Wrapped in Flames: The Great American War and Beyond

the part of Missouri I live in is just in the "Pro-Southern" zone, and you would be amazed at some of the monuments. Jesse James is a folk hero in this part of the country still. Price's invasion was pushed by the Confederate government at the urging of the exiled governor so I consider it politically motivated.

I've always been slightly impressed that Jesse James legacy has endured as it has. Exciting as it is to read about, there's nothing laudable in his life...

Oh I agree with you that Price's invasion was political, I was merely thinking all the bushwhacking and jayhawking was less so. More an excuse to settle old scores, like the fighting in West Virginia.
Chapter 15: A Desert Called War
Chapter 15: A Desert Called War
"The social and political condition of Arizona being little short of general anarchy, and the people being literally destitute of law, order, and protection, the said Territory, from the date hereof, is hereby declared temporarily organized as a military government until such time as Congress may otherwise provide.

I, John R. Baylor, lieutenant-colonel, commanding the Confederate Army in the Territory of Arizona, hereby take possession of said Territory in the name and behalf of the Confederate States of America.

For all purposes herein specified, and until otherwise decreed or provided, the Territory of Arizona shall comprise all that portion of New Mexico lying south of the thirty-fourth parallel of north latitude." - Proclamation to the People of the Territory of Arizona. August 1st 1861

“By the time of the civil war in 1861 the New Mexico territory, despite its small population, was nearly as divided as the rest of the continental United States in a predictable North-South axis. The people of the southern portion of the territory (primarily below the 34th parallel) felt that the territorial government in Santa Fe was too far away to properly address their concerns and grievances. There had been, since 1856, agitation to carve out a separate territory to better manage the southern portion of the region, but due to the already small population of the region being even smaller in the proposed territory, these cries were ignored. The beginning of hostilities at Fort Sumter in April 1861 merely added to these frictions.

The North had withdrawn the scattered garrisons from the region, rendering the settlers defenceless against the outrages of the Apaches who swooped on the settlers with a vengeance, burning, looting and killing. This prompted secession conventions in Tucson and Mesilla in March where the settlers voted to democratically sever their ties with the North and join their future with the Confederate States of America. The people selected and elected provisional officers for the new Confederate Territory. Dr. Lewis Owings of Mesilla was elected Provisional Governor of the Territory, and Granville Henderson Oury of Tucson was elected as Delegate to the Confederate Congress.

All this might have come to naught had it not been for the heroic actions of Texas Indian fighter Col. John Baylor who under the aegis of organizing a “buffalo hunt” called for 1,000 volunteers to join him on a march west into Arizona. Thus organized the newly minted Second Regiment of Texas Mounted Rifles marched to Mesilla. There they confronted the Union garrison under Major Isaac Lynde operating from Fort Fillmore. In a heroic action Baylor’s outnumbered men routed the Union garrison, who by way of parting bombarded a hill where the pro-Confederate residents had turned out to watch the battle. Lynde and his force were furiously pursued by Baylor’s men who rapidly captured the straggling Northern troops forcing Lynde to surrender his men and equipment to Confederate custody.

The Territory of Arizona was established by proclamation soon after…” History of the Arizona Territory, Frederick Steele, University of Texas, Austin, 1911

The proposed Arizona territory, 1860, identical to the one established in 1861

“The Arizona Campaign was prompted more by political concerns rather than any strategic advantage the region offered. Firstly had been the need to secure the pro-Southern peoples of the region for the Confederate cause. The second had come from the deep seated desire of the Southern states to expand Southern imperialism to the Pacific. Partly mesmerized by visions of a Confederacy which could control the gold fields of the West and dreams of expansion for the institution of slavery into the coveted Mexican provinces of Chihuahua, Sonora, and Baja, Jefferson Davis wasted no time in giving his blessing to the man who proposed the campaign, former United States Army Major, Henry H. Sibley.

Sibley, 44, was an 1838 West Point graduate who had enrolled at age 17 and been commissioned a second-lieutenant in the 2nd US Dragoons. He fought against the Seminoles in Florida, participated in the occupation of Texas, and served in the Mexican War. A military tinkerer he created the ‘Sibley Tent’ based on Plains Indian tents, and the design was widely copied by the United and Confederate States. He participated in Bleeding Kansas before being assigned to the Texas frontier, where when hostilities commenced in 1861 he resigned his commission to join the Southern cause. Stocky and wind burnt he was an excellent spinner, but had never held command of a unit before. This was no detriment to his sudden promotion to brigadier general, and with commendable initiative he set off to recruit the new Confederate “Army of New Mexico” which was pulled together in October of 1861, by then it consisted of roughly 2,500 men organized into a brigade strength force of three mounted rifle regiments (plus one battalion) and three artillery batteries:

Army of New Mexico: (Brig. Gen. Henry H. Sibley Commanding)

4th Texas Mounted Rifles – Col. James Riley

5th Texas Mounted Rifles – Col. Thomas Green

7th Texas Mounted Rifles – Col. William Steele

2nd Texas Mounted Rifles (3 cos.) – Maj. Charles Pyron

Provisional Artillery Battalion – Maj. Trevanion Teel:

Battery, 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles – Lieutenants Joseph H. McGinnis and Jordon H. Bennett

Battery, 4th Texas Mounted Rifles – Lt. John Relly

Battery, 5th Texas Mounted Rifles – Lt. William Wood

Also included in the force tally are attached companies of Arizona Volunteers and militia. All told, when one factors in the independent militia companies and Baylor’s Mounted Rifles, the South had perhaps 3,000 men who had taken up arms for their cause in Arizona.

Facing them were some 5,000 regulars, militia, and volunteers under Col. Edward Canby. Canby, 43, had graduated West Point in 1837, a year behind Sibley. Indiana born, with delicate features, he had fought the Seminole in Florida and seen action in the Mexican War, breveted three times for gallantry to the rank of Lt. Col for his valor at Contrearas, Chururbusco, and Belen Gates. Seeing postings in New York and California he was assigned to New Mexico in 1860 where he led a futile campaign to punish Navajo raiders who had been preying on settlers’ livestock. At the start of the war while he was a Union man his commander, then Col. William Loring, had resigned to join the Southern cause, leaving Canby to fill the vacancy.

Canby, well aware of Baylor’s audacious sweep to the southwest concentrated his forces at two key points, Fort Craig, where he headquartered himself, and Fort Union, under Col. Gabriel Paul. Canby’s position at Fort Craig would allow him to oppose any Confederate crossing of the Rio Grande and prevent them from pushing north into Union territory. His forces were organized thusly:

At Fort Craig: Col. Edward Canby commanding:

5x regiments of New Mexico Volunteer Infantry – Col. Kit Carson commanding (1st New Mexico Volunteer Infantry)[1]

11cos 5th, 7th, 10th, US Infantry

6cos 2nd and 3rd US Cavalry

Provisional Artillery Battery – Capt. Alexander McRae (3rd US Cavalry)

Provisional Artillery Battery – Lt. Hall (5th US Infantry)

As well as a number of hastily organized militia regiments stationed at Fort Craig mustered into service as emergency militia.

