11/28/2022 0 Comments
Rebel "Pirates" in Panama
The steamer Salvador was the second failed attempt by the Confederacy to conduct privateering in the Pacific. Back in January, I posted the story of “Rebel Pirates” and the Chapman—the first futile effort. Let’s take a closer look at the second attempt, the rebel attempt to seize the merchant steamer Salvador, which was owned by the Panama Railroad Company. How confident these rebel “pirates” must have been. They had a secret plan, the required gear, and the approval of the Confederate government.
5/10/2022 0 Comments
Don’t Piss Off the French
President Lincoln never said it, but that was what he was thinking. One objective of Lincoln’s foreign policy was to deter European countries from recognizing the confederacy as a nation. This objective undoubtedly dissuaded Lincoln from enforcing the Monroe Doctrine when the French invaded Mexico in 1861; by June of 1863 the French occupied Mexico City and the Mexican President was on the run. A natural U.S. response would have been to support our republican neighbor’s effort to repel the European invaders. Instead, Lincoln chose to leave Mexico to its own means, so as not to push France into the rebel camp.
The Mexicans pleaded for arms, if not via outright aid, then through purchases. Mexican Ambassador Matías Romero’s purpose in Washington City was to convince the U.S. government to support the elected president of Mexico, Benito Juárez, and oppose Napoleon III’s military intervention in Mexico. Romero befriended the Lincolns—both Abraham and Mary—but was unable to convince President Lincoln to change his course. Romero shifted his attention to the U.S. Congress.
With Romero’s blessing, U.S. Senator James McDougall (Democrat, California) presented several resolutions condemning the French invasion and demanding U.S. aid to the Republic of Mexico. In the House, Congressmen John Kasson (Republican, Iowa) and Henry Davis (Republican, Maryland) objected to Lincoln’s cautious response to the French occupiers. Although these efforts garnered attention, in the end, they manifest neither in legislation nor military aid to Mexico.
An example of the passion that some Americans held on this issue is apparent in correspondence from Surveyor-General of California and Nevada (appointed by Lincoln in 1861) E. F. Beale, e.g., “do this act [stop the exportation of arms to Mexico], go and bury your dead infant in the same grave in which you will have buried Mexican independence. . . I implore you in the name of your party, of your own hopes and your country, in the name of republican institutions in the name of the great commons of America, who will assuredly impeach you to all posterity if you betray freedom in their name, and finally in the sacred catholic name of liberty itself to give these arms to Mexico.”
Similar to Romero’s campaign in Washington, was that of Plácido Vega in San Francisco. President Juárez dispatched General Vega to San Francisco to acquire weapons and funds for the Mexican Army. Vega sought to obtain arms, with mixed results, both openly and clandestinely. Vega openly declared his mission as “procuring the means necessary for repelling the usurpation of Maximilian in Mexico.” On one occasion, the Commander of the U.S. Department of the Pacific, Major General Irvin McDowell, advised Vega, “the seizure after you had attempted to secretly carry off the arms, were acts done in conformity to the most explicit and peremptory order of His Excellency the President himself.” Similarly, the U.S. Customs Collector in San Francisco, “informed General Vega of the existence of Executive orders forbidding the export, and stated the same would be enforced by me.”
What order were they referring to? On November 20, 1862, President Lincoln signed an Executive Order “Prohibiting the Export of Arms of Munitions of War.”
Washington City, November 20, 1862
Ordered, That no arms ammunition, or munitions of war be cleared or allowed to be exported from the United States until further order: that any clearances for arms, ammunition, or munitions of war issued heretofore by the Treasury Department be vacated if the articles have not passed without the United States, and the articles stopped; that the Secretary of War hold possession of the arms, etc., recently seized by his order at Rouses Point, bound for Canada.
The purpose of this order was to sustain the fragile neutrality of the European states, especially France and England. Although sympathetic to President Juárez and the Republic of Mexico, Lincoln and the Union could not afford to compel France to enter the American Civil War on the side of the “insurgents.”
On May 3, 1865, President Johnson rescinded the 1862 executive order prohibiting the exportation of arms, as well as the 1863 extension to livestock. The U.S. began providing overt and covert aid to Juárez. In 1866 and 1867, Napoleon withdrew French troops from Mexico. The Mexican “emperor” Maximilian was executed on May 19, 1867.
