Tactics of the US if it invades Canada 1890

Some ideas about this would be nice. Why this happens doesn't matter for the question

Given the size of the US armed forces in the late 19c, an army of about 15,000 and a navy of 6 modern ships how badly does it go.
Lets say a path towards war has been building up for a 6-9 months. This the US can build up slightly yet the Empire much more so.
What can the US do before losing?

Or the war comes as almost surprise, a week or so 'talk' before the attack.
 
Some ideas about this would be nice. Why this happens doesn't matter for the question

Given the size of the US armed forces in the late 19c, an army of about 15,000 and a navy of 6 modern ships how badly does it go.
Lets say a path towards war has been building up for a 6-9 months. This the US can build up slightly yet the Empire much more so.
What can the US do before losing?

Or the war comes as almost surprise, a week or so 'talk' before the attack.

If the war breaks out quickly, the US' best option would be to occupy as much of Canada as as possible before the British can send serious reinforcements, and then dig in and use the occupied territory as a bargaining chip to try and get concessions elsewhere.

If there's a longer build-up, then assuming that the British can put a bigger initial force in Canada, the best option would be to dig in along the border and try and inflict heavy enough casualties on the attacking Brits so that their army is weakened enough for a counter-attack.
 
The Canadian Transcontinental railroad runs close to the American border.
The Americans would find a place not near any cities and thus not heavily guarded and cut the rail line there effectively spliting Canada in half
 
The US Navy actually looked at this in OTL - Link . It is not a good plan, for starters it wishes into place a lot of warship that didn't exist and assumes the Royal Navy will co-operate utterly with the USN's plans (Apparently the British wouldn't conduct any amphibious operations, because Mahan didn't like them and his plan required that they didn't, that sort of thing).

So the USN will be pushing for operations to capture Halifax/Nova Scottia (to deny the British bases) and to capture the St Lawrence Canals (to stop the British just sailing through and raiding all across the Great Lakes). The battlefleet , such as it was, would concentrate in New York, the lighter forces would be off raiding (in the hope this would mean the RN would have to devote forces to hunt them down, not out of expectation the actual raiding would be signficant) and the entire East Coast would be depending upon obsolete or non-existent 'coastal fortifications' for its defence.

It looks like US tactics will end up being some desperate battles around the St Lawrence, as the importance is obvious to both sides, while the bulk of their army races around the East Coast to counter the latest British amphibious landing or raid. Because of course the British are going to do that, just because Mahan thinks it is inconvenient for them to do so doesn't mean they won't fall back on tried, tested and preferred tactics.

I also imagine there will also be a large force garrisoning Washington to make sure it doesn't get burnt to the ground again, because letting that happen twice would just be careless.
 
What can the US do before losing?
The US is not taking on the most powerful empire with only 6-9 months of preparation unless the British government keeps doing absolutely heinous things to Americans, like the sort of stuff reserved for non-white colonial subjects in this era. The force disparity is far worse than the War of 1812 and the British aren't even occupied with Napoleon. The US just simply won't get involved unless another great power is aiding them because it would cost the political and mercentile elite endless amounts of money.

That said, let's say it happens anyway and the US needs to prepare. The US in 1890 is basically tied with Britain in industrial capacity. First order of business is preparing a plan to take Canada and I believe the US will extensively fortify the Great Lakes with coastal guns and lay down some lake warships (probably torpedo boats and monitors) since presumably the treaty demilitarising the Great Lakes is dead or on life support. Canada cannot outcompete the US in shipbuilding and will need to portage over vessels from the Atlantic to reinforce this critical theater. Second order of business, get some coastal forts and lots and lots of them, especially on the East Coast but don't forget the ports on the West Coast (which are insanely defensible with their geography) With some luck in 6-9 months the US will have a plan that won't result in total disaster and enough capacity to bounce back.