At Fort Union: Col John Slough commanding

1st Colorado Infantry (1cos attached 2nd Colorado Infantry) – Maj. John Chivington

4th New Mexico Infantry – Col. Gabriel Paul

Battalion 5th US Infantry

Detachment of 1st and 3rd US Cavalry – Maj. Benjamin S. Roberts (3rd US Cavalry)

1st Provisional Artillery Battery – Captain J.F. Ritter

2nd Provisional Artillery Battery – Captain Ira W. Claffin (3rd US Cavalry)

These were all the forces available in New Mexico to defend the Unions hold on the territory.

At the start of February, Sibley took his forces north from Fort Thorn along the Rio Grande marching towards Santa Fe, the territorial capital, and the major stronghold at Fort Union with the intent to capture the Union stores and supplies there to sustain his army and claim the whole of the territory for the Confederacy. On the 19th his forces arrived across the Rio Grande from Fort Craig and established themselves across the river from Canby’s fortifications. Sibley knew he did not have enough provisions to mount a siege of the Union position, and he could not leave such a large force in his rear, so he would then attempt to lure the Union forces out to the field of battle on conditions favorable to him.

On the morning of the 21st Canby was shocked to look out over the ramparts of Fort Craig and see the alarming sight of Confederate wagons kicking up dust as they trundled northward. Canby, now unable to resist the chance to impede the Confederates progress, sent off a mixed force of cavalry, infantry, and artillery to meet the advancing Confederates under Major Roberts. They emplaced themselves at Valverde ford, and thus blocked Sibley’s progress north.

The 2nd Texas under Pyron was the Southern vanguard and when they arrived at the ford he immediately began to skirmish with the Union forces, such was the furiosity of the fighting that the Union found themselves unable to cross the ford to counterattack. Pyron sent for the 4th Texas to reinforce him and as the action became general Sibley himself ventured forth to take command. With the arrival of the 4th Texas and the artillery under Sibley the action became stalemated as the Confederates, despite their sudden numerical advantage, were poorly armed with hunting rifles, muskets, and shotguns.

By late afternoon the 5th Texas under Col. Green arrived alongside the 7th Texas under Major Raguet. At this point Canby had seen the action engage the Confederate troops and ordered all the troops, save a single regiment of New Mexican militia, to march to the ford, bringing the First and Second New Mexican Volunteers as a reserve.

It was here that the dynamic of the battle changed. Sibley, who had alternated between command at the front and trailing with the wagons, was soon felled by sunstroke (although drunkenness has also been provided as a factor in his collapse) and he relinquished command of the force to Green. Colonel John Green, 47, a veteran of the Texan Revolution and the Texan campaign against the Comanche, where he had commanded artillery and mounted volunteers, was a Virginian born Texan who had enlisted upon Texas’s secession and been elected colonel of the 5th Texas. Naturally aggressive he immediately sought out a way to attack the Union on the other side of the ford.

First he organized a lancer charge which was, predictably, driven back with heavy losses in men and horses, and the lancers rearmed themselves with pistols and continued the engagement. A second attempt was made to carry a charge but it too was driven back.

By 4pm Canby decided that the battle could be won decisively, but having seen the repulse of the Confederate frontal charges he attempted to maneuver his forces to strike the Confederate left. To that end he detached Lt. Hall’s battery to the left supported by Karson’s 1st New Mexico. Seeing this, Green ordered Maj. Raguet to assault this new Union position, but the attack was pushed back and Canby, sensing weakness on the Confederate side began maneuvering his forces to make a decisive strike on that front. In doing so though, he drastically weakened his left leaving it open to a Confederate counter attack.

Green sensed this, and, true to his aggressive nature, he organized 700 men in an assault column to strike the unprepared Union right under Maj. S. A. Lockridge of his own 5th Texas. The Confederates were now desperate for water, water which could only be gained by the repulse of their Union foes. So a mad, desperate charge was launched against the Union right. Shockingly this time the charge was not repulsed, and with great skill and determination Lockridge drove hard against the Union lines. The battery facing them was under the command of Capt. Alexander McRae, and though he stood firm at his guns, he, half the gunners, and all the horses, perished in the bitter battle over the Union artillery. Lockridge then turned to the Union forces now out of position crossing the river to assault the Confederate left. This produced a panic amongst the New Mexican Volunteers who were soon put to flight.

The captured Union guns were then turned on the fleeing Union troops. Here, disaster struck. While Canby was struggling to maintain his lines in the face of a sudden determined Confederate assault Karson’s New Mexicans, and the 2nd Colorado Volunteers stood firm to form a rearguard. Lockridge soon turned the guns on this steadfast group and in the ensuing cannonade Canby fell wounded, and the brave Volunteers were driven back in disarray. The rout had become general[2].

In the aftermath the exhausted Confederates could not mount a pursuit in earnest, but harried the New Mexicans all up the river driving many off. Carson would lead his exhausted men back to Fort Craig. The total casualties for the day were steep for the Union, with 71 killed, 160 wounded, and 424 captured or deserted. Amongst that number, was Col. Canby. The Confederate losses were comparatively light, suffering 41 killed and 153 wounded.

At the end of the 21st of February, the Battle of Valverde stood as an astonishing Confederate victory. By the 22nd Sibley had recovered himself, treated his wounded, and was ready to again advance against Fort Craig. Carson, now being the most senior officer in command, requested a truce to treat the wounded and bury the dead. Sibley, compelled by his notion of Southern honor, agreed to a truce lasting until midnight on the 23rd. He used this time to emplace his new captured guns on the high ground above Fort Craig and secure supplies of water from the Rio Grande. Karson, knowing he stood little chance of keeping his now unruly militia in line, buried the dead, disbanded his militia, and on the night of the 23rd quietly slipped out of Fort Craig and marched North, carrying what he could, and discretely destroying as much of the supplies within he could not carry.

So on the morning when the Confederates approached the fort to demand its surrender they found the Union garrison gone. Karson had slipped north with 1,000 men and much of the supplies Sibley had hoped to sustain himself on. Taking what he could and leaving a small garrison in his rear, Sibley marched north, toward Fort Union.” - War in the Southwest: The New Mexico Campaign, Col. Edward Terry (Ret.), USMA, 1966

Despite their valor, the capture of the Union guns spelled disaster for Canby's forces.

