tape, that.

"In the field, the Maynard tape-primer proved to be unreliable. Tests conducted between 1859 and 1861 found that half of the primers misfired, and also reported that the tape primer springs did not feed well.[3] The greatest problem was the actual tape itself. Despite being advertised as waterproof, the paper strips proved to be susceptible to moisture. An attempt was made to remedy this problem by making the tape primers out of foil, but despite the improvement this brought, the Ordnance Department abandoned the Maynard system and went back to the standard percussion lock in later muskets like the Model 1861"

So apparently at this time in history, the entire US regular army is equipped with a rifle that has a 50% misfire rate, and in the rain turns into a spear. That is not very good to say the least if one is contemplating a campaign in winter. It may be that the most effective american infantry forces will be their Militia, as their older weapons will actually fire.

I think this would be more of a problem in the East Vs Quebec and Upper Canada than in the Northwest. The troops of the Northwest have been engaged in continuous operations Vs the Yakima and various other native tribes who are fairly well armed under very rainy conditions. Ditto for any immediate reinforcements from the Greta plains and Southwest. I realize the army moves slowly but there's no way any local commander under combat conditions won't move heaven and earth to get his men weapons that work- and if he can't I imagine his men would see to themselves.

ANy invasion of Eastern Canada however would indeed face a very considerable obstacle with this weapon.



Yes, the whole thing may light up locally, and it will be a month before Washington and London even know.

Washington will know far more swiftly than London- Pony express means a 10-14 day lag between West coast and Washington whereas no equivalent service and less Telegraph coverage exists for Canada ( so say 24 days to Ottowa). Also another 12-16 days to cross Atlantic to London (Since as Steven pointed out the Transatlantic Cable has gone Kaput just after the crisis settled down OTL). It's one of the few advantages the U.S has.
 
Groan:eek: will you native English speakers give me a break? some of us were not born as Anglo Saxons in this incarnation. Perhaps if we write sufficiently interesting timelines we will be rewarded in the next one. And she was as a matter of fact, together with an Ex AND they BOTH gave me a hard time when they decided a third hiker was flirting with me so I guess that in some respects the trek was both arduous and ardorous:p.

Sorry, i thought you were a native speaker, and it was a typo. Sounds like you had fun anyway.

So the questions are:
a. Can the Americans bring enough heavy artillery on the Langely trail to interdict the river ( I think yes.)
b. Is the Fraser large enough and Ice free enough in December to permit Bayne's capitalships to advance up the river to fort Langely in late December? (I assume no)
c. What kind of armaments can the steam boats which DO ply the Fraser carry? Enough to silence dug in and fortified positions at a chokepoint? (Not neccesarily Fort langely- the best place to place the chokepoint is at a "natural" chokepoint where the river narrows/is rapid/rocky of which several exist between Langely and Hope)- (Again, my assumption is probably not)
d. Again, mines and Torpedoes. If the Americans have even a few and manage to get them to the Fraser..... (Unlikely)

a. they definitely can get there. what sort of shape they are in and how long it takes is subjective.

b. I think it is. In normal years the fraser doesn't freeze that far down, and Dougas went to visit in HMS Satellite in 1858 so the smaller ships of Baynes squadron could get that far, the steam frigates. Definitely not the Ganges or the big frigates as the water level was lower in winter, but the shallower draft small ships probably could. They would be more than enough to give the Americans a headache. HMS Topaze mounted 30 8in breach loaders with explosive shells. Not sure if Baynes would try to hold it though. Only so much the RN can do to support a fort that is basically a wooden palisade. If the Americans were willing to pay the price they could probably carry it by direct assault without too much trouble. They can't hold it though as long as the RN is there.

c. Depends on the defense and the battery i think. If the Americans can get the dismounted naval guns inland, and dig a entrenchment in the frozen ground yeah, but if it is the lighter field pieces, the british can probably mount something heavier on a paddlewheeler, not many but a few.

The SS Beaver was the first ship on the fraser i think and is pretty representative.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaver_(steamship)

That is about the size of the mississippi steamers the confederates converted OTL during the civil war. So if the Brits convert 2-3 and put a couple 32 pounders on each i think they could challenge a field battery or even a heavy battery. Looks like a great author opportunity to write something cool. :)

d. No idea if they have them to spare, but i think hauling them overland would be a giant pain. And they may need them at San Juan or in Puget sound. If Baynes sails HMS Ganges to Whatcom, he will destroy the town. There is nothing the US navy has at this time that can stop it, other than a mine.


I think this would be more of a problem in the East Vs Quebec and Upper Canada than in the Northwest. The troops of the Northwest have been engaged in continuous operations Vs the Yakima and various other native tribes who are fairly well armed under very rainy conditions. Ditto for any immediate reinforcements from the Greta plains and Southwest. I realize the army moves slowly but there's no way any local commander under combat conditions won't move heaven and earth to get his men weapons that work- and if he can't I imagine his men would see to themselves.

ANy invasion of Eastern Canada however would indeed face a very considerable obstacle with this weapon.

This is probably true to an extent, the Yakima campaign literature talks about the superiority of the rifled guns over the smoothbore muskets the indians had. So obviously they did work, just not ideally. The question i have is what Harney could do about the deficiencies. The Ordnance department has obviously discovered the problem and is at this time promising the foil solution, which turns out only a partial solution and so they converted back to percussion caps for the 1861 model. So it seems to me Harney could wait for the fixed tape, and in the meantime try very hard to keep things dry, jump the gun and try to manually convert all the 55's back to percussion in the field with whatever gunsmithing resources he has available, or procure different weapons form wherever they could find, smoothbores and non standard rifles i guess. Or maybe some of all three. But each solution comes with problems and i would suggest they only turn what is a major problem into a medium to significant one.

Washington will know far more swiftly than London- Pony express means a 10-14 day lag between West coast and Washington whereas no equivalent service and less Telegraph coverage exists for Canada ( so say 24 days to Ottowa). Also another 12-16 days to cross Atlantic to London (Since as Steven pointed out the Transatlantic Cable has gone Kaput just after the crisis settled down OTL). It's one of the few advantages the U.S has.

The pony express only goes to Sacramento i think, according to wikipaedia anyway.

News from the NW came by ship to California.Once the RN cuts that off, the news will have to come overland in winter. Once it get there, yeah the pony express kicks in, but i think the British naval stations in china will find out about the same time as California does. Actually California's first notice might be HMS Ganges firing on the unfinished Fort Point.
 
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