But obviously the US will fuck up because of inexperience and lack of a military and have to learn the lessons the hard way. This means either accept the defeat and treaty (reparations probably and maybe border adjustments in Alaska) or keep fighting for whatever the war is over. This means 1891 and most of 1892 are nothing but building forces and occasional raids over the border, mostly in the Great Plains. Probably a few harsh bombardments of coastal cities, but otherwise the troops are getting ready, and lots of naval construction is underway. Traffic on the Great Lakes and Champlain is pretty much all US controlled and bombardments of lakeside Canadian cities is occurring. At this point both sides will be able to hammer out a treaty that's acceptable to both and both can claim victory in some way.

If we don't have peace by then (highly unlikely) by end 1892 we might have some successful commerce raiding in the ocean, but 1893 is when the offensive will truly start and the US Army will pretty much sweep over Canada and have a hard, grinding fight with the British. Expect some naval battles that will probably be inconclusive on both sides. By the start of 1894 the US will probably control all the parts of Canada that matter except for Halifax and Nova Scotia and be in position to enforce a treaty of their own on the British and in particular Canada.
The Canadian Transcontinental railroad runs close to the American border.
The Americans would find a place not near any cities and thus not heavily guarded and cut the rail line there effectively spliting Canada in half
The problem is the logistics are pretty shitty in those parts of Canada and vulnerable to being pushed out by better-supplied British cavalry.
 
The US is not taking on the most powerful empire with only 6-9 months of preparation unless the British government keeps doing absolutely heinous things to Americans, like the sort of stuff reserved for non-white colonial subjects in this era. The force disparity is far worse than the War of 1812 and the British aren't even occupied with Napoleon. The US just simply won't get involved unless another great power is aiding them because it would cost the political and mercentile elite endless amounts of money.

That said, let's say it happens anyway and the US needs to prepare. The US in 1890 is basically tied with Britain in industrial capacity. First order of business is preparing a plan to take Canada and I believe the US will extensively fortify the Great Lakes with coastal guns and lay down some lake warships (probably torpedo boats and monitors) since presumably the treaty demilitarising the Great Lakes is dead or on life support. Canada cannot outcompete the US in shipbuilding and will need to portage over vessels from the Atlantic to reinforce this critical theater. Second order of business, get some coastal forts and lots and lots of them, especially on the East Coast but don't forget the ports on the West Coast (which are insanely defensible with their geography) With some luck in 6-9 months the US will have a plan that won't result in total disaster and enough capacity to bounce back.

But obviously the US will fuck up because of inexperience and lack of a military and have to learn the lessons the hard way. This means either accept the defeat and treaty (reparations probably and maybe border adjustments in Alaska) or keep fighting for whatever the war is over. This means 1891 and most of 1892 are nothing but building forces and occasional raids over the border, mostly in the Great Plains. Probably a few harsh bombardments of coastal cities, but otherwise the troops are getting ready, and lots of naval construction is underway. Traffic on the Great Lakes and Champlain is pretty much all US controlled and bombardments of lakeside Canadian cities is occurring. At this point both sides will be able to hammer out a treaty that's acceptable to both and both can claim victory in some way.

If we don't have peace by then (highly unlikely) by end 1892 we might have some successful commerce raiding in the ocean, but 1893 is when the offensive will truly start and the US Army will pretty much sweep over Canada and have a hard, grinding fight with the British. Expect some naval battles that will probably be inconclusive on both sides. By the start of 1894 the US will probably control all the parts of Canada that matter except for Halifax and Nova Scotia and be in position to enforce a treaty of their own on the British and in particular Canada.

The problem is the logistics are pretty shitty in those parts of Canada and vulnerable to being pushed out by better-supplied British cavalry.
The big thing about forts is not building them but having enough good guns. Can't find out their biggest ones, yet having nothing that can hit a ship 5 miles out, with their 12" guns is going to be a bummer.
 

ShySusan

Gone Fishin'
The big thing about forts is not building them but having enough good guns. Can't find out their biggest ones, yet having nothing that can hit a ship 5 miles out, with their 12" guns is going to be a bummer.
The US had the industrial capacity to build those guns though. And if they see relations crumbling with the UK like this, they will begin building massive amounts of guns to put in those forts. The RN will still be the unquestioned master of the seas and the USN will probably rarely engage it, but the US should be able to build and equip enough costal fortifications to keep British warships a respectable distance away that let's blockade runners get through from time to time.
 