"We are now about to take our leave and kind farewell to our native land, the country that the Great Spirit gave our Fathers, we are on the eve of leaving that country that gave us birth...it is with sorrow we are forced by the white man to quit the scenes of our childhood... we bid farewell to it and all we hold dear." - Charles Hicks, Cherokee Chief, August 4, 1838

“The Indian Territory, at the onset of the American War, was ostensibly set aside as land for the Five Civilized Tribes, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole. These were largely tribes which had been forced from their ancient lands and marched West under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. In this new territory they had adopted different ways of life, many engaging in agriculture, and many in the tribes (particularly the Cherokee and the Chocktaw) practiced slavery.

Long standing distrust of the government in Washington, and concern over the withdrawal of Federal troops led to discussions amongst the chiefs about where to stand in the Civil War. The Confederacy though, immediately saw the advantages of recruiting the tribes to their cause, both in terms of manpower, and for potential expansion after the war. To that end Richmond appointed, attorney and Mexican War veteran Albert Pike to negotiate with representatives of the tribes on behalf of the Confederacy.

Pike managed to negotiate several treaties in early 1861 which earned the alliance of the majority of the Cherokee and the Chocktaw tribes, particularly under the leadership of surprisingly zealous Stand Watie who would command the most ferocious tribesmen who fought for the Confederacy.

Confederate Commissioner to the Five Civilized Tribes, Albert Pike.

The Seminole and Creek peoples though, were split in their support. At the outset of the conflict the Creek and Seminole had their lands sandwiched between the lands of the pro-Confederate Cherokee and the Chocktaw. The Lower Creek peoples, who specialized in cotton production and practiced slavery which put them into closer contact with white settlers, supported the Confederacy thanks to Albert Pike’s treaties which promised them their own state. This led to heightened tensions in the two nations as the two pro-Confederate tribes pressured their neighbors into accepting a pro Confederate stance.

Hampering this, were the loyalties of the Creek Chief Opothleyahola. A distinguished orator and respected elder, Opothleyahola, at 83, had fought the Federal government on numerous occasions during the Seminole Wars, notably after the execution of William McIntosh, a Creek Chief of mixed blood who had signed what the Creek saw as an unfavorable treaty. Thanks to his gifted oratory he was able to negotiate favorable terms with the Federal government in the 1826 Treaty of Washington. However, with the Indian Removal policy in place he soon found himself leading 9,000 of his people from their home land and into the Indian Territory. When the Civil War began, he pledged his own loyalty to the Union, his vast experience teaching him the power of the Federal Government, and he had no desire to see his people again uprooted for the benefit of the white man and warned the Creek nation "My brothers, we Indians are like that island in the middle of the river. The white man comes upon us as a flood. We crumble and fall, even as the sandy banks of that beautiful island in the Chattahoochee. The Great Spirit knows, as you know, that I would stay that flood which comes thus to wear us away, if we could. As well might we try to push back the flood of the river itself.”

Albert Pike met the Creek chiefs and representatives near Eufaula and concluded with them, a treaty of alliance. Opothleyahola leading his delegation of Upper Creeks, bitterly fought this treaty of alliance and urged that neutrality be preserved. The Lower Creek peoples, notably led by Chilly and Daniel McIntosh, sons of the same William McIntosh whom Opothleyahola had killed in 1825, eagerly embraced this treaty however, and both men would go on to organize Confederate regiments in the coming conflict. Seeing his ideal neutrality policy prevented he resigned himself to attempting to sit out the war and with his followers retreated to his plantation on the Canadian River to sit out the conflict.

This would not prove enough though. The McIntosh faction, eager for revenge against the man who had killed their father, soon turned to the Confederate government. Rogue Indian Agent, Confederate Colonel Douglas H. Cooper, had been dispatched by Richmond to take command of the various tribal forces gathering in support of the Confederacy. Daniel McIntosh managed to convince him that Opothleyahola was a potential traitor in their midst. In this they had a legitimate concern, Creeks of black ancestry, fearful of being sold into slavery by the Confederacy had slowly been gathering at Opothleyahola’s plantation. Threats of force from the surrounding tribes and the Lower Creek had forced many more loyalist Upper Creek to seek shelter with their chief and an enormous camp had sprung up there with more than 9,000 people including 2,000 warriors among them. This included a Seminole loyalist band led by Halleck Tustenuggee, the war chief who had fought against the government so hard in the Second Seminole War.

Cooper, agreed with the McIntosh faction and decided he had to move against the loyalist Creek. He soon gathered a force of about 1,400 men under him and marched for the loyalist camp to "drive him and his party from the country." Seeing that the Confederate forces were moving against him Opothleyahola broke camp in November and began moving his people north toward Kansas in order to seek protection for the woman and children amongst his followers.

Cooper though, pursued with a vengeance, spurred on by the McIntosh brothers and their supporters. In late November the two forced met at Round Mountain where the loyalists managed to defeat an assault by their Confederate pursuers and move on. Cooper though, refused to give up the chase, and again closed with the loyalists at Bird Creek, inflicting a loss, but more importantly forcing them to abandon much of their supplies in their retreat. Finally Cooper planned an assault on the loyalists at Chustenahlah, a well-protected cove on Bird Creek with a high hill that dominated the surrounding ground. Here Opothleyahola had dug in his followers, using felled logs as make shift earthworks hoping the bitter winter weather would delay or deter his pursuers.

There would be no such luck. The Confederates mounted a diversionary attack by charging a portion of their force straight up slope, while the remainder worked their way around a shallow defile to the left of the main earthworks. Here they managed to fight their way up through the Creek defenders, and after a few hours of fighting broke into the encampment. The battle turned into a rout as the loyalist Creek fled north, the Confederates, exhausted from the fighting, declined to follow and merely went to looting the abandoned encampment.

The march north was grueling. Approximately 2,000 Creek died of disease, starvation or exposure on their trek. When they finally reached the supposed safety of Fort Row in Kansas, they found it abandoned by the local militia, and were forced to march further north to Fort Belmont. There Kansas militia leader, Capt. Joseph Gunby tried to support the loyalists as much as he could, but supplies quickly dwindled and most of the loyalists had merely the clothes on their backs. Starvation and disease broke out, and a further 1,000 Creek would die, amongst them Opothleyahola’s daughter to cholera in January. Opothleyahola followed soon after, officially of cholera, but according to legend, really of grief at the loss of his beloved daughter.[3]

Come February conditions were desperate, and the mood of the loyalists had turned ugly. They felt abandoned and betrayed by the government, and what few supplies did come for them were mainly cast off goods from the local settlers. Some began agitating to return to their homes and make common cause with the Lower Creek. Principle amongst these agitators was the daughter of Seminole Chief Billy Bowlegs, who had fought hard for the independence of the Seminole people in the Third Seminole War and was the last to be relocated to Indian Territory with his people. Known as Lady Elizabeth Bowlegs for her regal bearing and outspoken nature, she roundly criticized the decision to remain in destitution at Fort Belmont. The Federal government offered them no protection and no succor, why then should they give their loyalty to it? However, she was constantly checked by Halleck Tustenuggee, now de facto leader of the exiled loyalists. He did not believe the Southern cause could triumph and so steadfastly stood by the Union.

