1861-65 American Civil War - role of British Army officers

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1861-65 American Civil War - role of British Army officers

Postby Mark » 27 Sep 2008 14:46

Hi all

While reading a thread over on the British Medal Forum I was wondering what certain Victorian British Army officers were doing over in Amercia during the Civil War. I am guessing they were on some sort of attachment in an advisory or observational role and did not actually take an active part.

Can anyone supply any general information on this? Did British officers spend time with both sides or just the one and if so which? What exactly were they doing there?

Any info would be of interest.

Mark
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Re: British Army Officers in the American Civil War

Postby Eric CL » 17 Feb 2009 16:13

I have just found this on the BBC website, I hope it is of interest.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A1106678

Colonel Fremantle - An Englishman at Gettysburg

Although he had a distinguished career as a soldier and public servant, Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle (1835-1901) is best known to Americans as the unofficial British observer of the Battle of Gettysburg.

About the Man

Born in 1835, Fremantle came from a military family, and followed in his father's footsteps to join the Coldstream Guards. At the time of the American Civil War, he was assistant secretary to the Governor of Gibraltar. Although only a captain, due to his membership in the Household Division of the Guards he was entitled to be addressed as Lieutenant-Colonel.

Fremantle married in September 1863, and eventually rose in rank to General. He held several important military posts, among them Governor of Malta (1894-1899). He was knighted twice for his work, and eventually died in London in 1901.

The Voyage

In 1862, while serving in Gibraltar, Fremantle met Confederate politician Raphael Semmes and was fascinated by his tales of the American South. Accordingly, the next year he took a leave of absence to visit America on his own.

Fremantle arrived in Texas via Mexico in April 1863, and proceeded on a grand tour of the American South, visiting Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and eventually up to Virginia. Along the way, he encountered many prominent Civil War figures such as General Joe Johnston, Braxton Bragg, PT Beauregard, and President Jefferson Davis. Unlike other journalists and observers of the time, Fremantle got to know and became very good friends with many of the people he encountered.

By mid-June he was with the Army of Northern Virginia, travelling in company with Times of London reporter Charles Lawley. The two were among several observers with the Army to witness Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania.

Gettysburg

While he was able to witness living conditions in the ANV, Fremantle was only on the periphery of the Battle of Gettysburg (his hosts did not want a non-combatant at the forefront). He was able to observe some of the second day's action by climbing up a convenient tree, a fact remarked by General John B Hood several years later. On the third day, he caught the aftermath of the Southern forces' retreat from Pickett's Charge, as well as the reactions of Generals James Longstreet and Robert E Lee to the debacle.

Shortly afterwards, Fremantle left Lee's army to make his way through the North. (His status as a British citizen granted him safe passage.) He arrived in New York just in time to witness the Draft Riots, and sailed back to England, arriving on 15 July.

The Fremantle Diary


The following year, Fremantle published an account of his journey, based on entries from the diaries he kept during his voyage. It became a bestseller at the time, not only in Britain but in the Southern States as well. Fremantle had been charmed by the treatment he'd received from the Southerners and, despite his observations of rationing, politicking, and poor discipline in the Southern ranks, predicted a victory for the South. This was a much-needed morale booster for the Confederates, who were pleased with a sympathetic account of their troubles presented to the rest of the world.

Despite his erroneous conclusion, Fremantle's book has become a solid reference for Civil War historians and re-enactors because he makes several observations about the minutiae of life in the South, and in the Confederate army in particular.

Fremantle's book has been reprinted in recent years, most notably in 1954 as The Freemantle Diary: , edited and with a commentary by author Walter Lord. Fremantle appears as a character (who receives his own chapter) in Michael Shaara's Gettysburg novel The Killer Angels, and is portrayed onscreen by James Lancaster in the movie Gettysburg (1993). Lord's edition is currently published by Burford Books, ISBN 1-58080-085-8.
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Re: British Army Officers in the American Civil War

Postby 10thHussar » 17 Feb 2009 22:35

Can highly recomend the book. Great read.

'Three months in the southern states' Lt Col. Arthur Fremantle Available from AMAZON

Also another good read is Fitzgerald Ross 'Cities and Camps Of the Confederate States (Ross is mentioned in Fremantles book as they paired up a bit and vice versa) also available form Amazon.

