What did the sympathies lie of the US Navy around the time of the American Civil War?

What did the sympathies lie of the US Navy around the time of the American Civil War?

Around the time of the American Civil War the land military (that is the Army) had its sympathies on the cause of the Confederacy, in my opinion, due to the make up of the military officers of the time being mostly from the American South. Many of the leaders and military commanders were from Southern states and their sympathies tended to be towards their home states. The US Navy around the same time must have had an officer core that came in a majority from somewhere, but I've not seen any written materials that have investigated this.

What was the composition of the US Navy around this time? Were they in a majority from Northern states that already had a naval culture? Granted the US Navy was relatively small at this time but those people had to come from somewhere and I am interested in knowing where to sort of gauge where their sympathies might have lie.


Unlike the Army, where a disproportionate number of officers came from the South, the U.S. navy was pretty much dominated by the North. One evidence of this was the fact that the fleet in Norfolk, Virginia, was scuttled by its sailors to prevent in from falling into the hands of the South. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Monitor

A major reason that the Union blockade was successful was that nearly all the ships (with the notable exception of the iron Merrimac, renamed the Virginia), stayed with the Union.


10 Things You May Not Know About the Mexican-American War

1. Before invading Mexico, the U.S. tried to buy some of its territory.
In late-1845, President James K. Polk sent diplomat John Slidell on a secret mission to Mexico. Slidell was tasked with settling a longstanding disagreement about the border between the two countries, but he was also authorized to offer the Mexicans up to $25 million for their territories in New Mexico and California. 

When the Mexicans refused to consider the offer, Polk upped the ante by ordering 4,000 troops under Zachary Taylor to occupy the land between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande𠅊 region Mexico claimed as its own territory. Mexico replied by sending troops to the disputed zone, and on April 25, 1846, their cavalry attacked a patrol of American dragoons. Polk’s opponents would later argue the president had goaded the Mexicans into the fight. 

Nevertheless, on May 13, 1846, Congress voted to declare war on Mexico by an overwhelming margin.

2. The war marked the combat debut of several future Civil War generals.
Along with future presidents Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce, the U.S. force in Mexico included many officers who later made their name on the battlefields of the Civil War. 

Union Generals Ulysses S. Grant, George Meade and George McClellan all served, as did many of their Confederate adversaries such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and George Pickett. Lee, then a captain in the Army Corps of Engineers, emerged from the war a hero after he scouted passes that allowed the Americans to outmaneuver the Mexicans at the Battles of Cerro Gordo and Contreras.

3. Santa Anna used the war to reclaim power in Mexico.
Most Americans considered Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna a mortal enemy for his actions at 1836’s Battle of the Alamo, but the charismatic general returned to power during the Mexican-American War thanks to a surprising ally: James K. Polk. 

Santa Anna was languishing in Cuba when the war began, having been driven into exile after a stint as Mexico’s dictator. In August 1846, he convinced the Polk administration that he would negotiate a favorable peace if he were allowed to return home through an American naval blockade. Polk took the general at his word, but shortly after setting foot on Mexican soil, Santa Anna double-crossed the Americans and organized troops to fight off the invasion. Along with reclaiming the presidency, he went on to lead the Mexicans during nearly all the war’s major battles.

4. Abraham Lincoln was one of the war’s harshest critics.
The invasion of Mexico was one of the first U.S. conflicts to spawn a widespread anti-war movement. Political opponents labeled “Mr. Polk’s War” a shameless land grab, while abolitionists viewed it was a scheme to add more slave states to the Union. Among the more notable critics was freshman Illinois congressman Abraham Lincoln, who took to the House floor in 1847 and introduced a series of resolutions demanding to know the location of the “spot of soil” where the war’s first skirmish took place. 

Lincoln maintained that the battle had been provoked on Mexican land, and he branded Polk a cowardly seeker of “military glory.” The so-called “Spot Resolutions” helped put Lincoln on the map as a politician, but they also damaged his reputation with his pro-war constituents. One Illinois newspaper even branded him “the Benedict Arnold of our district.”

5. It included the U.S. military’s first major amphibious attack.
The most significant phase of the Mexican-American War began in March 1847, when General Winfield Scott invaded the Mexican city of Veracruz from the sea. In what amounted to America’s largest amphibious operation until World War II, the Navy used purpose-built surfboats to ferry more than 10,000 U.S. troops to the beach in just five hours. The landings were mostly unopposed by the town’s outnumbered garrison, which later surrendered after an artillery bombardment and a 20-day siege. Having secured Veracruz, Scott’s army launched the war’s final thrust: a six-month, 265-mile fighting march to the “Halls of Montezuma” at Mexico City.

6. A band of Irish Catholics deserted the U.S. and fought for Mexico.
One of the war’s most storied units was St. Patrick’s Battalion, a group of U.S. soldiers who deserted the army and cast their lot with Mexico. The 200-man outfit was mostly made up of Irish Catholics and other immigrants who resented the prejudice they faced from Protestants in the United States. 

Under the leadership of an Irishman named John Riley, the “San Patricios” defected and became Santa Anna’s elite artillery force. They served with distinction at the Battles of Buena Vista and Cerro Gordo, but most of their unit was later killed or captured during an August 1847 clash at Churubusco. Following a court martial, the U.S. Army executed around 50 of the soldiers by hanging. Several others were whipped and branded with a 𠇍” for �serter.” Though scorned in the United States, the San Patricios became national heroes in Mexico, where they are still honored every St. Patrick’s Day.

7. The Battle of Chapultepec gave rise to a famous legend in Mexico.
When they arrived in Mexico City in September 1847, U.S. forces found the western route into the capital blocked by Chapultepec Castle, an imposing fortress that was home to Mexico’s military academy. General Scott ordered an artillery bombardment, and on September 13 his troops stormed the citadel and used ladders to scale its stone fa󧫞. Most of the Mexican defenders soon withdrew, but a group of six teenaged military cadets remained at their posts and fought to the last. 

According to battlefield lore, one cadet prevented the capture of the Mexican flag by wrapping it around his body and leaping to his death off the castle walls. While Chapultepec was lost, Mexicans hailed the six young students as the “Niños Heroes,” or “Hero children.” They were later honored with a large monument in Mexico City.

8. An American diplomat disobeyed orders to end the war.
As the war inched toward its conclusion in 1847, President Polk sent State Department clerk Nicholas P. Trist south of the border to seal a peace treaty with the Mexicans. Negotiations proceeded slowly at first, and in November 1847 Polk grew frustrated and ordered Trist to end the talks and return home. Trist, however, would do no such thing. Believing that he was on the verge of a breakthrough with Mexicans, he disobeyed the President’s order and instead wrote a 65-page letter defending his decision to continue his peace efforts. Polk was left seething. He called Trist �stitute of honor or principle” and tried to have him removed from the U.S. Army headquarters, but he was unable to stop the negotiations. 

On February 2, 1848, Trist struck the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo, an agreement in principle to end the war. While Polk reluctantly accepted the deal, he fired Tristਊs soon as the rogue diplomat returned to the United States.