The tipping point came in early March 1862 when news of the British outbreak of war arrived in Kansas. This shifted the Creek’s position. With the power of Great Britain now arrayed against the Federal government Tustenuggee’s belief in ultimate Northern victory was badly shaken. Discontent had further grown in the camp as promised supplies failed to arrive and desperation amongst the refugees grew. Finally he sent secret envoys to the Lower Creek explaining the situation amongst the refugees and enquired about the possibility of rejoining the Creek nation. He received promises of good treatment and restored land if he signed a treaty with the Confederate commissioners in Indian Territory. With starvation endemic, and his own leadership being questioned Tustenuggee found he had little choice but to accept the offer.

And so, on March 22nd 1862, Tustenuggee and his followers, all 5,000 of them including 900 warriors, marched south towards Indian Territory. Some 1,200 Creek and Seminole would stay behind, largely those of black ancestry or those with feuds against the Lower Creek. For better or for worse, the fate of the Five Civilized Tribes was now firmly in the hands of the Confederacy.” – Saga of the Five Civilized Tribes, University of California, Berkely, 1979


[1] Really these were separate companies of each regiment organized under overall command of the 1st. Other companies were garrisoning posts around the territory and so only the 1st was at full strength.

[2] I should point out that up until this point everything about the battle is basically the same as OTL. Here chance just falls slightly differently and Canby falls wounded leading to the more disastrous outcome.

[3] Again pretty much OTL until Opothleyahola’s early death.
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Glad to see it's back!

It's too bad Sibley didn't die of heat stroke, the guy was a walking disaster.

Thanks! Hopefully there won't be as long a wait between this chapter and Chapter 16 as there was between Chapter 14 and 15! I've already started on 16 though so hopefully before the end of October!
Yay :D

Good to have this a going concern again :)

Thank you! I'm very glad people are still around to read it :winkytongue: it's comments that really let me know what people are thinking!

I'm hoping to have two chapters up before the end of October to get us on to the campaigning season in 1862, then hopefully push this thing into 1863 by the new year.
Already seeing the impacts and butterflies in the war as this goes on. Really rather hoping that the Creek and other tribes get a better deal than OTL with all this. Granted, low bar to set, but would be nice to have something come their way.
Already seeing the impacts and butterflies in the war as this goes on. Really rather hoping that the Creek and other tribes get a better deal than OTL with all this. Granted, low bar to set, but would be nice to have something come their way.

Butterflies will be having conniptions all over the place once we get into 1863 :p

The fate of the Five Civilized Tribes remains to be seen. Having basically come down on the side of the CSA won't do them much good if the CSA loses, and even if the CSA wins, well...
As an aside, I have edited the header quote of this TL to include the whole of Seward's remark as overheard by William Russell. Ruminating on it I figured it was worth including the whole thing, gives some more oomph to the header IMO.
Chapter 16: The Lion Roars Back
Chapter 16: The Lion Roars Back

“The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” – Revelation Chapter 8 verses 8-9

“At the beginning of 1862 the Royal Navy had been planning for a confrontation with the United States since early December. Warnings had gone out to the naval stations as far afield as Hong Kong, and reinforcements had been dispatched from both the Channel Fleet and the steam reserve. A significant assemblage of ships had also gathered at Gibralter in case of war, nine ships under Rear Admiral Sidney Dacres, which included the ironclads HMS Warrior and HMS Defence. With news of the outbreak of war flashing across the continent, these immediately sailed for North America. With their sailing came the capture of the luckless USS Tuscarora under Commander Tunis Craven, who had been blockading the CSS Sumter in Gibralter. After a short sharp action with the frigate Doris and the liner Mars, Craven was forced to surrender his ship.

In North American waters there were already 44 vessels under the command of Vice-Admiral, Sir Alexander Milne. Milne, 55, was the son of Admiral David Milne and had joined the navy in 1817 training at the Royal Naval College in Portsmouth. Upon his graduation he served with his father aboard HMS Leander on the North American and West Indies Station in 1819. Over the subsequent years he would have extensive service in North and South American waters, earning his first command in HMS Captain in 1839 then serving as flag captain to his father in Plymouth, and then with Sir Charles Ogle who commanded the Portsmouth station in 1846. Milne became Fourth Naval Lord in the First Russell ministry in 1847, from there he would serve in various capacities as the Fifth, Fourth, and Third Naval Lord in the ministries of no fewer than three different Prime Ministers, including managing transports to the Crimea as the Fourth Naval Lord in 1853 and serving as such again in the Second Derby ministry in 1859.

In 1860 he was placed in command aboard HMS Nile commanding the North American and West Indies Squadron with the local rank of Vice-Admiral. Milne had been disturbed by the implications of the civil war when it had broken out in spring 1861 and as it had worn on had written repeatedly requesting reinforcements. He was particularly concerned for his defences at Bermuda which he found “unstable and unsatisfactory” recommending the structural strengthening of Fort George and the equipping of guns of the heaviest caliber in batteries for that islands defence. One of his greatest fears though, was in the short of war period where he noted French and American ships took soundings almost at will near the coasts at Nova Scotia and Bermuda testing the waters around Halifax for clearly military purposes and encouraged that he be allowed to do so himself. This would see British ships taking discreet soundings of American waters throughout January and February which would prove invaluable in the coming months.[1]

With the arrival of news of the outbreak of hostilities at the end of February he had two principle tasks which had to be carried out. The first was relatively simple in that he organized his principle squadrons as a striking force against the Union blockaders in the Gulf and along the Atlantic coast. Since January his main force had been gathered at Bermuda with a powerful squadron of eight battleships, five frigates, four sloops, and six gunboats, with the remainder of North Atlantic Squadron on patrol between Bermuda and Halifax. The second force at Havana under Commodore Dunlop contained five battleships, three frigates, five sloops, and two gunboats.

The second task was for the implementation of blockade…

…Milne’s principle concern at the end of February was the capture or destruction of the various blockading squadrons located off the Southern coast. Milne had been watching the movements of the squadrons closely and in doing so had discovered that the North had concentrated its most seaworthy ships at three principle points; the Chesapeake, Port Royal, and Key West. Knowing that destroying the Chesapeake squadron would be impossible due to their ability to fall back under the protection of friendly guns Milne prepared his vessels to take the vessels operating out of Port Royal while he dispatched orders to Dunlop to take those operating off Key West.

