Cinco de Mayo

May 5 1862
  • May 5, 1862

    " is thus with great pleasure that I can report that our forces overwhelmed the Mexican forces by midday, after beginning our artillery assault upon the city of Puebla at dawn. Approximately 300 deaths were sustained by the enemy against a mere 23 of our own, and as I understand their bold commander, an admirable young man by the name of Zaragoza, has been wounded. Both forts atop both hills have fallen, and the battlefield is ours. The opposition acquitted itself well, but are in retreat.

    By the grace of the Almighty, Your Majesty, I hope to write to you next from the City of Mexico itself before long."

    - Charles de Lorencez, head of French Expeditionary Forces in Mexico
    Part I: Point of Divergence
  • Hello everyone! This kicks off Cinco de Mayo, my first stab at a timeline on here after several months of lurking. This is based on an aborted TL I began some years ago on althistory.wikia, where I previously composed (and still occasionally contribute to) the fairly ASB "Napoleon's World." Any and all feedback and critique is welcome, especially as 19th century history is not my forte.

    The Cleavage of America
  • "The swift French victory in Mexico in 1862 marked a fundamental shift in the world order. Even more so than the upheavals of '48 and the victory in Crimea, it served as a signal that the balance of power not just in Europe but around the globe that had persisted since the Holy Alliance imposed the terms of the Congress of Vienna was coming to an end. This earthquake in world affairs - a robust French Empire that had learned the lessons of the first Napoleon and a Europe once again invested in the matters of the New World - would presage the dramatic changes that would follow but a half century later."

    - Gerhardt Kleinman, The Cleavage of America (Heidelberg University, 2011)
    Invitation to Maximilian
  • "With all due humility and deference, we write to you to offer you the crown of Mexico, to be declared Her Catholic Emperor, to rule this land in the fashion which your old and most noble house once did. A return to the correct order of things will place Mexico once more at the forefront of the New World, where she belongs - under your wise, guiding hand."

    - Invitation from the Superior Junta of Mexico to Maximilian of Hapsburg, July 1862
    August 17 1862
  • August 17, 1862

    "...for that reason I am beginning to fear that my effort to persuade the Emperor is losing out to his own ambitions. Until recently I had maintained confidence that the work of myself and my counterpart at the Court of St. James were bearing fruit, especially in comparison to the fools the rebel traitors had sent overseas on their own; since His Majesty the Emperor's troops sacked Mexico City and hung President Juarez, however, there is a new energy in Paris and a new hostility to myself. The debacle with HMS
    Trent was already a close-run affair, and I fear now that the ambitions of the Bonapartists overwhelm their good sense. With our namesakes in Mexico fleeing into the mountains of the north and more French soldiers to be dispatched to our Hemisphere with this puppet Emperor they found in Vienna, the designs Paris has upon our continent have been laid plain. We must end this war with the traitors swiftly, less His Majesty the Emperor lose patience with our cause and make an aim to mediate this conflict to terms he prefers."

    - Missive from William L. Dayton, Minister to France, to President Abraham Lincoln
    August 29 1862
  • August 29, 1862

    The volunteer forces of Guiseppe Garibaldi, in attempting to attack and seize Rome in order to attach it to the unified Kingdom of Italy, are defeated at Aspromonte by the Royal Italian Army. Garibaldi, wounded in the battle, would succumb to his wounds on September 1. A folk hero to the Italian people, Garibaldi's death would cause major shockwaves for the Kingdom of Italy and her fairly new Prime Minister, Urbano Rattazzi, and only further inflame the Roman Question despite the Italian government's attempted insistence that Garibaldi had committed an illegal act.
    September 5 1862
  • September 5, 1862

    The French shell Tampico, a Republican stronghold, from the coast, and by nightfall seize the city with help from conservative militias attacking from the south. This victory eliminates Republican footholds along the Gulf Coast, leaving them concentrated only in the north, some Pacific ports and in Guadalajara, with the conservative/French alliance mostly controlling the rest of the country. Maximilian is on his way already for his coronation...
    September 9, 1862
  • September 9, 1862

    In an otherwise unremarkable drawing room in Paris, a meeting is held. Present are Count Walewski, Napoleon III’s Minister of State; Juan Almonte and Juan Hidalgo, representatives of the Mexican Superior Junta staying behind in Europe to continue building support for the nascent Second Empire; and John Slidell, unofficial “minister of the CSA” to France and one of the parties in the Trent Affair of the previous autumn. Pierre-Paul Pecquet, an unofficial spokesman for the CSA in France, had been invited but was unable to attend, partially due to his dislike of Slidell.