9. The war reduced the size of Mexico by more than half.
Along with relinquishing all claims to Texas, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo also forced Mexico to accept an American payment of $15 million for 525,000 square miles of its territory𠅊 plot larger than the size of Peru. The lands ceded by Mexico would later encompass all or part of the future states of California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Kansas.


Quotes From The Civil War

"War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over."

William Tecumseh Sherman

" War means fighting, and fighting means killing."

- Nathan Bedford Forrest

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

"Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."

- Last words of Thomas “Stonewall" Jackson

"I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast."

- William Tecumseh Sherman

"General Lee, this is no place for you. These men behind you are Georgians and Virginians. They have never failed you and will not fail you here. Will you boys? "

"My plans are perfect, and when I start to carry them out, may God have mercy on Bobby Lee, for I shall have none."

'Fighting' Joe Hooker (left)

"I have just read your dispatch about sore-tongued and fatigued horses, Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the Battle of Antietam that fatigues anything? "

Abraham Lincoln in response to General McClellan.

"A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me." 

"The past is dead let it bury its dead, its hopes and its aspirations before you lies the future--a future full of golden promise." 

"Let me say no danger and no hardship ever makes me wish to get back to that college life again."

"We talked the matter over and could have settled the war in thirty minutes had it been left to us." 

Unknown Confederate Soldier referencing a meeting he had with a Union soldier between the lines.

"Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what are we going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do."

Ulysses S. Grant (right)

"The Army of Northern Virginia was never defeated. It merely wore itself out whipping the enemy." 

"If I owned Texas and Hell, I'd rent out Texas and live in Hell."

"If it is a crime to love the South, its cause and its President, then I am a criminal. I would rather lie down in this prison and die than leave it owing allegiance to a government such as yours."

"I appeal to you as a soldier to spare me the humiliation of seeing my regiment march to meet the enemy and I not share its dangers."

"I know Mr. [Jefferson] Davis thinks he can do a great many things other men would hesitate to attempt. For instance, he tried to do what God failed to do. He tried to make a soldier of Braxton Bragg."

"The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on."

That's all for now. If you have some favorite Civil War quotes, please feel free to share them in the comments below.


Americans are tired of the left's lie that U.S. is systemically racist

Racism is the practice of according rights and privileges to an individual not based on equality under the law, but rather according to what race that person was born.

It is antithetical to every principle our country was founded on, from the promise of our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” to the equal protection clause of our Constitution. It was a malignancy we fought a Civil War to remove. For generations, it has been denounced by every American of good will for the evil that it is.

Yet this dangerous social pathology is now rampant in Washington. The House Judiciary Committee recently adopted a measure on a party line vote to establish a commission with the avowed purpose of enshrining racism into law under the guise of slavery reparations.

The biased composition of this commission is obvious. There’s not a single Republican appointment. It is designed to reach into the long dead past, revive its most malevolent conflicts and re-introduce them into our age.

It’s impossible to imagine a more divisive, polarizing or unjust measure than one that would use government force to require people who never owned slaves to pay reparations to people who never were slaves – based not on anything they did but solely because of what race they were born.

History offers us an inexhaustible supply of grievances and injustices that are powerful enough to stoke hatreds and resentments that can tear any society apart. That is what this movement is all about. It is evil in its effect if not in its intent.

Lincoln often pointed out that our country was born into a world where slavery was an established institution. The American Founders reviled it and placed principles in our founding documents that they were confident would ultimately place that wicked institution upon the course of extinction and would lead to a republic where men and women of every race and background could together enjoy the blessings of liberty.

Equal justice under law means a colorblind society where race simply becomes irrelevant and until recently, we had made tremendous progress toward that vision as a nation.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King expressed the gold standard of racial harmony: that we should be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin.

It is the equal protection of the law and the vision of colorblind society stretching from the American Founders to Lincoln and Dr. King that is now under attack by the racist left.

Yes, there are racists in our society. There are racists of all colors in every society it is the baser side of human nature. But no nation has struggled harder to transcend that nature and isolate and marginalize its racists than have Americans.

Yes, extremely damaging and foolish policies have disproportionately affected Black communities in recent decades. Union-dominated schools that have failed to educate children in inner cities, welfare programs that destroyed families and the withdrawal of police protection from crime plagued neighborhoods are certainly among them. But these policies devastate every community where they are practiced, regardless of race. The answer is to change those policies – not to excuse them because they are ideologically pleasing to the left.

The racist left is content to ignore all of these current ills. It instead attempts to set neighbor against neighbor and American against American on the basis of their race. They say this is healing. It is precisely the opposite. They know it. Indeed, they count on it.

Americans of good will of every race and creed — have had enough of this. They are tired of seeing our children taught to hate themselves and to hate each other. They are tired of seeing our country demonized as racist by those whose first and solitary focus is on race. They are tired of the lie that our nation is systemically racist when it has done more to produce a civil and tolerant multi-racial society than any people in the history of civilization.

It is long past time that every American of every heritage denounces this evil for what it is, and to extirpate from our civil discourse those race-baiters of every persuasion who have polluted our national dialogue and corrupted our national heritage.


A Brief Overview of the American Civil War

The Civil War is the central event in America's historical consciousness. While the Revolution of 1776-1783 created the United States, the Civil War of 1861-1865 determined what kind of nation it would be. The war resolved two fundamental questions left unresolved by the revolution: whether the United States was to be a dissolvable confederation of sovereign states or an indivisible nation with a sovereign national government and whether this nation, born of a declaration that all men were created with an equal right to liberty, would continue to exist as the largest slaveholding country in the world.

Northern victory in the war preserved the United States as one nation and ended the institution of slavery that had divided the country from its beginning. But these achievements came at the cost of 625,000 lives--nearly as many American soldiers as died in all the other wars in which this country has fought combined. The American Civil War was the largest and most destructive conflict in the Western world between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the onset of World War I in 1914.

National Archives

The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won election in 1860 as the first Republican president on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, seven slave states in the deep South seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and most of the Northern people refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer United States into several small, squabbling countries.

The event that triggered war came at Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay on April 12, 1861. Claiming this United States fort as their own, the Confederate army on that day opened fire on the federal garrison and forced it to lower the American flag in surrender. Lincoln called out the militia to suppress this "insurrection." Four more slave states seceded and joined the Confederacy. By the end of 1861 nearly a million armed men confronted each other along a line stretching 1200 miles from Virginia to Missouri. Several battles had already taken place--near Manassas Junction in Virginia, in the mountains of western Virginia where Union victories paved the way for creation of the new state of West Virginia, at Wilson's Creek in Missouri, at Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, and at Port Royal in South Carolina where the Union navy established a base for a blockade to shut off the Confederacy's access to the outside world.

But the real fighting began in 1862. Huge battles like Shiloh in Tennessee, Gaines' Mill, Second Manassas, and Fredericksburg in Virginia, and Antietam in Maryland foreshadowed even bigger campaigns and battles in subsequent years, from Gettysburg in Pennsylvania to Vicksburg on the Mississippi to Chickamauga and Atlanta in Georgia. By 1864 the original Northern goal of a limited war to restore the Union had given way to a new strategy of "total war" to destroy the Old South and its basic institution of slavery and to give the restored Union a "new birth of freedom," as President Lincoln put it in his address at Gettysburg to dedicate a cemetery for Union soldiers killed in the battle there.