INteresting as they both started their trips through teh confederacy from differant places, one from the north of teh continent and one from the south and met around Gettysburg and carried on seperately after, so you get to read the before and after from both accounts in the differant areas at differnat times. I.e while one is decrbiving events in northern virgina teh other was in texas and then vice versa.

Lee
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Re: British Army Officers in the American Civil War

Postby mike snook » 18 Feb 2009 08:34

Hello Mark

Garnet Wolseley also observed the ACW and spent time in the field with Lee and Longstreet. He thought very highly of Lee. I can recall reading something he wrote in which he said he had only two military heroes - Lee and Gordon.

The idea behind observing major wars of this kind, for non-participant countries, was to acquire lessons learned - in particular at this time, how the effects of modernised weapons technology were influencing battlefield tactics. Wolsleley wrote extensively about the ACW afterwards and you can also read of his adventures in Vol 1 of his autobiog - 'A Soldier's Life'. I cannot recall the title now but somebody in the US has published a compilation of his ACW writing in the not too distant past (by which I mean the last 20 years - I can't quote a year I'm afraid but some clever googling will soon find it I'm sure.)

From memory (as you know I am in Sudan at present and not in a position to cite chapter and verse) Wolseley had to travel to the south incognito in civilian clothes and so on. He had the help of a few contacts to do this.

The South always harboured the unrealistic hope that they might persuade the British to intervene on their side as relations with the US had been difficult over incidents various on the Canadian frontier (and other issues). Of course their achilles heel was the slavery issue - a huge stumbling block in terms of British support.

Yours as ever

Mike
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Re: British Army Officers in the American Civil War

Postby Mark » 18 Feb 2009 16:13

Thanks guys for your interesting replies. I find this topic fascinating for some unknown reason so will have a hunt for some of the publications mentioned.

Does anyone know if anyof these British officers received US campaign medals or similar - even though they were not actual participants?

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Re: British Army Officers in the American Civil War

Postby Eric CL » 18 Feb 2009 16:43

Unless I am mistaken, the US armed services did not have campaign medals until after the Spanish-American War (1898). The ones you can see on pictures of 19th C. US officers are rather veteran societies medals.

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Re: British Army Officers in the American Civil War

Postby Mark » 18 Feb 2009 16:49

Thanks Eric, that answers my question. I know nothing about US campaign medals so had no idea when they were instituted.

Mark :)
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Re: British Army Officers in the American Civil War

Postby Sabreur » 21 Feb 2009 03:48

I posted a quote from, and a link to an account of Sir Garnet Wolseley's visit to Generals Lee and Jackson. viewtopic.php?f=13&t=1177
The link in that post is to an online copy of the book.

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Re: 1861-65 American Civil War - role of British Army office

Postby Jonathan » 05 May 2012 18:21

While looking into sword use during the ACW I came across this book: Minty and the Cavalry: A History of Cavalry Campaigns in the Western Armies by Joseph G. Vale (1886). Minty was born in Ireland and served as an ensign in the British Army (1st West India Regiment) before moving to Canada, and then the US where he was commissioned as a major in the 2nd Michigan Cavalry. There is a good write up on him here.

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Re: 1861-65 American Civil War - role of British Army office

Postby Waggoner » 05 May 2012 19:42

As you may already know, there was a large reinforcement of British North America following the Trent Affair of 1861. Because matters were soon smoothed over, many officers were left with not much to do. So, many of them amused themselves by visiting the United States and observing the war. There should be several accounts of their visits published at the time.

All the best,

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Re: British Army Officers in the American Civil War

Postby Anthony » 05 May 2012 23:47

10thHussar wrote:Can highly recomend the book. Great read.

'Three months in the southern states' Lt Col. Arthur Fremantle Available from AMAZON

Also another good read is Fitzgerald Ross 'Cities and Camps Of the Confederate States (Ross is mentioned in Fremantles book as they paired up a bit and vice versa) also available form Amazon.

INteresting as they both started their trips through teh confederacy from differant places, one from the north of teh continent and one from the south and met around Gettysburg and carried on seperately after, so you get to read the before and after from both accounts in the differant areas at differnat times. I.e while one is decrbiving events in northern virgina teh other was in texas and then vice versa.