When the orders arrived for the commencement of hostilities Milne’s squadron was ready for sail at a days’ notice. Now that war was declared Milne was prepared to do his duty and display the power of the Royal Navy. However, the elements prevented Milne from doing so. As the fleet prepared to sail heavy gales and seas not uncommon to February, disrupted the squadron from embarking, and Milne, unwilling to risk his squadron to either heavy seas or its isolated destruction by a combined American action, withdrew to reorganize, and thus allowed Du Ponts South Atlantic Blockading Squadron to withdraw to the safety of Northern harbors.” – The World on Fire: The Third Anlgo-American War, Ashley Grimes, 2009, Random House Publishing


Sir Alexander Milne

“With the order for all sea worthy steamers to concentrate at Key West in January 1862 the Gulf Blockading squadron had been broken up into a larger number of detachments than had been the case in late 1861. Those steamers which were considered capable of being converted to effective commerce raiders, and the modern screw steamers of the navy, were put in readiness off of Fort Zachary Taylor. In order to do so the old sailing sloops USS Vincennes(18) and USS Preble(16) were placed as the flags on the blockades of New Orleans and Mobile respectively, alongside the less seaworthy gunboats, steamers, and converted merchant men.

Commanding the newly christened “Key West Flotilla” was 61 year old Commodore William W. McKean. Enrolling in the navy in 1814 he had seen service at the tail end of the conflict with the British. Serving as commander of the schooner Alligator in 1822 he captured the Columbian privateer Cinecqa while on service in the West Indies. He served on the Brazilian and Mediterranean stations earning the rank of captain in 1855. In 1860 he commanded Niagara and had been on particular service escorting Japanese diplomats back from Washington. Returning from the Far East still in command of Niagara he participated in the blockade of the Southern coast until given his assignment to command the new flotilla in late January.

Facing him less than one hundred miles away at Havana was Royal Navy Commodore Hugh Dunlop. Second son of General James Dunlop, the middle son had entered the navy in 1821 keeping with family tradition of serving in the armed forces. Serving in home waters until earning the rank of Captain he had commanded the steam corvette Tartar with the Baltic Fleet from 1854 to 56 and then commanded her in the West Indies until 1859. In 1860 he received command of the converted screw battleship Aboukir and received the local rank of commodore and was given command of the West Indies Squadron. He was placed in charge of the reconnaissance of Veracruz in October 1861 and charged with escorting the British contingent of marines with the international force which was dispatched to compel the Republic of Mexico to repay its debts.

This all changed in January with the departure of Lord Lyons from Washington and Dunlop, along with his squadron, withdrew from the expedition, leaving the enforcement of Britain’s aims to her allies. Under Milne’s orders he concentrated his squadron at Havana and readied them for any potential hostile action with the Union fleet. Making extensive reconnaissance of the blockade and the position of the blockaders he drilled and organized his fleet in the waters off Havana. Like the remainder of the fleet, he had already received conditional orders should that should war be declared he would: "proceed forthwith to take in detail the several blockading squadrons off Texas, the mouth of the Mississippi, Mobile, Pensacola etc., or if the United States should, as is more than likely, abandoned the Blockades and united all their Gulf Ships, the force at the disposal of the Commodore may I trust prove sufficient to enable to capture them or prevent their return to the Atlantic Coast, to form a junction with the other Blockading Squadrons, which I shall use every exertation to intercept so soon as possible to prevent their entrance into the Chesapeake."

Milne’s estimation had been entirely correct. And with the knowledge in hand Dunlop had organized his ships accordingly. He had divided his own squadron in accordance with what he believed the needs of the station were. Accordingly at Havana he had assembled the 1st and 2nd West Indies Squadrons.

The 1st, under his command consisted of the ships, HMS Aboukir(91)(Flag), HMS Donegal(101), HMS Mersey(40), HMS Ariande(26), HMS Jason(21) and was charged with proceeding to Key West in order to capture or destroy the vessels sheltering there. The 2nd, under the command of Captain Edward Sotheby of HMS Conqueror consisted of the vessels HMS Conqueror(101)(Flag), HMS St. George (89), HMS Phaeton(51), HMS Challenger(21) and was charged with taking in detail the other blockading squadrons off the Gulf and breaking the blockade of the Southern ports.

The remainder of his vessels were detached as such: the sloops HMS Desperate(8) and HMS Barrcouta(6) acting as despatch vessels at Havana where the Admiralty transport Himalaya was moored with the Royal Marine battalion which had been assigned to Veracruz. The Battleship HMS Sans Pereil(70) with the gunboats HMS Plover(4) and HMS Lee(3) was stationed at Rum Cay to patrol for elements of the squadron which might manage to escape.

McKean meanwhile was at Key West with his own seven ships, USS Niagara(12)(Flag), USS Colorado(44), USS Brooklyn(21), USS R.R. Cuyler(10), USS South Carolina(6), USS Massachusetts(6), USS New London(3). A moderate mix of modern steamers and converted merchantmen assigned to blockade duty. Unlike Dunlop however, he had not been drilling his men and had by and large merely been despatching them on periodic runs to assess the whereabouts of the British squadron and patrol for the odd blockade runner. This put him at a severe disadvantage in the coming engagement.

With the news of the outbreak of hostilities arriving at Havana on February 25th (ironically the same storms which had disrupted Milne’s fleet had also delayed the steamer bearing news of the outbreak of war to McKean) Dunlop readied his ships to sail, and on the evening of February 26th the two squadrons set off for their respective targets.

And so at 10am on February 28th 1862 the first (or second depending on who you ask) naval action of the war would be fought.

For McKean, awaking on his flag Niagara early to survey the status of his squadron, it was another warm morning in the Florida Keys. His previous duties in command of the blockade had been vexing as he attempted to enforce a blockade over a coast matching that of Europe’s in size. His crews, a mix of prewar naval regulars and new volunteers from the merchant marine had battled boredom as their main enemy. The orders to switch from blockade duties to an extemporized squadron at Key West had been unpopular, the prospects of seizing a blockade runner for lucrative prize money had been the greatest incentive for many to sign up, and the undoubted boredom of sitting in squadron and lacking the thrill of potential money had put the crews of the ships in a dull mood. McKean had sought to alleviate the boredom by ordering gun drills and patrols off the coasts, but he had not thought to drill his ships to act as a unified squadron, certain that before that opportunity would come he would have plenty of time to bring his vessels back to safe waters.

And so, it came as a great shock that lookouts aboard Brooklyn sited a formation of vessels heading at full steam towards his protected anchorage. McKean had never commanded more than a single vessel in his life, and as his crews rushed to prepare themselves for the coming action he made a fateful decision. Sure that his vessels could not stand up to the British squadron he ordered his vessels get their steam up and dash from the anchorage in an attempt to reach safe harbor. His main concern was for the older war vessels the Niagara, Brooklyn, and Colorado, the most powerful ships in his squadron. He doubted that the converted merchantmen could make the run, put he perhaps felt that they might slow the British long enough to allow his other vessels to escape.

It was not to be.