Alexander Gardner's famous photo of Confederate dead before the Dunker Church on the Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md., 1862. Library of Congress

For three long years, from 1862 to 1865, Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia staved off invasions and attacks by the Union Army of the Potomac commanded by a series of ineffective generals until Ulysses S. Grant came to Virginia from the Western theater to become general in chief of all Union armies in 1864. After bloody battles at places with names like The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, Grant finally brought Lee to bay at Appomattox in April 1865. In the meantime Union armies and river fleets in the theater of war comprising the slave states west of the Appalachian Mountain chain won a long series of victories over Confederate armies commanded by hapless or unlucky Confederate generals. In 1864-1865 General William Tecumseh Sherman led his army deep into the Confederate heartland of Georgia and South Carolina, destroying their economic infrastructure while General George Thomas virtually destroyed the Confederacy's Army of Tennessee at the battle of Nashville.

By the spring of 1865 all the principal Confederate armies surrendered, and when Union cavalry captured the fleeing Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Georgia on May 10, 1865, resistance collapsed and the war ended. The long, painful process of rebuilding a united nation free of slavery began.


The Union Blockade of the Southern States

The Union Naval blockade isolated the Confederacy and kept it from establishing a full-scale war economy.

For centuries, blockades have been important instruments of warring nations, and when successful, gave an advantage to the country that implemented one. In April 1861, Abraham Lincoln announced he would institute a blockade of the Confederate coastline. Lincoln's call for a blockade, which created the need for a large navy, may have been his wisest wartime decision given the important role played by this service during the conflict.

The navy of the United States was far from strong when the war began and was incapable of blockading the entire Confederate coast. On paper, there were only ninety warships in the navy. Fifty were sailing vessels, of which the larger were useful mainly as receiving and training ships. Of the forty steam vessels listed, two lay unfinished, three served as receiving ships, and three patrolled on the Great Lakes. Eight others, including five steam frigates, were laid up for repairs. These five steam frigates constituted the main element of American naval strength. Although formidable warships, they could not effectively patrol the South's shallow waters because of their deep drafts. The navy had only three armed vessels ready for service on the Atlantic coast at the outbreak of war. The remaining ships were in the Gulf of Mexico or on foreign stations from which some did not return for six months. [1]

The announcement of the blockade came in two messages. The first was a proclamation by Lincoln on April 19 and included all the coastal Confederate states except North Carolina and Virginia. On April 27, Lincoln issued a second proclamation that included the latter two states. He indicated in the proclamations that the United States would &ldquofollow the law of nations&rdquo and that the warships would first issue a warning and capture any vessel on the next attempt to evade the blockade. [2]

Legal Aspects of a Blockade

Before the announcement of the blockade, Lincoln and his cabinet had discussed other options. Lincoln's idea to blockade the Confederacy did meet with some disagreement. Some argued that the government should close the ports rather than blockade them. Heated discussions ensued over the two proposed plans. Assuming that the rebellion was an internal struggle, the government could simply close its southern ports under United States law. Closing the ports appeared simple, requiring only an executive order. One defect in this approach was that the ordinance of closure only allowed enforcement in American territorial waters. Furthermore, violators of this order would only have violated a United States revenue law and thus could only be tried in a federal court in the state and district where the infraction occurred, an impossibility because these were now under Confederate control. More importantly, closing the ports would not force European nations to acknowledge this action because international law did not recognize this form of trade interdiction.

Secretary of State William Henry Seward persuaded Lincoln to adopt a blockade. Seward knew that most of the nations of the world recognized blockades, which would avoid international complications. By issuing a notification of a blockade, however, the Union implicitly gave the Confederacy belligerent status because a blockade is a belligerent right, and implies that there is fighting with an external enemy.

On May 13, 1861, the British government announced its neutrality. The British did not protest Lincoln's blockade because their long-term naval interests lay in expanding and maintaining the blockade practice. Although the American blockade annoyed them, created animosities, and was at times inconvenient, the British accepted it. On May 16, France confirmed its acceptance as well. [3] With French support it became clear that the major powers of Europe would recognize the United States blockade if the navy maintained it according to international law. This resolved one of the Union's earliest and most grave issues.

On July 13, six days after the first blockade proclamation, congress passed the Ports Act. This legislation gave the president the authority to close the ports. Lincoln wisely continued the blockade and did not use this law to close a port until April 11, 1865, long after foreign intervention was no longer a threat.

The 1856 Declaration of Paris framed the international standards of blockade practice. Most of the world&rsquos nations signed this agreement, but the United States was not a signatory. International law required only that &ldquoan adequate force&rdquo remain at all times the entrance to a port to prevent communication. By the widest interpretation of the law, one vessel qualified as an adequate force.

The Union ships had to establish the blockade of each Confederate port by written notification. After this notification went ashore, the vessels then in port had 15 days to leave without fear of capture. Once the navy instituted the blockade of a port, at least one vessel had to remain on station. If for some reason the blockaders left, or weather or enemy warships drove them off, then the navy had to reinstate the blockade. This required sending another notification ashore and allowed a 15-day grace period for vessels to exit the port without penalty.

At the beginning of the war, some Union leaders believed that a comprehensive blockade would require as few as thirty warships. Reality quickly dispelled this notion because the blockade was not even slightly effective for many months. In the six weeks after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, nearly 30,000 bales of cotton left the port of Charleston alone. From June to December 1861, 150 vessels, mainly small coasting craft, arrived at Charleston through the interior waterways. The other major Southern ports experienced similar commerce. This laxity had the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer boasting, &ldquoContempt for Lincoln&rsquos blockade must prevail even at Timbucktoo!&rdquo [4]

In an attempt to devise an overall strategy and to offer solutions to a range of potential problems, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles created a Commission of Conference, also known as the Blockade Strategy Board. This board was the only group that met during the war that approached in character that of a general staff. The idea for the creation of this board originated with Professor Alexander Dallas Bache, the superintendent of the United States Coast Survey. Organized on June 27 1861, the board consisted of Bache, Chief Engineer of the Army Department of Washington, Major John Gross Barnard, and two naval officers, Captain Charles Henry Davis, who acted as recorder and secretary, and Captain Samuel Francis Du Pont, who served as chair.

The board met at the Smithsonian Institution from July to September. Poring over charts and studying hydrographic, topographic, and geographic information, its members developed strategies and devised methods to render the blockade more effective. They also accumulated the information necessary to establish logistical bases. In six major reports and four supplementary ones, they recommended points the navy could seize as coaling stations and naval bases. The board also prepared a general guide for all blockading operations that the Navy Department followed closely throughout the war. [5]

The task of patrolling 3,500 miles of shallow coastline containing 189 inlets, harbors and rivers would require a much larger force than the navy had available in April 1861. The specific geography of the Confederate shoreline complicated the implementation and maintenance of the blockade. Compounding this challenge were the numerous barrier islands that protected inward passages along most of the Confederate coast. Inlets separated these islands at intervals and often opened into large estuaries. This intricate network of waterways allowed shallow-draft vessels to keep communications open without the need to enter the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.