Like everyone said, a huge question is how much coastal defense can be built up prior to the outbreak of hostilities. The US really only needs to worry about bombardments and amphibious actions. A blockade is not too concerning for two reasons. First the US is mostly self sufficient on raw materials and by this point has a huge industrial sector as well. Second, for those things they do need from elsewhere running the blockade shouldn't be much trouble since there's over 10,000 miles of coastline on two oceans to cover and unless they jump on the British side the Mexican border will still be open and basically unassailable.

Also, while Britain has massive military and industrial might it's scattered around the globe and has to cross at least one ocean to get to the US. Keep in mind that unlike 1812, the demographic disparity between the US and Canada is as one sided as the match up between the RN and the USN. So the vast majority of men and materiel will be shipped in which will be a grotesquely expensive matter. Canada might be able to supply food for the army, but it's most productive regions are also the most vulnerable.

A smart US, which is no guarantee at all, would quickly move to cut the transcontinental railroad in the prairie and deny as much grain to the east as possible. With that done it would be a hell of an effort to keep Vancouver supplied and the US could attempt to remove the only British base within 3,000 miles of the west coast. Of course they are just as likely, if not more, to just repeat history and make a mad dash for Toronto and Montreal while RN from Halifax and Bermuda batter down under prepared east coast cities.
 
Like everyone said, a huge question is how much coastal defense can be built up prior to the outbreak of hostilities. The US really only needs to worry about bombardments and amphibious actions. A blockade is not too concerning for two reasons. First the US is mostly self sufficient on raw materials and by this point has a huge industrial sector as well. Second, for those things they do need from elsewhere running the blockade shouldn't be much trouble since there's over 10,000 miles of coastline on two oceans to cover and unless they jump on the British side the Mexican border will still be open and basically unassailable.

Also, while Britain has massive military and industrial might it's scattered around the globe and has to cross at least one ocean to get to the US. Keep in mind that unlike 1812, the demographic disparity between the US and Canada is as one sided as the match up between the RN and the USN. So the vast majority of men and materiel will be shipped in which will be a grotesquely expensive matter. Canada might be able to supply food for the army, but it's most productive regions are also the most vulnerable.

A smart US, which is no guarantee at all, would quickly move to cut the transcontinental railroad in the prairie and deny as much grain to the east as possible. With that done it would be a hell of an effort to keep Vancouver supplied and the US could attempt to remove the only British base within 3,000 miles of the west coast. Of course they are just as likely, if not more, to just repeat history and make a mad dash for Toronto and Montreal while RN from Halifax and Bermuda batter down under prepared east coast cities.
Quite easy for Empire troops to cut US railway lines also. Northern Pacific around Chicago and the New York-Chicago line
 
All this talk of destroying railroads does raise a point. How the war starts should affect the strategy (what is both sides are trying to achieve) and that should change the tactics. Also how popular the war is will change what tactics are used. I know the OP said this is beyond the scope, but I think it matters.

If the US public is united behind the war and happy to take losses, then a large force can be sent to attack Canada and the RN raids might just harden public opinion. But if the war is not popular, if the state militias are deployed to protect their home state and not sent to federal control, then things are different. The US regular army is small and will remain small for a long time if it doesn't get reinforcement from the states, with only the pre-war regulars and hurriedly trained and equipped raw troops the US will not be doing much of anything in the short term.

The options outlined in the posts above assume the British are very passive/distracted and do basically nothing while a united and galvanised US builds up strength. This could happen if the UK is busy with a problem elsewhere while also refusing to negotiate, but the posts are very much like Mahan's plan for the war (i.e. they make massive assumptions that benefit the US and assumes the enemy cooperates at all times). If Britain wasn't distracted, or if the US public was not wholly committed to the war, then things would go very differently and the US might not get the time to build up strength before public opinion forces peace.
 