Dunlop’s ships proceeded in line, the massive Donegal leading the charge accompanied by the frigate Mersey, with Aboukir travelling in the middle of the line, and the smaller vessels Ariande and Jason bringing up the rear. Dunlop, from studying the 1859 United States Coasts Survey Charts possessed by the Admiralty, had deduced that if the squadron did not stand and fight its best chance for escape would be by skirting the coasts of the Southern US attempting to reach waters his larger vessels could not enter, and so he came at them full steam in order to prevent their escape.

The two squadrons began a rapid chase as McKean’s ships sought to outpace their opponents. As the two squadrons neared one another after two hours pursuit the smaller Union vessels broke off, making for shallower waters near No Name Key under Mckean’s orders to try and distract his pursuers. Dunlop dispatched his own shallow draft ships to pursue them while keeping his flag and the two largest ships in the pursuit. Shortly thereafter a general action became inevitable and Donegal, under the command of Captain Sherard Osborn, opened up on the Niagara, which was lagging behind her sisters. This prompted the Colorado to change course to assist the flagship.

Captained by Theodorus Bailey, the Colorado would define the action that day. Bailey, 56, had joined the navy in 1818 and had four decades of naval experience under his belt. Determined not to allow his commanding officer to fall into enemy hands without a fight he brought his ship around, and let loose with a heavy broadside at the Donegal. During this time McKean signalled for Brooklyn to continue her flight.

As Niagara and Colorado swung about to face down Donegal, Dunlop in Aboukir joined the fray while signalling for Mersey to continue the pursuit of Brooklyn. The opening broadsides of Niagara and Colorado struck home against Donegal, but the heavy sidewalls of the ship shrugged off the worst damage, and the opening 40 gun broadside of Donegal against Niagara was devastating. The heavy guns shredded rigging and dismounted two cannons from Niagara’s port batteries. McKean himself received a shrapnel would while a further 17 of his crew were killed or wounded in the opening salvo. Bailey was soon angling to providehis own fire support and opened up with a second broadside. As the two Union vessels engaged in a broadside of the Donegal, Aboukir angled with her consort and the two formed an ad hoc line and blasted away. Soon Niagara’s rigging was a wreck and her decks were flush with dead and wounded and the smaller vessel slowed as holes were opened up on her water line. Bailey though maneuvered around the fading vessel and brought the fight to the enemy, this time delivering a savage broadside to Donegal which dismounted one of her starboard guns.

An exchange of shots lasting half an hour ensured as the two ships angled around one another, but the contest had but one outcome. With a heavier broadside Osborn’s vessel could simply put out more fire than his opponent, and despite a valiant effort by Bailey, his guns were progressively silenced and it was only through a masterful feat of maneuvering which he managed to bring his ship around to bring his untouched starboard batteries to bear on the British ship. However, it was a doomed contest and at 4:37pm Colorado, which had been listing heavily, began to slip beneath the waves her colors still flying and her guns still firing. This act was immortalized in John Hollins 1949 painting “Defiance of the Colorado” where the brave vessel is shown as she begins to list, her crew, to a man, working furiously to train their guns on the looming profile of the Donegal which stands off in the distance. Of the 674 men aboard her, the Royal Navy would only rescue some 309 survivors from the waters. Captain Bailey was not amongst them…


Captain Bailey and his defiant vessel, USS Colorado

…with Brooklyn’s surrender to Mersey at 6:49pm the Battle of the Keys was effectively over. The capture or sinking of the smaller merchantmen had been accomplished, and with the seizure of the steam sloop the whole of the US flotilla was in British hands. For the sinking or capture of seven American vessels Dunlop had done quite well.

For their valiant efforts the whole of the crew of the Colorado would be awarded the Medal of Honor, and Captain Bailey would be posthumously promoted to Rear Admiral in August of 1862. McKean for his part, once exchanged in November 1863, would be brought before the United States Congress Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War and ordered to explain his actions. Despite a long bitter debate and the Committee eventually ruling that he had mishandled his command, McKean would be allowed to run an Asylum for retired sailors in New Jersey until he was retired from the navy at his present rank in 1865…

…On a whole, the Battle of the Keys marked the high point in the early war at sea for the Royal Navy. Though Milne had stated his intention to bring the USN to battle, he had been foiled in this goal in part due to the dispositions of the fleet before the declaration of war, and the weather which had disrupted his own attempt to bring the second largest blockading squadron to battle. This constituted a failure of early British strategy to bring a significant portion of the Union fleet to battle. Though the Battles at Galveston Bay, New Orleans, and Mobile were all unqualified victories, the destruction of the old sailing sloops and converted merchantmen and coastal steamers was not a significant achievement. The captured vessels were good for little more than supply hulks or at best the transport of supplies and were not truly warships.

The mainstay of the modern Union fleet would thus return to safe ports and be in a position to vex the British blockade. This was proved as early as March 25th when Wabash’s sortie caught the Rosario by surprise in Delaware Bay, leading to her grounding and burning off Slaughter Beach before the remainder of the squadron could intervene. The appearance of the USS Monitor a few days later, though her sortie sunk no ships and merely caused significant alarm, presented a further problem the Royal Navy would have to address. The complacency which many in the Royal Navy had felt, bolstered by the lack of fighting spirit the Russians had shown in the previous wars, was shattered by such events. So the expectations of a repeat of the events of 1854-56, much less 1812-15, faded quickly.

With the Royal Navy determined to win the war and maintain their prestige at sea and the United States Navy equally determined not to be simply driven to port and challenge the might of the world’s strongest battle fleet, it was of no surprise that each side would become equally inventive and adaptive. This of course, would lead to the increasingly bloody events off the coasts in 1862 at Little Gull Island and Cape Henelopen…” – Troubled Waters: The Anglo-American War at Sea, Michael Tielhard, Aurora Publishing, 2002


1] Believe it or not this comes up in both the Milne Papers where he records the American steamer Keystone State doing so, and in Williams correspondence with the Duke of Cambridge where he records reports of American and French warships making soundings of the coasts off the Maritimes.
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I am curious to know if the French intervention in Mexico will happen even without the support of the British.

The London Convention which saw the three powers of Britain, Spain, and France intervene to pressure Mexico into paying its debts, was signed in October 1861. The forces of the triple intervention arrived in December 1861, roughly 6,000 Spanish troops, 2,600 French, and 800 British Royal Marines. Now historically the French began by almost immediately making exaggerated claims on what they were owed (claiming as much as 60 million francs had been incurred over the years!!) which upset the Spanish and the French. By April the British and Spanish realized the French intentions were less debt collection and more extortion and so withdrew.

Here the foreign troops have already landed, but the only butterflies which have reached that far south is that the Royal Marines and British warships withdrew in January. The Spanish might be a little on edge about French intentions, but there's going to be some interesting butterflies let me tell you...