In May 1861, the Navy Department initially created two blockading squadrons. The Atlantic Blockading Squadron&rsquos responsibilities included the eastern ports from Chesapeake Bay to Key West, Florida and the Gulf Blockading Squadron patrolled from Key West to the Rio Grande. At the end of October 1861, the Atlantic Blockading Squadron divided into the newly formed North Atlantic and South Atlantic Blockading squadrons. The North Atlantic Blockading Squadron&rsquos responsibilities were the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina and the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron watched the coast from South Carolina to Key West. Later, the latter boundary moved to include the coast only as far south as Cape Canaveral. The Gulf Coast Blockading Squadron split in February 1862. The East Gulf Blockading Squadron patrolled from Cape Canaveral to St. Andrew&rsquos Bay, Florida, and the West Gulf Blockading Squadron&rsquos area of responsibility began west of St. Andrew&rsquos Bay, Florida and stretched to the Rio Grande.

An early embarrassment to the efficiency of the blockade was the operation of Confederate privateers. The majority of these vessels sortied out of Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans. These warships operated under Letters of Marque issued by the Confederate government. This commission allowed private vessels to make prizes of Union shipping. The privateers, however, could only operate out of Confederate ports since international law, as laid out in the 1856 Declaration of Paris, did not recognize privateering. Thus, once they captured a prize they had to return to a Confederate port. While these vessels had limited early successes, as the blockade became more stringent they could not operate without extreme risk and by 1862, they were no longer a threat. They did, however, occupy the full attention of the naval authorities early in the war. While the Union officials protested this form of warfare, the United States failure to sign the 1856 Declaration of Paris, gave it little sympathy from foreign governments.

In May 1861, when the Atlantic Coast Blockading Squadron formed, it included only fourteen warships. There were only three major port cities to watch from Virginia to Key West&mdashthey were Norfolk, Charleston and Savannah. Norfolk never developed as a Confederate port because of the United States Navy&rsquos presence in the Chesapeake Bay. The ports in the sounds of North Carolina also might have served the Confederacy. The shallow draft of the bars entering the sounds limited the trade and by the spring of 1862 most of the interior towns were under Union control.

Union warships did not blockade Savannah, Georgia until June 1861. The single narrow channel that led into the river made the blockade of this port relatively simple. When Union forces captured Fort Pulaski, guarding the mouth of the Savannah River, in April 1862, this effectively closed the port to most of the traffic. [6]

Even apart from its political and psychological importance, Charleston stood out as the major port on the Atlantic Coast and the most crucial to blockade. The city had a wide and deep harbor, one of the best in the south. The bar lay about five miles from the harbor entrance and four main channels offered access into the harbor. When Bermuda and Nassau became the major points of transshipment for blockade goods, the port of Charleston with its well-developed rail connections became a prime port. Only about 780 miles from Bermuda and just over 500 miles from Nassau, Charleston offered a quick trip for blockade runners. Until early 1863, Charleston served as the Confederacy&rsquos most frequented port and remained open for business until February 1865.

By the beginning of 1863, Charleston became the major target of the Union military forces and the Navy Department sent a large number of warships and ironclads there. After the April 1863 attack on the forts at the mouth of the harbor, the ironclads moved into the main ship channel and these warships effectively restricted the blockade running traffic. It was at this time that Wilmington, North Carolina, became the most important port in the Confederacy. While there was already a brisk trade at Wilmington, the virtual closure of Charleston forced the Confederacy and the mercantile firms running the blockade to refocus their efforts. Wilmington&rsquos importance as a blockade running port was unsurpassed for the rest of the war.

Wilmington was North Carolina&rsquos principal seaport and, with a population of about ten thousand, the state's largest city. In 1861, the city boasted the largest naval stores market in the country and traded in other natural resources. At the beginning of the war Wilmington seemed to have no special attribute that would make it so important to the Confederacy. Wilmington was an important port in North Carolina, but compared to Charleston, Norfolk, and Savannah its overall trade was miniscule. It was not considered important enough to blockade until nearly three months into the war

Geography and communications determined Wilmington's growth and importance. Wilmington had rail connections to both Charleston and Richmond, which linked it to two of the Confederacy's most important cities. Wilmington lay on the banks of the Cape Fear River, twenty miles from the river&rsquos mouth and fifteen miles from a second navigable entrance at New Inlet, and beyond the reach of a direct assault by naval vessels. Smith Island lay between the two navigable entrances and stretched for six miles into the ocean. In addition, Frying Pan Shoals extended over twenty miles farther into the Atlantic, making the distance between the inlets by sea almost fifty miles while the distance directly between them was only six or seven. The double inlets required two separate blockading forces and made it possible for the blockade runners to lie in the river and to observe the blockading fleet at their stations and then choose the most weakly guarded inlet from which to make their escape.

After Bermuda and Nassau became the major points for transshipment of goods into the South, Wilmington became even more convenient. Large ships brought contraband cargoes to these island ports where smaller and faster blockade runners carried them to the Confederacy. Only 570 miles from Nassau, a steamer could travel to Wilmington in 48 hours. Bermuda was only 674 miles from Wilmington and a steamer could make the trip in about 72 hours.

During the war, more than 100 different steamers ran the blockade of Wilmington about 260 times in total. Stopping this trade became a priority for the Navy Department and the naval force here became the largest concentration of warships of any squadron. Additionally, the tactics to stop blockade running continually evolved and some of the Union warships patrolled as far as 130 miles offshore and along the tracks of the blockade runners coming from the island entrepots.

The blockade of the Gulf Coast was, in some ways, more difficult than the East Coast blockade. While both Charleston and Wilmington attracted a large Confederate trade, the expansive and shallow waters of the Gulf Coast also invited blockade running activity. The Navy Department initially focused on many of the busy Confederate ports on the Atlantic, but the vastness of the Gulf coast would stymie the federal government&rsquos efforts to forge an effective blockade. From the Gulf&rsquos entrance at Key West to Brownsville was nearly 2,000 miles, not including the interior waters of the bays and the inlets that stretched along the coast. Like the Atlantic Coast, shallow water and barrier islands limited most of the trade to shallow draft vessels. Only a couple of entrances to the Mississippi River, Mobile, Alabama, and Galveston, Texas, could accommodate oceangoing steam blockade runners. The rest of the coast was perfectly suited to small vessels&mdashparticularly schooners.

During the war, schooners violated the blockade on the Gulf Coast more than any other type of vessel. They were fast, could sail close to the wind and could escape into the small shallow inlets. During the night and certain phases of the weather, they were nearly impossible to detect. The owners of these craft were often owner/operators. They carried local produce like cotton and sugar out and usually imported dry goods, medicines and items that they could sell locally. [7] The steam powered blockade runners, however, received the most attention from the Union navy. Local papers heralded their passage through the blockade and this alerted the Navy Department.