Lee

Fremantle, of course, appears in the novel The killer angles which was screened as the movie Gettysburg.
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Re: 1861-65 American Civil War - role of British Army office

Postby Mark » 19 Aug 2012 20:54

With the death of John Keegan I decided to buy his book on the US Civil War which has rekindled my interest in the above subject of British Army officers who were present during the conflict. If anyone can post any further information or point me in the direction of such please do let me know in this thread.

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Re: 1861-65 American Civil War - role of British Army office

Postby walrus » 11 Jan 2013 05:40

Hello,
I have just joined the forum and have looked at the British presence during the American Civil War question. Firstly, we should remember that history is written to the Victor. The Southerners refer to this time as the War of Northern Agression.
We are told that this agression toward the South stemmed from the Negro-slavery issue. We should note however, that the North (the Yankees) were the last English speaking nation to abolish Child-Slavery. It continued well after this period. The same trade continues in present day India for example. Northern aggression was noted by the British Secretary for War at the time of the conflict. General Drummond was despatched during this period, to investigate building fortifications across Canada( the same General, of Huguenot descent, who had fortified Britains Coastal defences prior to the 1860's) and then designed and implemented Australia's Coastal defences.
Both Canada and Australia had been claimed by the Americans at different times.
Last edited by walrus on 16 Apr 2013 06:43, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: British Army Officers in the American Civil War

Postby walrus » 16 Apr 2013 06:36

Hello,
Another fact which does not seem to attract much attention is that of the Russian Naval Fleets presence in New York harbour during the War. Still bitter over the Crimea losses, the Yankees quickly found an Ally with the Russians. Their combined Plan was to attack Britains Colonies (her Achilles heel) should she enter the War on the Side of the Southern States. This, of cause led to alarm in places such as Australia. The Russian threat persisted following the Civil wars end, eventually leading to General Drummonds dispatch to the Colonies to embark on Coastal Fortification implementations.


Garnet Wolseley also observed the ACW and spent time in the field with Lee and Longstreet. He thought very highly of Lee. I can recall reading something he wrote in which he said he had only two military heroes - Lee and Gordon.

The idea behind observing major wars of this kind, for non-participant countries, was to acquire lessons learned - in particular at this time, how the effects of modernised weapons technology were influencing battlefield tactics. Wolsleley wrote extensively about the ACW afterwards and you can also read of his adventures in Vol 1 of his autobiog - 'A Soldier's Life'. I cannot recall the title now but somebody in the US has published a compilation of his ACW writing in the not too distant past (by which I mean the last 20 years - I can't quote a year I'm afraid but some clever googling will soon find it I'm sure.)

From memory (as you know I am in Sudan at present and not in a position to cite chapter and verse) Wolseley had to travel to the south incognito in civilian clothes and so on. He had the help of a few contacts to do this.

The South always harboured the unrealistic hope that they might persuade the British to intervene on their side as relations with the US had been difficult over incidents various on the Canadian frontier (and other issues). Of course their achilles heel was the slavery issue - a huge stumbling block in terms of British support.

Yours as ever

Mike[/quote]
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Re: 1861-65 American Civil War - role of British Army office

Postby mconrad » 02 Jul 2014 19:55

walrus wrote:Hello,
I have just joined the forum and have looked at the British presence during the American Civil War question. Firstly, we should remember that history is written to the Victor. The Southerners refer to this time as the War of Northern Agression.
We are told that this agression toward the South stemmed from the Negro-slavery issue. We should note however, that the North (the Yankees) were the last English speaking nation to abolish Child-Slavery. It continued well after this period. The same trade continues in present day India for example. Northern aggression was noted by the British Secretary for War at the time of the conflict. General Drummond was despatched during this period, to investigate building fortifications across Canada( the same General, of Huguenot descent, who had fortified Britains Coastal defences prior to the 1860's) and then designed and implemented Australia's Coastal defences.
Both Canada and Australia had been claimed by the Americans at different times.


Southerns were using "northern aggression" extensively years BEFORE the war. From a Stephen A Douglas speech in 1854: "What war? What aggression has the North ever been concerned in? Sir, I am tired to death of this talk. What does the Senator from Tennessee think? Does he think that, by repeating over and over and over again “Northern aggression,...”

I googled GoogleBooks for the full term "War of Northern Aggression" and could not find any use before the 20th century.
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