    Walewski presents Slidell with an intriguing proposition - if the CSA can continue to hold out and even win a victory over the Union, and pledges to recognize the Mexican Empire, Napoleon III will recognize the CSA in turn without waiting for Britain. Almonte and Hidalgo make the same pledge - a quid pro quo. Slidell hurries home to begin to put together a way to relay this message to Richmond.

    Outside his window, a butterfly flaps its wings.
    September 13, 1862
  • September 13, 1862

    “...the people of Fredericktown have been nothing but generous to our Army as we have made our base here. The enemy left towards south or west, the locals having an indeterminate sense of their numbers. But for empty abandoned camps and the signs of the rebel plunder, one would not know that they have scarred this Maryland ground.

    My scouts have been unable to ascertain the numbers General Lee has brought with him across the Potomac. I fear for our garrisons ar Harpers Ferry; but nevertheless, we will soon set out to pursue. I remain convinced we have the enemy to our west, and my Army shall stay between them and not only Baltimore but the Capital as well.


    General George McLellan, Army of the Potomac.”

    - Missive from McClellan to President Lincoln from Frederick, Maryland, September 13 1862
    The Cleavage of America
  • “The events of the fall of 1862 would presage almost precisely the trajectories over the next half century of the two nations who benefited most directly. For Napoleonic France, it would typify a reckless, aggressive and independent approach overseas and eventually in Europe; as for the Confederate States, it disguised a profound, almost providential luck that would lead to inflated assumptions about the talent and competence of not only her diplomats and generals but the entire political and economic establishment.”

    Gerhard Kleinman, The Cleavage of America
    September 14 1862
  • September 14, 1862

    Harpers Ferry falls in the evening to General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson of the CSA, securing a key point for both railroad and river travel and forming up the rear of the Army of Northern Virginia. Later that night, Confederate forces under DH Hill set off explosions that badly damage the Monocacy Aqueduct, emptying it into the river. Two crucial Union logistical points have been removed from the table, while McClellan remains in Fredericktown, with only one Corps moving west towards the pass at Crampton’s Gap in South Mountain.
    A Comprehensive Military History of the United States - The War of Confederate Independence
  • “...the engagements of mid-September were crucial in the eventual peace and then independence of the South. The divisions under Burnside, despite three days at battle, could not dislodge and inferior force in the passes of Small Mountain until McClellan at last moved from Fredericktown to at last drive DH Hill west. Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Bragg and Smith had won engagements outside the path of General Buell, giving them the ability to draw him into a pincer later. On both ends, Union military leadership that was slow, dithering and overly cautious - worried foremost about the Confederates having greater numbers than they did - were outmaneuvered by smaller, underequipped forces. The aggressiveness of CSA offensives into Union territory and the pressures of the Lincoln Cabinet to shatter the exposed armies was not matched by the vacillation of Union generals.

    More than anyone else, two men - McClellan and Buell - can be said to have been the ones who lost the Union.”

    - John Miller, “A Comprehensive Military History of the United States - The War of Confederate Independence.”


    Author Note: Ironically, Buell and McClellan were good friends
    Lincoln: A Biography of the 16th President
  • “...crucial to the debacle at Chambersburg on September 24, of course, was McClellan’s false belief that Lee’s strength was roughly equivalent to his, when in fact it was half as large. the second piece that led to McClellan’s decisive defeat (chalked up to the rawness of his recruits) and disastrous retreat - on friendly soil, no less - was that he chose to engage Lee on ground the Southerner chose. Thirdly, McClellan overestimated, once again, his logistic disadvantage in Pennsylvania, despite Lee’s army being effectively spent and most of his soldiers at that point shoeless.

    President Lincoln was outraged upon hearing that McClellan had lost three times as many casualties at Chambersburg as the Army of Northern Virginia, and that his general’s response was to turn tail and flee back to Frederick. The view of the Cabinet was more sanguine - with Lee’s victory, there was concern about Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington herself. Of course, none of them could have known Lee had no intentions of exposing himself even worse, but McClellan’s Retreat and the subsequent request for more soldiers from Kentucky would backfire once more, shortly thereafter.”

    - Robert Caro, “Lincoln: A Biography of the 16th President”
    September 26 1862
  • September 26, 1862

    “...every day, more dissidents throw down their arms and come over to join our Mexican brothers! All but the heart of the great city of Guadalajara are surrendered to us. With the impending fall of the city, I pray to the Almighty we will soon march to the redoubts of the Republicans on the coast and deliver a secure nation for Emperor Maximilian by Christmas...”