The trade along the Gulf coast differed from that seen along the East Coast because small sailing vessels, in large numbers, ran the blockade of the Gulf coast throughout the war. With a fleet consisting of mainly large warships, the task of blockading the Gulf coast effectively was initially nearly impossible. During 1861, in the Gulf alone, over 400 different vessels ran through the Union cordon more than 1,600 times in total. From 1861-65, there were nearly 3,000 attempts to run the blockade of the Gulf coast, about two a day, a rate 33% more than on the East Coast. [8]

The Capture of New Orleans

The most important ports in the Gulf were Mobile, New Orleans and Galveston. The five entrances to the Mississippi River were difficult to watch with only the small naval force available in the first months of the war. New Orleans was the Confederacy&rsquos largest city and a major manufacturing center. These attributes made the city an important target and with the warships struggling to contain blockade running, the Navy Department organized an expedition to capture the city. This was part of a larger goal of the department to gain control the Mississippi River. The capture of New Orleans in 1862 stopped the blockade running trade into the river and was a blow to the Confederacy, denying it its largest city and commercial center.

For most of the war, the West Gulf Blockading Squadron&rsquos major task was the blockade of Mobile, Alabama. The entrance to Mobile had features that complicated the Union&rsquos success. Outside the harbor were several bars and islands that dissected the entrance. The outer bar was more than three miles from the mouth of the harbor. Four channels led to the mouth of the bay. Deep draft vessels could enter the main channel only. Complicating the blockade&rsquos enforcement here was the shallow water to either side of the main ship channel. It allowed only the most shallow draft warships to maneuver in these shoal areas. The Confederate defenses, likewise, kept the Union ships at a distance from the mouth of the harbor. Mobile remained the most important port in the Gulf during the war because the larger steam blockade runners could access the harbor and the city&rsquos rail connections led to important points in the Confederacy.

Havana served as the main entrepot for blockade goods running into the Gulf Coast ports. Only 590 miles from Mobile, steam blockade runners could make the trip in two days. As the war progressed and more warships were available, the blockaders began patrolling along the approaches to Havana to curtail the trade.

Mobile remained a viable and important port until August 5, 1864. On this day, a fleet led by Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut advanced into the harbor and defeated the Confederate warships in the Battle of Mobile Bay. This ended Mobile&rsquos role as a Confederate port.

Galveston, Texas was a shallow-water port allowing vessels with no more than a 13-foot draft to enter. While this was a major limitation, the lack of rail connections in the state of Texas was even more so. None of the state&rsquos railroads connected east of the Mississippi and this limited the importance of any goods imported into Galveston. Galveston&rsquos value, however, increased slightly after the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864. This port remained open until June 1865. The surrender of the forces in the Trans-Mississippi occurred later than R.E. Lee&rsquos surrender. Kirby Smith&rsquos command did not officially surrender until 2 June and the Union forces took control of Galveston on 5 June. Like the rest of the Gulf Coast, small schooners sailed in and out of this port with near impunity. Its closeness to Havana, ports in Mexico and the British colony of Belize enabled small sailing craft to make their journeys quickly. Some of these craft made more than two dozen trips during the war.

The East Gulf Blockading Squadron handled the blockade of the state of Florida. The blockade of this state, while never easy, did not have the dire strategic consequences as other areas. The sparse population of the state and its lack of railroad connections to the rest of the South limited the value of the cargoes to the Confederacy and to the merchants who would illegally run the blockade. Small craft performed most of the blockade running and the cargoes mainly benefited the local inhabitants rather than the Confederacy.

Commerce Raiders, Torpedo Boats and Ironclads

Confederate commerce raiders, like the Alabama and the Florida, torpedo boats, and Confederate ironclads challenged the maintenance of the blockade and made blockade duty uncertain and dangerous. [9] Despite the numerous attacks by these classes of Confederate warships, there were few Union losses. After the Alabama attacked and sank the Hatteras off Galveston, the small and lone gunboats could not safely make patrols along stretches of the Gulf Coast or to blockade shallow inlets without support. The real impact that the commerce raiders had on the blockade was the detachment of large numbers of naval vessels to chase the Confederate warships around the world, decreasing the effectiveness of the blockade. The greatest threat to the blockaders in fact, proved to be from small steamers or small boat expeditions that sortied against sail-powered or anchored blockaders. They managed to capture and destroy many Union ships during the war.

Types of Blockading Ships/Purchasing Program

Because the Union navy began the war with only a small number of warships and many of them incapable of blockading the Southern coast, the Navy Department had to both purchase and build a navy. Initially, it obtained every steam vessel it could purchase in the Northern ports, including tugs, ferryboats, and passenger vessels. These steamers often made less than adequate blockaders. Not designed to carry heavy guns or large crews, the merchant ships frequently had no protection for their engines, some of which lay above deck.

The initial building program that augmented the navy was that which built the Unadilla-class gunboats often called the 90-day gunboats due to their rapid construction. There were twenty-three in this class and they served both as blockaders and in river operations. Following this, the navy also constructed twenty-eight Sassacus-class gunboats that served in a similar capacity. Particularly valuable were the sloops of war constructed during the war. These vessels had heavy armament, good speed and a long cruising range and were capable of dealing with commerce raiders, other enemy combatants and Confederate fortifications.

The Union navy also had success converting captured blockade runners into blockading vessels. These ships often served as successful blockaders due to their speed. Examples include the Robert E. Lee, which became the USS Fort Donelson, and the Ella and Annie renamed the USS Malvern.

Early in the war, passenger steamers, square-rigged sailing vessels and other pre-war traders ran the blockade. Sailing vessels tested the Union blockade more than any other type of vessel. Sailing vessels, however, were generally slower than steamers, lookouts could see them farther at sea, and they were dependent on the weather and the currents to move. Gradually these ships became less capable of successfully evading the Union ships once the Navy Department stationed more warships off the major ports. While large vessels powered by wind alone could no longer be risked, fast schooners ran the blockade during the entire war.

Stopping steam powered blockade runners developed into the Union navy&rsquos greatest challenge. The British, the main participants in this trade, began building steam ships to meet the challenges of a stricter blockade. These new, specially designed steamers were the fastest of the day. Usually constructed of iron or steel, they sat low in the water, had extremely narrow beams and rakish designs, and sometimes had turtle-back forward decks to help them drive through heavy seas. Both screw and side-wheel vessels had distinct advantages.

Avoiding detection was the most important characteristic necessary for the success of the blockade runners. In many cases, they carried only a light pair of lower masts, with no yards. A small crow's nest on one of the masts often appeared as the only alteration from the ship's sharp outline and low profile. Some steamers had telescoping funnels, which the crew could lower to the deck in order to maintain the lowest profile possible. Usually painted a dull grey to camouflage the vessel, they also sported other colors and in some instances, the color approached a pinkish hue. When approaching the shore, these vessels showed no lights, and sometimes muffled their paddle wheels with canvas, all to avoid detection.