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Some ideas about this would be nice. Why this happens doesn't matter for the question
The circumstances that bring it about can absolutely affect the outcome. Does either side have any allies (or other enemies)? Who's the aggressor? I'm not talking about who we in the 21st century would see as the aggressor, and I know you said "US invades Canada," but I'm talking about who people at the time particularly in the US and UK see it. At this point in history if the USA is sufficiently determined, Canada won't be able to hold out.

Given the size of the US armed forces in the late 19c, an army of about 15,000 and a navy of 6 modern ships how badly does it go.
Lets say a path towards war has been building up for a 6-9 months. This the US can build up slightly yet the Empire much more so.
What can the US do before losing?
It is unlikely the US would lose in this situation. The only fight would be in the Americas because Hawaii and the Pacific territories haven't been acquired. Sure Britain can call on more men from around the empire, but getting those men where you need them is not a trivial matter. The only way Britain wins is if the USA cries uncle. Getting the country to be willing to call uncle without also avoiding the war in the first place is an AHC in an of itself; things that would make Americans willing to cry uncle also make it less likely that war would break out in the first place. War is not a simple matter of spread sheets. Treating it as such assumes both that Britain has no logistical issues getting troops and supplies from every corner of the empire to the places where it needs them, and that Britain's rivals/enemies just choose to kindly ignore Britain's plight rather than take advantage of the situation. If Britain decides to take all the resources that normally go towards maintaining/expanding the empire, and put them into waging a war against the United States, that's going to mean leaving the other colonies vulnerable to attack.
It looks like US tactics will end up being some desperate battles around the St Lawrence, as the importance is obvious to both sides, while the bulk of their army races around the East Coast to counter the latest British amphibious landing or raid. Because of course the British are going to do that, just because Mahan thinks it is inconvenient for them to do so doesn't mean they won't fall back on tried, tested and preferred tactics.
Launching an amphibious assault especially across those distances is a logistical challenge, not an old reliable "tried, tested and preferred tactic." It's not impossible for them to launch one or two given their bases in Bermuda, Belize, Guiana, and Caribbean but it's not like they just launch constantly launch them all up and down the East and Gulf Coasts to get the US Army to play whack-a-mole. Sure they burned DC to the ground in the war of 1812 when American ground forces consisted largely of untrained militias, but even then they subsequently lost at Baltimore and in any event trying to 1815 style tactics against a military with 1890 level technology is a recipe for disaster. Trying to constantly launch amphibious assault after amphibious assault against the American east and Gulf coasts wouldn't simply be a matter of the Brits choosing "inconvenience" it would just be stupid. Doing that would mean dividing their forces more meaning the US wouldn't have to send the bulk of the army to deal with each assault because fewer soldiers would be needed to counter each one. To say nothing of the fact that the Royal Navy has the advantage at sea. If they move in that close they're going to put themselves in range of shore batteries.

Anyways regarding your questions about the tactics: try to seize Vancouver ASAP to try to cut off access to the Pacific. There's also going to be an attempt to stop supplies and troops from getting to Canada via Halifax. There might be an attempt to launch an amphibious assault before the Royal Navy can get there in numbers (which would probably land near but not at Halifax); otherwise the US Army will move to seize the isthmus of Nova Scotia. An amphibious assault on Halifax would probably fail if it was in 1890, but the move on isthmus is very likely to at least deny the British/Canadians the use of it, cutting of Nova Scotia from the rest of Canada. Major rail hubs like Winnipeg aren't very well defended so they're getting seized. The war would be bad for the USA and worse for Britain.
 
I think people are over-estimating US coastal defences of the period. If one believes Wikipedia 1890 is probably at or about the nadir of how bad they got, the old post-Civil War fortifications have been neglected, the report pointing out how bad they are has been written, but no actual work has started on building new modern ones.