    - Charles de Lorencez, missive to Napoleon III from Siege of Guadalajara
    September 27-28 1862
  • September 27-28, 1862

    The Battle of Campbellsville, on the heels of McClellan’s debacle in Pennsylvania and Western Maryland, led to another crucial Union defeat. Though effectively a tactical draw after Bragg and Smith caught Buell’s army in a pincer, with all parties ceding the field and Bragg debating withdrawing from Kentucky entirely, would lead to a strategic if minor Confederate victory when Buell was forced to withdraw back to Louisville entirely as more troops were requested to reinforce Washington and Baltimore after Chambersburg. More Union forces would be pulled from Tennessee and Alabama than before, and crucially fulfilled Bragg’s strategic goal of distracting from a move against Vicksburg. With the sudden need to reinforce Kentucky and the Capital, it effectively gave up a year’s worth of campaigning in the West by the Union. Bragg and Smith would secure themselves in Lexington on October 4 as the Union held Louisville.
    Letter from John Slidell
  • “...Paris has been surprised by the resignation of Édouard Thouvenel, the Emperor’s erstwhile loyal foreign minister. Count Walewski tells me this is good news, and that the Court is ecstatic about the news from Maryland and Kentucky...”

    - John Slidell, Confederate Minister to France
    A Comprehensive Military History of the Confederate States of America - The War of Confederate Independence
  • “...the sack of York in October was a consolation prize, of sorts, to Lee’s cavalry, carried out with Pennsylvania’s militia across the Susquehanna and Meade’s armies in retreat. While Lee had been convinced by Jackson and Longstreet that to attack Harrisburg with their supply lines thin and so deep into enemy territory would be foolish, nonetheless the events at York served as a second public embarrassment for the Lincoln Cabinet in the fall of 1862. News of the raid - with embellished atrocities included - spread just as Americans were about to vote in that autumn’s Elections. In that sense, York, at the conclusion of the Maryland and Pennsylvania Campaign, was the last decisive blow of the war.

    -John Miller “A Comprehensive Military History of the Confederate States of America - The War of Confederate Independence.”
    Iron and Blood Speech
  • “...the position of Prussia in Germany will not be determined by its liberalism but by its power... Prussia must concentrate it’s strength and hold it for the favorable moment, which has already come and gone several times. Since the treaties of Vienna, our frontiers have been ill-designed for a healthy body politic. Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided - that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849 - but by iron and blood.

    - Chancellor of Prussia Otto von Bismarck, Speech to Landtag of Prussia, October 1 1862
    Maximilian of Mexico
  • “...the coronation of Maximilian was a grand affair, the importation of European monarchy into the New World. To the conservatives toasting their new Emperor; it was nothing short of the proper order at least restored, the mestizo democracy overthrown with the betters once more in their right place. Of course, no one - liberal or conservative, Republican or Monarchist - would ever say they were fully satisfied with Maximilian...”

    - Gustavo Reyes, “Maximilian of Mexico”
    Electoral History of the United States, 1851-1901
  • "...the 1862-63 United States congressional elections were an absolute disaster for the young Republican Party, particularly in much of the Midwest. Reduced to a single House seat in Ohio, three in abolitionist Pennsylvania and two in President Lincoln's home state of Ohio, as well as having their seats in Democratic New York cut from 21 to 7 - a reduction of two thirds in the Union's most critical state - was nothing shy of a death blow for the Lincoln administration. Public outrage over the vast changes to federal power in service of a war effort that had not only failed to earn the speedy promised victory but instead been marred by outright incompetence by Union generals followed by a harrying raid in Pennsylvania that greatly alarmed much of the country. Incumbent Speaker Galusha Crow was defeated for reelection and a number of Lincoln's critical allies in Congress followed him out the door. Ohio's Samuel "Sunset" Cox would succeed him as Speaker, giving Democrats the Speakership back after only a brief hiatus. Democrats would have 99 out of 184 seats when the new Congress was sworn in, a small but workable majority.

    Beyond the House, the results for Democrats were mixed. Though they gained 3 seats in the Senate thanks to success in the state legislatures, the coalition of Republicans and Unconditional Unionists still enjoyed a healthy majority of 34 Coalition to 14 Democrats. Here, the secession of uniformly Democratic states at the beginning of the war truly hampered Democratic efforts, though it - and the losses of several state legislatures and Governorships to the Democrats - was a further blemish for the Lincoln Cabinet."

    - Electoral History of the United States, 1851-1901