Though that's for later on ;)
So, first blood to the British Navy and the blockade is now truly sunk. For now anyway. Is it quickly going to go to a case of hit and run tactics by the US?
So, first blood to the British Navy and the blockade is now truly sunk. For now anyway. Is it quickly going to go to a case of hit and run tactics by the US?

Not quite hit and run. There's still a significant number of dangerous US warships lurking in the littorals now, and others being built on the stocks. The Battle of the Keys was a big blow. but it didn't destroy the US Navy like the British were hoping to do. So the USN can still pounce on unwary blockaders and mostly prevents the RN from steaming in as close as they'd like.

On the other hand, they have more than enough ships ready to vex the British as commerce raiders and weaken the blockade. How successful that strategy will be is another matter...
Chapter 17: Northward Bound
Chapter 17: Northward Bound

The White House, Washington, the District of Columbia, April 1862

Seward puffed away on a cigar as he sat in the President’s office. Across from him the president sat looking care worn and tired, as much at ease with his Secretary of State as he had been with his late wife. The last year had aged the president sorely Seward reflected. He had great streaks of gray creeping up his hairline, he looked thin and his eyes seemed to be sunken into his head. Though he put on a brave front in public standing tall and erect laughing and making quips, in private he would slump and ease himself into his chair. The only time Seward had truly seen joy in his face in the preceding month had been when he played with his children. Truly, Seward thought, a ghost haunts the halls of the Executive Mansion.

The crackling fire kept out the worst of the April chill and Lincoln leaned over and nudged the logs kicking up sparks. An odd smile came to Lincoln’s face.

“You know Seward, for the past year I’ve dreamt that I have stood on the lawn of this mansion and seen the White House in flames, much like I imagine it was in 1814 when the British last sailed up the Potomac. Mary would be able to suss out what it meant, she always said she was my soothsayer.”

“For now sir I would hope that you don’t turn out to be a prophet.” Seward said with a gentle smile. Lincoln laughed. So too did their guest.

George Ashmun chuckled in agreement. The 57 year old former Massachusetts Congressman and Yale graduate sat sipping brandy with the president and Secretary of State, he had been a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1860 and had supported Lincoln’s candidacy. He was close to the Secretary of State and had supported the Lincoln administration throughout the turbulent early months of 1861 wholeheartedly, including his special visit to Canada in the spring of that year. He knew the country well thanks to his business connections with the Grand Trunk Railway; which was why he sat with the President now.

“If we had a prophet to hand sir I would appreciate him now. It grows harder to perceive just how far this war will go by the day.” Ashmun said. Lincoln wrinkled his face with a scowl.

“By no fault of my own sir.”

“Whether any of us like the heading of the conflict is near irrelevant.” Seward said acidly. “American blood has been shed on American soil, and the people will not stand for that.” Lincoln grimaced.

“I fear you are right Seward. Worse I fear the British feel the same, but do our neighbors to the North? You had me talking to their man Galt, but what more can you tell me of the people there? I confess I have scarcely given the place much thought until a month ago.”

“My time there was pleasant, and the people there were too. My connections running close to the Montreal elite I was able to gather much information about how the people felt about us.”

“Their man Galt seemed an amicable sort.” Lincoln said. Ashmun nodded.

“He is a very reasonable sort if I may say. You’ll notice though he pressed you for details on the matter regarding all those affairs in the Caribbean.”

“There was little I could say sadly, and he defended the actions of his own government over the raids. It seemed we were at an impasse. Two men insisting the other go first through the door.” Lincoln chuckled.

“He noted of course that the Canadian people did not… ah, much care for Secretary Seward.” Ashmun said somewhat wryly. Seward grinned.

“It isn’t my place to make myself popular with Canadian voters George.”

“Quite right sir, but you obviously understand they don’t forget your constant entreaties for their annexation into the Union. It seems that they look southwards with incredible suspicion over all our intentions, and the bellicose nature of the editorials printed in even their most radical presses mean we aren’t incredibly popular with the members of their population who might otherwise be disposed towards thinking well of us.” Ashmun said.

“Can we find any friends north of the border?” Lincoln entreated. Ashmun paused and directed a brief look to Seward who simply shrugged.

“Well sir,” Ashmun began “the ejection of our consuls some months ago from British soil has unfortunately curtailed the best sources of information we might acquire, but there is a chance there might be some men friendly to us. I spoke to their main man in Canada East, a Mr. Cartier, who was a former rebel in their troubles in 1838, though he’s a staunch supporter of the Queen now, he’s not the only former rebel in high places up north.”

“Many in the Montreal business community were anxious that the favorable trade arrangements remain intact, in fact in 1849 they even threatened to demand annexation over the repeal of favorable trade laws in Britain. There was a clique of some men of repute who signed this manifesto in 1849, but when the Reciprocity Treaty was signed in 1854 this movement just fizzled.” Lincoln mulled over this information.

“We may have some very fair weather friends up north then. If we do well they may support us, if not…” Lincoln spread his hands and Ashmun nodded.

“I’ve had some contact with former rebels from 1838 living in New York, in particular one Dr. Edmund O’Callaghan. He says he still has friends up north he could write to on our behalf.” Seward said. Lincoln merely nodded again. The clock chimed.

“The Cabinet should be arriving shortly sir.” Seward said. It was as though a change came over Lincoln, the cares swept away and the president stood, stretched, and was suddenly all business and pleasantries moving to dismiss Ashmun.

“Then we had best roll up our sleeves and get to work hadn’t we Seward?”


It was a larger gathering than the case had been in late February. Now along with the usual Cabinet members there sat head of the Defence Board, as it was now known, Major General John Dix, who had thoroughly integrated himself with Stanton. Welles was now always accompanied by Fox and Chase had one or two clerks hanging on to sort through the endless papers on finance. Hay sat in his usual place taking notes beside Nicolay, the poor men were showing their exhaustion.

For now though, Seward’s main attentions were on Dix.

“With the reorganization of our forces in the West we have at present, detached eight divisions for service along the frontier with Canada.” Dix was saying “Halleck is now commanding the Department of the Lakes, with our two field forces, the Army of the Hudson and the Army of the Niagara under the commands of Sumner and Smith respectively.”

“How many men are we sending against Canada?” Lincoln asked.

“The call up for 250,000 new volunteers at the end of February has allowed us to release 86,000 men for service on the frontier directly.” Dix replied. Lincoln looked pensive for a moment.

“And how many men will they be facing?”

“We have fluctuating reports on that.” Dix admitted. “The Canadian papers which we’ve been getting are saying that they have over one hundred thousand men under arms, an estimate which General McClellan has written that he agrees with. However, our own estimates place the number of Canadian militia inside the Province of Canada at less than half such a number.”