If the US gets a few years notice of the war and starts a crash programme, they should be able to get something in place as they have the Endicott report to guide them. OTL took a decade or so to get 29 'major' locations defended and that was with a bit of rush during the Spanish-American War and the immediate aftermath, so it will have to be years as this is not a quick process even if you give it a high priority. But if they get that time, then yes British amphibious attacks would not go well or they would probably not be launched at all.

But if the US only a few months notice, or it is the 'surprise' war option in the OP, then Britian is not launching an attack against '1890 technology', they are attacking some badly degraded and obsolete forts with un-trained garrisons and obsolete guns, which the US' government has already declared are utterly vulnerable to 'modern' ships.
 
It is unlikely the US would lose in this situation. The only fight would be in the Americas because Hawaii and the Pacific territories haven't been acquired. Sure Britain can call on more men from around the empire, but getting those men where you need them is not a trivial matter. The only way Britain wins is if the USA cries uncle. Getting the country to be willing to call uncle without also avoiding the war in the first place is an AHC in an of itself; things that would make Americans willing to cry uncle also make it less likely that war would break out in the first place. War is not a simple matter of spread sheets. Treating it as such assumes both that Britain has no logistical issues getting troops and supplies from every corner of the empire to the places where it needs them, and that Britain's rivals/enemies just choose to kindly ignore Britain's plight rather than take advantage of the situation. If Britain decides to take all the resources that normally go towards maintaining/expanding the empire, and put them into waging a war against the United States, that's going to mean leaving the other colonies vulnerable to attack.

Britain managed to send a total of several hundred thousand troops to South Africa during the Boer War, without facing undue logistical difficulties or leaving the rest of its empire open to attack.
 
A big thing is...how does this war build up?

Is it out of nowhere with only a few months/weeks of prep? Then the UK will have big advantages for it had a much larger army, vastly larger navy, all with vastly more experience then American counterparts.

But that is playing against American strengths. Odds are, a war would come after years of worsening relations, flare-ups and border skirmishes. And, in a strategic terms, America would probably get to pick the time and place. This would allow the USA to, as planned, use its advantages. A massive industrial base, a favorable geographic layout, and a massive population. They could call up the units ahead of time and give them training (which was the USA method of war until after WW2). They could build the required forts and at least some of the needed ships. They could make the proper plans and train the proper units.

Yes, in a war with no prep the USA would have a very hard time, but that isn't a war the USA would fight.
 
Britain managed to send a total of several hundred thousand troops to South Africa during the Boer War, without facing undue logistical difficulties or leaving the rest of its empire open to attack.
The population of the United States in 1890 was 62,622,250.
https://www2.census.gov/prod2/statcomp/documents/1891-03.pdf (page 249)

If America is sufficiently determined, it would take way more than several hundred thousand troops for Britain to prevail. The winner would be determined by political will. I don't see the United States starting such a war and then giving up, because the circumstances that would make Americans likely to give up would also make Americans less likely to start a war in the first place. If Britain starts the war, then Americans definitely won't be giving up, no matter how much Anglophilia there was prior to the war. You need a situation where Britain is determined to win and USA isn't. I don't see a war arising under those circumstance. If America isn't determined to win, then America's not going to start a war. If Britain starts the war, then no matter how much Americans wanted to avoid the war, the public would not tolerate giving up. The Royal Navy could hold the West Indies, Newfoundland, and PEI, but if there's an Anglo-American War in the 1890s, mainland Canada would be annexed by the United States.
If the war breaks out quickly, the US' best option would be to occupy as much of Canada as as possible before the British can send serious reinforcements, and then dig in and use the occupied territory as a bargaining chip to try and get concessions elsewhere.

If there's a longer build-up, then assuming that the British can put a bigger initial force in Canada, the best option would be to dig in along the border and try and inflict heavy enough casualties on the attacking Brits so that their army is weakened enough for a counter-attack.
What concessions? There's the tripartite condominium in Samoa, but I doubt Washington would consider it worth more than mainland Canada.
I think people are over-estimating US coastal defences of the period. If one believes Wikipedia 1890 is probably at or about the nadir of how bad they got, the old post-Civil War fortifications have been neglected, the report pointing out how bad they are has been written, but no actual work has started on building new modern ones.