High profits were the incentive that lured many foreign businessmen into the trade. A single round trip might allow profits enough to pay for both the cargo and the vessel. These high returns ensured that the trade would continue. A well-handled steamer could average about one round trip a month but might make a round trip in as little as eight days. Some of the blockade runners ran through the blockade as regularly as packets.

General Practices of the Blockade

Early in the war, the blockaders usually lay at anchor but remained ready to move. They normally maintained their stations at the main ship channels only. Shallow draft vessels running the blockade had easy access to nearly all the water near the ports, and this complicated the enforcement of the blockade when many of the Union warships were large and had deep drafts. With few ships available, the naval vessels irregularly checked the shallower inlets nearby the main ports, usually doing so when cruising for coal and repairs and travelling back to their blockading stations.

The Confederate defenses at the entrances to the ports or inlets complicated the enforcement of the blockade. The threat of gunfire kept the warships at a respectable distance and gave an added advantage to blockade runners that could get under the protection of the defenses. During the day the blockaders anchored out of the range of the fortifications, but at night usually moved nearer the mouth of the harbors and as near as they could to the Confederate defenses without being seen. They changed their positions before daylight. At night, small picket boats deployed from the blockaders and patrolled closer to shore and into the shallow areas giving better coverage. These craft could get close in at night and they could signal the warships when a blockade runner left port.

On both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts the flag officers, when possible, kept what they termed a close blockade. A single vessel lying directly in the channel could control the waterway and virtually stop blockade running activity. The blockaders could only do this when there were no Confederate defenses, but it effectively closed the most shallow and less important entrances. These vessels, however, were most vulnerable to attacks by Confederate gunboats and small boats.

Blockading tactics continued to evolve as the war progressed. As more vessels became available, the warships increasingly patrolled farther from the harbors and along the shipping lanes, particularly those leading to Havana, Bermuda and Nassau. The steam blockaders also began moving about more at night, ready to chase blockade violators. These practices increased the stringency of the blockade.

While weather, enemy activity and other operational needs had an impact on the blockade, logistical problems had an equally large influence on its effectiveness. The logistical difficulties became more evident as the warships began to take their stations in numbers and the navy deployed more steamers. During the first month of the war, the Navy Department realized that getting coal to the blockaders would be a vital concern. Despite the efforts to establish coaling bases and repair facilities, as much as 20% of the blockading fleet remained away for coal or repairs during much of the war. In mid-1864, the navy had the equivalent of an entire squadron sitting in repair facilities waiting to get back to their stations.

Scholars still debate the effectiveness of the blockade and the lack of Confederate customs records makes the question difficult to resolve. In North and South Carolina, there were at least 2,054 attempts to run through the blockade, averaging 1.5 attempts a day. Along these coasts over 472 different sailing vessels tested the blockade. The steamers numbered over 250. [10] Looking at figures for the blockade of the Gulf Coast, it makes the blockade look like a sieve. There were nearly 2,500 successful trips into Gulf ports, an 83% success rate, and nearly two attempts each day. Blockade runners, however, made a large percentage of their successful trips during the first year of the war. [11] The figures, however, do not tell the full story. Small sailing craft made most of these successful runs and their cargoes contributed little to the war effort.

The blockade&rsquos effectiveness relied on its deterrence, and after 1862, only the fastest and most specialized steam vessels could successfully escape. Small sailing vessels did continue to run the blockade in the Gulf of Mexico. While much materiel passed through the blockade, it amounted to only a small percentage of the South&rsquos pre-war commerce. The Confederacy might have solved a number of its manufacturing and transportation issues had the blockade never been implemented. The Union blockade isolated the Confederacy and kept it from establishing a full-scale war economy. It exacerbated inflation and when the raw materials ran out, or the Union forces captured or destroyed the industrial centers, the Confederacy had little means to replace the losses. The blockade, while not airtight, created a situation whereby the Confederacy could not hope to win a long lasting conflict.

  • The quotation in the title is from Gideon Welles to David Farragut, January 25, 1862 in United States Navy Department, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, 31 vols. (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1894-1927), Series I, volume 18, p. 9, (hereafter cited as O.R.N., I, 18, 9). [1] Robert M. Browning Jr., From Cape Charles to Cape Fear: The North Atlantic Blockading Squadron During the Civil War (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993), 1-2. Receiving ships were usually old or obsolete ships stationed at navy yards. They served as floating barracks and accommodated new recruits and men awaiting orders.
  • [2] Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln, 19, 27 April 1861 in O.R.N., I, 5, 620-1).
  • [3] Browning, From Cape Charles to Cape Fear, 5.
  • [4] Hills to Wells, 2 May 1861, in O.R.N., I, 5, 361 Daily Intelligencer, (Atlanta) September 18, 1861.
  • [5] Browning, From Cape Charles to Cape Fear, 9.
  • [6] Vessels did patrol off Savannah earlier but did not remain.
  • [7] See William Watson, The Civil War Adventures of a Blockade Runner ( London: Unwin Brothers, 1892).
  • [8] Marcus W. Price, “Ships that Tested the Blockade of the Gulf Ports: 1861-1865,” The American Neptune, Vol. XI, No. 4 (Oct. 1951):262, 290. Price includes the entire Gulf in his figures, which would include the ports in West Florida.
  • [9] Torpedo boats were small fast craft that carried a spar torpedo that projected in front of the vessel. The weapon was discharged by running the torpedo into the enemy’s ship.
  • [10] Marcus W. Price, “Ships that Tested the Blockade of the Gulf Ports: 1861-1865,” The American Neptune, Vol. XII, No. 3 (July 1952): 236.
  • [11] Price, “Ships that Tested the Blockade of the Gulf Ports”, 196, 199.

If you can read only one book:

Browning, Robert M. Jr. From Cape Charles to Cape Fear, The North Atlantic Blockading Squadron During the Civil War. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993.


The Secrets and Lies of the Vietnam War, Exposed in One Epic Document

Brandishing a captured Chinese machine gun, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara appeared at a televised news conference in the spring of 1965. The United States had just sent its first combat troops to South Vietnam, and the new push, he boasted, was further wearing down the beleaguered Viet Cong.

“In the past 4 1/2 years, the Viet Cong, the Communists, have lost 89,000 men,” he said. “You can see the heavy drain.”

That was a lie. From confidential reports, McNamara knew the situation was “bad and deteriorating” in the South. “The VC have the initiative,” the information said. “Defeatism is gaining among the rural population, somewhat in the cities, and even among the soldiers.”

Lies like McNamara’s were the rule, not the exception, throughout America’s involvement in Vietnam. The lies were repeated to the public, to Congress, in closed-door hearings, in speeches and to the press. The real story might have remained unknown if, in 1967, McNamara had not commissioned a secret history based on classified documents — which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers.

By then, he knew that even with nearly 500,000 U.S. troops in theater, the war was at a stalemate. He created a research team to assemble and analyze Defense Department decision-making dating back to 1945. This was either quixotic or arrogant. As secretary of defense under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, McNamara was an architect of the war and implicated in the lies that were the bedrock of U.S. policy.