“In simple terms” Stanton cut in “The Canadians themselves had perhaps 10,000 men in their militia enrolled before the crisis, we know they called out near 5,000 in October, and have maybe put 30,000 more under arms in the months since. Therefore, we believe that they presently have 40,000 under arms, with perhaps 30,000 men under arms in the Maritime colonies as well.” Dix nodded in agreement with his chief.

“And the regulars?” Seward asked.

“The redcoats had less than 5,000 men total in all of North American this fall, we know they shipped a brigade over on the Great Eastern this November, and they’ve gone to work ordering transports and warships across the Atlantic since December. Thanks again to the papers we have a rough outline of their dispositions.” Dix said. He stood and gestured to a map of Canada bedecked with red pins marking a rough approximation of where the British forces were stationed. He gestured to the western portion of the province where a smaller number of pins was placed.

“At London, there is a detachment of the Royal Canadian Rifles who are training the local militia and are charged with seeing to the border posts on the Detroit and Niagara frontiers. At Toronto they have stationed the 30th Regiment of Foot, and at Kingston the 63rd Regiment of Foot, which marched overland from the Maritimes in December, has been stationed at Fort Henry.” He then traced a finger up the St. Lawrence to Montreal, where a significantly larger number of pins was placed.

“Montreal contains the bulk of the British force in North America. We know from the intelligence gathered that the force here is under the command of Lt. General Sir William Williams, and he currently has a division sized force including a brigade of Guards, and two further brigades of regulars. As far as we are aware a second division is forming with men who have made the march overland and is currently two brigades strong. We estimate their strength to be 20,000 men in this force, with a mix of regulars and militia. Once the St. Lawrence thaws though, there is a substantial troop presence in the Maritime colonies which ought to concern us.” He moved on overland tapping the map at St. Johns.

“The British already occupy the border posts at Houlton and Fort Fairfield, making the overland road secure. Lacking control of the seas and reliable overland communications and transport there’s little we can do to change that, but it seems that it is only a single battalion of regulars supported by local militia there. The bulk of the British forces are concentrated at St. John, and Halifax. We believe a further two divisions have been concentrated here. Their ultimate destination is unknown, and we believe their strength is also in excess of 20,000 men, all regulars.”

The Cabinet mulled over that information uneasily. There were a number of places such men could go. None of which would be ideal for Northern strategy.

“And where is it that you believe they will end up?” Lincoln inquired. Stanton answered this time.

“Based on reliable estimations from the British press and their previous campaigns in the Maritimes, it is likely that they will be used to attack Portland. From British perspective this plays to their strengths, and our weaknesses, but we can’t know for a certainty. There’s no end to where they might end up. The British, should they so choose, could land these troops anywhere, Boston, New York, Portsmouth, or even Washington.” He let the allusions to 1814 sink in for a moment. “Of course they might also simply travel up the St. Lawrence to Montreal and vex us there.”

“Let us hope they go somewhere less vexing. Though how well are we prepared to deal with any sudden incursion?” Lincoln looked to Welles and Stanton. Welles simply looked to Dix who nodded.

“Currently on the coasts we have some 130,000 men employed in defending our major ports. This includes some 27,000 men in New York under Wool,” in a separate Department of New York, Dix had fought Governor Morgan hard on this issue until the man had accepted reality and that everything north of Albany belonged under Halleck’s command in the Department of the Lakes, “12,000 men in the Department of Delaware under Fremont, 30,000 men in the Department of the Potomac assigned to the defenses of Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis all under the command of McClellan, and three divisions of state troops at Boston, Portsmouth, and Portland in the Department of New England under Butler.”

Seward hid a grimace, a fat lot of good Benjamin Butler will do us. They’d been attempting to send the man to some place where he wasn’t so damned inconvenient, his assignment to New England had merely been to get him out of the way before sending him off to where he could have the position of prestige his supporters thought he deserved, while keeping him safely away from the sources of his support. Now he was right in the middle of it, and they couldn’t move him without causing significant ire amongst the radicals. A pretty pickle the war had put them in. Dix continued on.

“Attached, but separate, from these state forces there are four divisions worth of volunteers whom we could mobilize into a field force should it be necessary. Williams division at Portland, Keyes division at Boston, Smith’s at Portsmouth, and Casey’s in reserve to support any force if required. In total these divisions have 40,000 men between them, more than enough to see off a British landing.” Dix said with satisfaction.

“And our dispositions against the rebels?” Lincoln said.

“McClellan commands the Army of the Potomac with his headquarters at Alexandria, some 120,000 men strong. Facing him is, we believe, 90,000 men under Joseph Johnston. There are a further 16,000 men in the Shenandoah Valley under Banks command. Further west we have Buell commanding the Department of the Mississippi. There he faces some 70,000 men under Albert Sidney Johnston, he has three forces under him, the Army of the Mississippi under Pope with 16,000 men, the Army of Western Tennessee under Grant with 30,000 men, and the Army of the Ohio under Thomas with 50,000 men.” Dix then traced his hand past the Mississippi.

“Further to the southwest we have appointed Harney to command after Canby’s capture in February. He’s taken up the fight in the Department of the Southwest, while on the Pacific slope Wright remains in command of the Department of the Pacific. He as yet faces only a small number of British militia operating in British Columbia, but they’re of no consequence to anything of importance at the moment.” Finished Dix turned to Stanton.

“We do not lack for men sir. We can fight the British or the rebels, wherever they choose to meet us.”

“And how fares the Navy Welles?” Lincoln asked as all eyes turned to the Secretary of the Navy.

“By God sir the Navy is ready! We’ve had our licks and we want to give them right back!” Welles said ferociously. The Navy had taken some hard knocks in the last months, and Welles and Fox had been working a relentless pace to strengthen the fleet and boost the men’s morale, with the debacles at the Head of the Passes and the Keys fresh in the nation’s minds.

“We’ve got new boats on the slips, and men ready for duty. We’ve already had ships set sail to hurt the British in their most vulnerable spot, their pocket book.” The room burst into laughter as wolfish grins covered the faces of the navy men, Lincoln offered an encouraging smile.

“And I’m sure we shall give them much to think about Poseidon.” Suddenly becoming more somber he turned his attention to all. “Gentlemen, this war is expanding, and it becomes more dangerous for our Republic by the day. The people are furious, but they are also tense. We need to buoy their spirits, we need to give them victories.”

“Such would be greatly appreciated for the economy sir.” Chase cut the president off. “We’re selling bonds, and printing greenbacks to the detriment of any other form of literature, but we need the public to be confident or these sales will start to slow.”

“I understand Chase,” Lincoln said placidly “but I just hope everyone knows this war will be no ‘mere matter of marching’ wherever it may go.” There were chuckles as Lincoln referenced the infamous words of a previous president. “I intend for us to be on the path to victory, but I want to know we are on the path to victory, so gentlemen, tell me precisely how you mean to be about it.”