View Full Version : Was war ever declared in the Civil War?
08-03-2002, 03:55 PM
Did either side actually officially declare war in the Civil War? Did Congress ever approve military action against the Confederacy? Or did Lincoln just order the army to start marching?
08-03-2002, 04:16 PM
War was never formally declared.
I believe that Lincoln officially took the legal position that the states had not actually withdrawn in a legal sense and that what the Union Army was fighting was civil disorder promoted by a certain element in the South.......a very tricky, technical turn of words.
08-03-2002, 04:18 PM
The southern state made declarations of succession from the Union and Abraham Lincols declared that they were in a state of rebellion and sent the troops.
President Johnson's proclamation of May 10, 1865, marked the actual close of hostilities; that of April 2, 1866, declared the insurrection at an end in all the States (save Texas); and of Aug. 20, 1866, gave notice of the resumption of civil government in the States which had seceded.
08-03-2002, 04:50 PM
If the North had declared war it would have given legitimacy to the Souths claim as a soveriegn nation.
08-03-2002, 05:58 PM
Secession, please. The rebellion was by those states that attempted to secede. They were not successful.
08-03-2002, 06:13 PM
A deceleration of war is a formal statement that a state of war exists between one legitimate State/Nation/Government and one or more legitimate States/Nations/Governments. The deceleration triggers all sorts of International Law stuff, like embargos of the opponent's exterior commerce. Without the deceleration the interference with international commerce, and the confiscation of another country's ships and their condemnation in a Prize Court with the sale proceeds going to the capturing government produces a causa belli (badly misspelled) and allows the injured government to take reprisals. Much of this was Britain's idea to legitimize its throwing its weight around during the Wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars when the Royal Navy and British commissioned privateers were raising hob with France's overseas trade--see, for example, the War of 1812 and Seaman's Rights.
During the American Civil War this got a little touchy since Lincoln's government was not about to acknowledge the C.S.A. to be a legitimate government, a prerequisite to a deceleration of war. At the same time Lincoln's government wanted to blockade the South's overseas trade, especially with Britain. In the end France (Napoleon III), which had ambitions in Mexico and Central America, was willing to jump in to support of the Confederacy if England would go in too. After the US Navy stopped a British mail steamer and took Confederate diplomates off it England was ready to go to war with the US. Popular history holds that the only thing that prevented war was the intervention of Prince Albert with the result that calmer heads prevailed. Other than that Albert's big contribution to history was fathering God knows how many children of Queen Victoria and the promotion of really bad art. One must assume that since she kept having kids after she had pretty well guaranteed the royal succussion, Victoria must have enjoyed the child making process and Albert.
Considering what a dog's breakfast the British made of the Crimean War in the 1850s and the Boer Wars, the threat of British intervention on the ground may not have been all that serious a threat. The ability of the Royal Navy to make hash of US commerce was a different matter. The British Navy cruising off Boston and New York and guarding ships carrying war materials to Charleston and cotton back to England may well have meant an independent South.
08-04-2002, 02:32 AM
At the risk of getting jingoistic, that's not exactly fair. Even in the British parked their armies in southern Canada, and even if the Yanks attacked & won battles, that would be a whole new front opened up.
With the combined British & French navies, not only would no supplies move by sea for the Union (and, as you note, cotton & arms from/ to the South would be uninterrupted) but the risk of shelling would divert further resources away from the front and into coastal shelling.
I'm not sure what it would do for support at home if the British Empire & France (& Mexico?) declared war. It might pull the North together, or it might convince them that the South was an independent nation and that the North had started a war (and not an internal police action).
Finally, I don't know if we would have been such a walk-over. Your fellows weren't the brightest of commanders either, and (dimly remembered schooling) IIRC there was some reform of the British Army after the Crimean War. The Boers are a whole different matter - we weren't used to fighting well-armed irregulars and weapons tech. had changed in their favour.
08-04-2002, 11:20 AM
Originally posted by Bromley
... we weren't used to fighting well-armed irregulars and weapons tech. had changed in their favour.
And, it seems to me, that weapons be damned, things are still favorable for irregular, hit-and-run forces who have the support of the indigenous population. This seems likely to remain the case unless you simply dill everyone in sight.
This appears to be a hard lesson for political and military leaders to absorb.
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