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The Secret Service of the Confederate States…

The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe

by James D. Bulloch

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At the outbreak of the Civil War, Jefferson Davis sent merchant marine James D. Bulloch to Europe to clandestinely acquire arms and ships for the Confederate navy. His first stop was Britain, a country hedging its bets on who would win the War Between the States and willing to secretly provide the Confederacy with the naval technology to fight the Union on the high seas. Bulloch's mission continued for the length of the war, and his story, told by the man himself, is one of the least-understood aspects of the Civil War, even today.… (more)



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With a preface from Philip Van Doren Stern best known to the general public for being the author of "It's a wonderful life" made popular in Hollywood by James Stewart's acting in the movie of the same name, these memoirs help understand the international impact of the US Civil War 1861-1865.

The memoir's author is a relative of Teddy Roosevelt who recommended that James D. Bulloch publish them after the war..
He was also one of the more brilliant minds consciously choosing to serve the gray over the blue.

Van Doren Stern reminds the reader that the well publicized naval battles of the Merrimac and the Monitor or the sinking of the Alabama by the Kearsage in front of Cherbourg, France, leave unknown what happened in Europe or on the high seas.
As Van Doren points out:
"The shooting war began on the Atlantic Ocean when the Confederates drove away the steamer "Star of the West" on January 9, 1861" while he was trying to supply Major Anderson's garrison in Fort Sumter and it ended June 28, 1865, when the Confederate cruiser "Shenandoah" captured then Yankee whalers in the Bering Sea.

These partisan memoirs give an account of how the proclamations of neutrality by the chancelleries of Europe, notably France and England, and the courts of the United Kingdom decided of the fate of the United States.

When President Lincoln orders the blockade of the Southern ports, he knows he strangles his then Agrarian South's economically on April 19, 1861.

Therefore the building of a Confederate navy could only be done overseas which is why Bulloch, a steamer captain, is sent by Judah P. Benjamin, confederate Secretary of State, to Liverpool, England at the beginning of this book.
You will not find in this book any account over the slave trade which was by then internationally outlawed on sea as piracy but subsisted well into the mid-XIXth Century (See MacDonald Fraser: "Flash for Freedom".)
So no mention of the slave ships Wildfire, Bogota or Williams nor any statement that since the XVIIth century 11,000 ships transported three million Africans through the Middle Passage.
From an international law perspective, the neutrality of the European powers guaranteed the confederates and the Federal government alike with the International Law status of "De Facto belligerant" which enabled some mercy resupply at international ports.

Confederate raiders like the Nashville, the Florida, the Alabama and Shenandoah caused millions in damages to U.S. commercial fleet. The role of diplomacy is well explained in these memoirs and the author is very anxious to document legal precedent that enables him to dispute the qualificative of rebel, pirates or traitors to the Southerners.
For the author there is no doubt that there were four years of a de facto government and that there were two distinct Federal Republics. His intelligence does not deny when writing these memoirs after the war that the Union has been restored but he takes great pride in the letter of French Minister of Marine Chasseloup Laubat authorizing him to equip and arm four steamers with "douze a quatorze canons de trente" Two Ironclads and four corvettes built in Bordeaux and Nantes could have reversed the balance of forces in favor of the confederates had its builders not received an order to force sell them from the same Imperial government of Napoleon III after the fall of Vicksburgh. This is comparable to Paris stalling the delivery of modern helicopter ships of the Mistral type to Mr. Poutine's Russia during the 2014-15 Ukraine crisis.

Reading how careful the author is after the Civil War, to negate any liability - once fortunes of war changed - for the damages inflicted by the naval forces of his "de facto" government of confederate states, it is surprising to see that modern day South Carolina lawmakers still chose to hoist high on State ground the same symbol of this defunct government.

Is it because in a twisted reasoning they feel ready to assume the legal liabilities that James D. Bulloch was so afraid of?
Is it because they sense that they have to assume their debts towards all those wronged by the various individuals who flew on sea or on land this same flag?

Or is it the prelude to a second ordinance of Secession? Could it be that more devolution is needed from the Federal government to the Southern States but if it would be the case, then what about the devolution of the liability for upholding an economic system based upon slavery? Whichever side of the issue, the James D. Bulloch memoirs promise interesting debates still echoing to these days and relevant as much to those of us who do not have a confederate in their closets as to those whose ancestors died at Bull Run.

Returning from Georgia, a visit to the historic State park of fort McAllister puts this wonderful book in action in that I could visit one of the well preserved site of the naval blocade.

written on 7/10/2015 day the Confederate flag is removed from SC State ground:"I'm sorry, I have heard enough about heritage," Horne told her colleagues. "Remove this flag, and do it today, because this issue is not getting any better with age."As lawmakers ultimately guided the bill toward a final approval of 94-20, one Republican, Rep. Christopher A. Corley, sarcastically waved a small white flag at his colleagues and suggested making it the unofficial symbol of the GOP.By Thursday morning, Haley had pens at the ready, using nine of them, one for each of the families of the nine victims who were gunned down inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston ( )
  Artymedon | Mar 4, 2012 |
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South Carolina was the first of the Southern States to secede from the American Union.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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