Daniel Ellsberg, an analyst on the study, eventually leaked portions of the report to The New York Times, which published excerpts in 1971. The revelations in the Pentagon Papers infuriated a country sick of the war, the body bags of young Americans, the photographs of Vietnamese civilians fleeing U.S. air attacks and the endless protests and counterprotests that were dividing the country as nothing had since the Civil War.

The lies revealed in the papers were of a generational scale, and, for much of the American public, this grand deception seeded a suspicion of government that is even more widespread today.

Officially titled “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force,” the papers filled 47 volumes, covering the administrations of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Johnson. Their 7,000 pages chronicled, in cold, bureaucratic language, how the United States got itself mired in a long, costly war in a small Southeast Asian country of questionable strategic importance.

They are an essential record of the first war the United States lost. For modern historians, they foreshadow the mindset and miscalculations that led the United States to fight the “forever wars” of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The original sin was the decision to support the French rulers in Vietnam. President Harry S. Truman subsidized their effort to take back their Indochina colonies. The Vietnamese nationalists were winning their fight for independence under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, a Communist. Ho had worked with the United States against Japan in World War II, but, in the Cold War, Washington recast him as the stalking horse for Soviet expansionism.

U.S. intelligence officers in the field said that was not the case, that they had found no evidence of a Soviet plot to take over Vietnam, much less Southeast Asia. As one State Department memo put it, “If there is a Moscow-directed conspiracy in Southeast Asia, Indochina is an anomaly.”

But with an eye on China, where the Communist Mao Zedong had won the civil war, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said defeating Vietnam’s Communists was essential “to block further Communist expansion in Asia.” If Vietnam became Communist, then the countries of Southeast Asia would fall like dominoes.

This belief in this domino theory was so strong that the United States broke with its European allies and refused to sign the 1954 Geneva Accords ending the French war. Instead, the United States continued the fight, giving full backing to Ngo Dinh Diem, the autocratic, anti-Communist leader of South Vietnam. Gen. J. Lawton Collins wrote from Vietnam, warning Eisenhower that Diem was an unpopular and incapable leader and should be replaced. If he was not, Collins wrote, “I recommend re-evaluation of our plans for assisting Southeast Asia.”

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles disagreed, writing in a cable included in the Pentagon Papers, “We have no other choice but continue our aid to Vietnam and support of Diem.”

Nine years and billions of American dollars later, Diem was still in power, and it fell to Kennedy to solve the long-predicted problem.

After facing down the Soviet Union in the Berlin crisis, Kennedy wanted to avoid any sign of Cold War fatigue and easily accepted McNamara’s counsel to deepen the U.S. commitment to Saigon. The secretary of defense wrote in one report, “The loss of South Vietnam would make pointless any further discussion about the importance of Southeast Asia to the Free World.”

The president increased U.S. military advisers tenfold and introduced helicopter missions. In return for the support, Kennedy wanted Diem to make democratic reforms. Diem refused.

A popular uprising in South Vietnam, led by Buddhist clerics, followed. Fearful of losing power as well, South Vietnamese generals secretly received American approval to overthrow Diem. Despite official denials, U.S. officials were deeply involved.

“Beginning in August of 1963, we variously authorized, sanctioned and encouraged the coup efforts …,” the Pentagon Papers revealed. “We maintained clandestine contact with them throughout the planning and execution of the coup and sought to review their operational plans.”

The coup ended with Diem’s killing and a deepening of American involvement in the war. As the authors of the papers concluded, “Our complicity in his overthrow heightened our responsibilities and our commitment.”

Three weeks later, Kennedy was assassinated, and the Vietnam issue fell to Johnson.

He had officials secretly draft a resolution for Congress to grant him the authority to fight in Vietnam without officially declaring war.

Missing was a pretext, a small-bore “Pearl Harbor” moment. That came Aug. 4, 1964, when the White House announced that the North Vietnamese had attacked the USS Maddox in international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin. This “attack,” though, was anything but unprovoked aggression. Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the head of U.S. forces in Vietnam, had commanded the South Vietnamese military while they staged clandestine raids on North Vietnamese islands. North Vietnamese PT boats fought back and had “mistaken Maddox for a South Vietnamese escort vessel,” according to a report. (Later investigations showed the attack never happened.)

Testifying before the Senate, McNamara lied, denying any American involvement in the Tonkin Gulf attacks: “Our Navy played absolutely no part in, was not associated with, was not aware of any South Vietnamese actions, if there were any.”

Three days after the announcement of the “incident,” the administration persuaded Congress to pass the Tonkin Gulf Resolution to approve and support “the determination of the president, as commander in chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression” — an expansion of the presidential power to wage war that is still used regularly. Johnson won the 1964 election in a landslide.

Seven months later, he sent combat troops to Vietnam without declaring war, a decision clad in lies. The initial deployment of 20,000 troops was described as “military support forces” under a “change of mission” to “permit their more active use” in Vietnam. Nothing new.

As the Pentagon Papers later showed, the Defense Department also revised its war aims: “70 percent to avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat … 20 percent to keep South Vietnam (and then adjacent) territory from Chinese hands, 10 percent to permit the people of South Vietnam to enjoy a better, freer way of life.”

Westmoreland considered the initial troop deployment a stopgap measure and requested 100,000 more. McNamara agreed. On July 20, 1965, he wrote in a memo that even though “the U.S. killed-in-action might be in the vicinity of 500 a month by the end of the year,” the general’s overall strategy was “likely to bring about a success in Vietnam.”

As the Pentagon Papers later put it, “Never again while he was secretary of defense would McNamara make so optimistic a statement about Vietnam — except in public.”

Fully disillusioned at last, McNamara argued in a 1967 memo to the president that more of the same — more troops, more bombing — would not win the war. In an about-face, he suggested that the United States declare victory and slowly withdraw.

And in a rare acknowledgment of the suffering of the Vietnamese people, he wrote, “The picture of the world’s greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1,000 noncombatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one.”

Johnson was furious and soon approved increasing the U.S. troop commitment to nearly 550,000. By year’s end, he had forced McNamara to resign, but the defense secretary had already commissioned the Pentagon Papers.

In 1968, Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection Vietnam had become his Waterloo. Nixon won the White House on the promise to bring peace to Vietnam. Instead, he expanded the war by invading Cambodia, which convinced Daniel Ellsberg that he had to leak the secret history.

After The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers on Sunday, June 13, 1971, the nation was stunned. The response ranged from horror to anger to disbelief. There was furor over the betrayal of national secrets. Opponents of the war felt vindicated. Veterans, especially those who had served multiple tours in Vietnam, were pained to discover that U.S. officials knew the war had been a failed proposition nearly from the beginning.

Convinced that Ellsberg posed a threat to Nixon’s reelection campaign, the White House approved an illegal break-in at the Beverly Hills, California, office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, hoping to find embarrassing confessions on file. The burglars — known as the Plumbers — found nothing, and got away undetected. The following June, when another such crew broke into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, they were caught.