If the US gets a few years notice of the war and starts a crash programme, they should be able to get something in place as they have the Endicott report to guide them. OTL took a decade or so to get 29 'major' locations defended and that was with a bit of rush during the Spanish-American War and the immediate aftermath, so it will have to be years as this is not a quick process even if you give it a high priority. But if they get that time, then yes British amphibious attacks would not go well or they would probably not be launched at all.
Again how are they going to sustainably project force? I never said they couldn't launch an amphibious attack. I said they couldn't launch them fast enough over a wide enough area to occupy the bulk of the US Army in a game of whack-a-mole.
But if the US only a few months notice, or it is the 'surprise' war option in the OP, then Britian is not launching an attack against '1890 technology', they are attacking some badly degraded and obsolete forts with un-trained garrisons and obsolete guns, which the US' government has already declared are utterly vulnerable to 'modern' ships.
I don't know where you get the idea that the US Army was "untrained" in 1890, but it's not true. If you're thinking about Brits training Americans in WWI, that was because new soldiers had to be trained, not because of any American practice of not training people in the army. You can have Britain win a war against the United States, but not in North America in the 1890s.
The problem is the logistics are pretty shitty in those parts of Canada and vulnerable to being pushed out by better-supplied British cavalry.
You don't need to hold territory for long to tear up railways.
If the US public is united behind the war and happy to take losses, then a large force can be sent to attack Canada and the RN raids might just harden public opinion. But if the war is not popular, if the state militias are deployed to protect their home state and not sent to federal control, then things are different.
Keeping the state militias out of federal control in this situation would require a POD before the ACW, probably one during or before the war of 1812.
The US regular army is small and will remain small for a long time if it doesn't get reinforcement from the states, with only the pre-war regulars and hurriedly trained and equipped raw troops the US will not be doing much of anything in the short term.
The trouble is the only way the United States enters a war against Britain without first enlarging the army is if Britain starts it. At that point the American public would not accept anything short of completely expelling Britain from mainland North America. Anything less would just be seen as leaving Britain with a base of operations from which to do it again.
 
But if the US only a few months notice, or it is the 'surprise' war option in the OP, then Britian is not launching an attack against '1890 technology', they are attacking some badly degraded and obsolete forts with un-trained garrisons and obsolete guns,
I don't know where you get the idea that the US Army was "untrained" in 1890, but it's not true.

He didn't say the US army, he said "untrained garrisons". If the US regular army is in the forts, it isn't invading Canada (or even standing on the defensive on the Canadian border). If the US regular army is on the Northern Frontier, then the troops in the forts are state militia, and they will be untrained:

'State Militia companies usually did not exceed 60 men. Upon muster a considerable number of these gave reasonable grounds for not volunteering and were released. About 25 percent failed to pass the physical examination. The result was that only about 30 men in each company could qualify for muster and, since the Government required at least 77, it was necessary to take about 47 recruits into each militia company.'

'The report of an inspection made at Chickamauga Park in May of 1898 on the condition of 33 regiments from 18 States disclosed that 40.6 percent of the men were raw recruits, 34.4 percent were soldiers with less than 1 year of training, and 25 percent had received more than 1 year of training most of which had been gained in the National Guard... On 5 June, General Miles said that in the 14 Volunteer regiments which were being prepared for service in Cuba between 30 and 40 percent of the men were undrilled and that in 1 regiment 300 men had never fired a gun.'

(from the source posted previously)
 
I don't see the United States starting such a war and then giving up, because the circumstances that would make Americans likely to give up would also make Americans less likely to start a war in the first place.

Not necessarily. If the US takes the attitude of some posters here, that Britain will never be able to project force across the Atlantic and that even if they did everyone else in the world would start invading their empire, then the discovery that it's quite possible to support large numbers of troops across an ocean using 1890s technology, and that the rest of the world wasn't going to obligingly start fighting America's war for it, might cause public opinion to turn against the war rather quickly.
 
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