The North Vietnamese mounted a final offensive, captured Saigon and won the war in April 1975. Three years later, Vietnam invaded Cambodia — another Communist country — and overthrew the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. That was the sole country Communist Vietnam ever invaded, forever undercutting the domino theory — the war’s foundational lie.


Civil War Sub Development

Today it is known that a lot of work was done on developing and deploying submarines on both sides of the Civil War. There is very little information available concerning these Civil War submarines to be found in official record. Why? To hide new developments from the enemy?

But the main reason is much more entertaining. Submarines were considered practically illegal.

Therefore, most submarine development carried on in the Confederacy was done under the direction of the Secret Service rather than under the direction of the Navy. As the war was coming to a close most records of southern submarine development were destroyed to protect those that had taken part. It was feared that anyone involved in the development of "Infernal Machines," as northerners were so fond of calling subs, would face harsher treatment than the average Confederate rebel.

This makes the Union's involvement in submarine development all the more entertaining. While publicly decrying undersea warfare, the U.S. Navy maintained its own submarine development and building program. For consistency, the Official Record from this time shows almost no involvement in such a program, and when a mention does appear it is accompanied by repeated calls for secrecy on the matter.

For these reasons, most of what we know about Civil War submarines does not come from official government records on the matter.

We do know, however, that the overall goal on the two sides was somewhat different. Most Union submarine development was done with the goal of clearing obstructed harbors, while most Confederate submarine development was done with the goal of breaking up the Union blockade.

There were several other Union subs developed, of which little is known. Although, at one point USN Admiral Dahlgren asked for the services of "3-4 submarines" to help clear Charleston Harbor of obstructions. This means the Admiral was either out of his mind, or the Union had several harbor clearing subs at their disposal. While there is no officially recorded response to this request, shortly thereafter, Confederates reported sighting a sub being towed into Charleston harbor and sliding beneath the surface.

A couple other northern subs that deserve mention, even though they did not see service in the civil war, are the Intelligent Whale and the Explorer. There is not room here for their stories but perhaps we will get to them later.

Meanwhile, in the south there were many efforts underway to build a sub to break up the Union blockade. First, there were "David" boats: long, narrow steamboats which ran awash with snorkel type smoke stacks and air intakes. These boats were largely ineffectual and not truly submarines.

As early as 1861 there were reports of experimental subs being tested in the harbors at New Orleans, Mobile, and Savannah. There were many different subs developed in the Confederacy, but the work of William Cheeney and Horace Hunley is most well known.

Cheeney worked in Richmond and had his subs attempting attacks as early as 1861. He continued to work on producing improved subs throughout the Civil War.

Hunley worked mainly in Mobile, Alabama, where he and his team built the Pioneer, Pioneer II, and Hunley. It is believed that they may have built and tested other subs as well. Interestingly, the Pioneer was the first submarine to be granted a letter of marque by the Confederate government. This basically allowed its private owners to legally attack enemy ships.

Overall, there is enough information available for historians to surmise that there must have been more than 20 submarines, from both sides, developed throughout the American Civil War.


Unraveling the historical lies on the Philippine-American War

LAST February 4 was the 122nd anniversary of the first shot fired during the Philippine-American War. As bad as the shooting war was the propaganda war that the Americans conducted on the Filipinos that all but obliterated this conflict in the memory of many until today. The three-year war, apart from its other effects, killed about 200,000 Filipinos. We only remember the so-called legacies of education and governance, which, although not small achievements for the Americans, also cast over our nation a culture of dependency that still affects us today.

One lie that was told to us was that the conflict was an insurrection, meaning that legally, under the Treaty of Paris, our revolutionaries were mere rebels under a nation that had legitimate jurisdiction over them. Hence it was called “The Philippine Insurrection against the United States.” But we already had a national revolutionary government since the beginning of the revolution in 1896, which was headed eventually by General Emilio Aguinaldo who proclaimed Philippine independence in 1898 on account of the many victories the revolutionaries were already gaining against the Spaniards. That conflict was a war between two independent sovereign nations.

Another lie would be that it was the Filipinos who started that war, that we were the first one to fire a shot against the Americans on the night of Feb. 4, 1899. Hearing this disinformation in the middle of the debate in the US Congress to ratify the Treaty of Paris, the undecided swung towards the pro-imperialists and ratified the treaty. Turns out the first shot came from the side of the volunteers of the United States.

But before that important incident, it was made to appear that the Americans did not have any intention to occupy the Philippines.

Three important original primary documents recently surfaced at the Leon Gallery that showed the duplicity that characterized the Americans’ dealings with the Philippine revolutionary government.

The first is a letter from the American General Wesley Merritt, general of the division of the Department of the Pacific and the 8th Army Corps, on Aug. 20, 1898 (curiously written by various scribes in Spanish), addressed to “General en Jefe de las Fuerzas Filipinas” but signed by him, proposing that Manila and environs should be jointly placed under the jurisdiction of both the American and Filipino forces.

This was seven days after the mock Battle of Manila when the Americans took over Intramuros after a fake battle with the Spaniards and giving the impression of recognizing the Filipinos’ revolutionary government, which at that time was trying to create a nation, the first time in 333 years that they could breathe the little air of freedom.

But a 22-page typewritten US Navy official report dated Nov. 23, 1898, tells of the Americans’ ship, Monadnock, reconnaissance of Filipino positions around Northern Luzon. This was happening even as the revolutionary government in Malolos had convened a Congress that was drafting the constitution that would create the “first constitutional democratic republic in Asia.” Previously published by historian Gregorio Zaide in his Documentary Sources in Philippine History, the US Navy report assessed the intelligence and education of the native Filipinos, and analyzes relations between the rich and poor, the military towards the civil class, church influences, the popularity of the aspiration for independence, attitudes towards the US, and how well were the Filipinos prepared to wage war on them.

And while President Emilio Aguinaldo continued to hope that America would recognize our soon-to-be-born Republic, on Nov. 30, 1898, Admiral George Dewey, the so-called “Hero of the Battle of Manila Bay,” signed a typewritten letter on the stationery of the “United States Naval Force on Asiatic Station” at the famous ship Olympia, addressed to Maj. Gen. Elwell S. Otis, the military governor in Manila: “It is to be hoped that we will soon receive instructions from Washington which will enable us to take some action in the premises. My ships are ready to move at a moment’s notice, and I hope that your troops will also be prepared, as in my judgment Iloilo and Cebu should be occupied at the earliest possible moment.”

The letter referred to their knowledge of a shipment of arms coming for the Philippine revolutionaries: “It appears to me also that the best way to prevent the importation of arms into the North is to occupy Aparri, and there will be vessels ready to convoy your troops whenever they can move.”

“I agree with you that the proposed shipment of arms will probably be attempted from Shanghai, but I hope we will be able to block that game.”

All of this proved that the decision to occupy the Philippines was taken despite the promises of the consuls Pratt and Wildman to Aguinaldo, and even before President William McKinley fell on his knees to pray for light and guidance on whether to annex the Philippines, and God supposedly answered in the affirmative.