P.S. This research was completed while writing my second novel (to be published in 2022)
 Jason H. Silverman, “A Most Unlikely Friendship: Abraham Lincoln and Matias Romero,” January 26, 2017 (accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.lincolncottage.org/a-most-unlikely-friendship-abraham-lincoln-and-matias-romero).
 Marvin Goldwert, “Matías Romero and Congressional Opposition to Seward's Policy toward the French Intervention in Mexico,” The Americas, July, 1965, vol. 22, no. 1, pp 22-40. Senator McDougall’s resolutions were presented on January 19, 1863; January 11, 1864; March 22, 1864; and July 2, 1864.
 E.F. Beale letter to Charles James, July 16, 1864, (accessed May 10, 2022: https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/106/1090).
 Vega letter to Major General Irvin McDowell (Commander of the U.S. Department of the Pacific), November 2, 1864, (accessed May 10, 2022: https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/106/1038).
 McDowell letter to Vega, November 26, 1864, (accessed May 10, 2022: https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/106/1073).
 Charles James, Customs Collector, letter to McDowell, December 14, 1864 (accessed May 10, 2022: https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/106/1096).
 The American Presidency Project, UC Santa Barbara (accessed May 10, 2022: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/202686
 U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, Historical Documents (accessed 5/9/2022, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1863p1/pg_659).
 The American Presidency Project, UC Santa Barbara (accessed May 10, 2022: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/203194).
1/29/2022 0 Comments
Rebel “Pirates” in the Pacific
One inspiration for my second novel, California Rifles at Chattanooga, was the Confederate privateering effort in the Pacific. The rebel goal was to duplicate the success of commerce raiders in the Atlantic, notably, the Confederate States Ship (CSS) Alabama and CSS Shenandoah. In addition to just wreaking ordinary havoc on trade and business, the western theater offered a matchless prize—California gold. “The California steamers used to take about $2,000,000 in gold at every voyage in those days, sailing twice a month.”
After the attack on Fort Sumpter, U.S. officials were rightfully anxious about the California gold being shipped to northeastern banks via the Panamanian isthmus. In June 1861, the U.S. Consul in Panama warned Secretary of State Seward:
In the case of the U.S. merchant steamer Salvador, Confederate agents, disguised as passengers, boarded the vessel in Panama. At the direction of the Secretary of the Confederate Navy, their mission was to seize the vessel and convert it into a Confederate cruiser preying on American commerce in the Pacific. 
U.S. authorities learned of the plan and placed armed sailors and Marines on the steamer. The seizure was easily thwarted. During the subsequent trial, the Salvador conspirators boasted that they desired to share the honors of the rebel Navy that "had swept the ocean, lit battle fires in many a sea, and illumined the darkness of night with many a burning wreck." Mayhem and bounty were clearly their goals.
The earlier instance, that involving the two-mast Schooner Chapman, was the one that launched my story. On March 15, 1863, when the Chapman cast off from a pier in San Francisco, the manifest indicated the Chapman was taking machinery to the Port of Manzanillo, Mexico. In fact, the schooner was loaded with pirates and weapons and heading to the Island of Guadalupe, about 250 miles west of the Baja California peninsula, to await its prey. Jefferson Davis had issued a letter of marque authorizing the Chapman to attack, capture, and seize the cargo of Federal vessels.
According to Willard Farwell, the Treasury Department’s Naval Officer for the District of San Francisco, the Chapman enterprise was doomed from the outset. The shipbroker hired by the Confederate conspirators provided Farwell a daily report on the Chapman’s progress. Shortly after the Chapman cast off at 3 in the morning, it was met by a Union sloop-of-war and a tugboat full of police officers and revenue agents. Twenty-three conspirators were arrested. Two 12-pound cannons, small arms, swords, bowie knives, and uniforms were seized.
Although the rebel privateering initiatives in the Pacific failed, they are further evidence of the Confederacy’s intent to sway activity on America’s west coast. Confederate leaders, southern sympathizers, secessionists, and clandestine members of organizations such as the Knights of the Golden Circle, conceived a California far different than any that we could imagine today. --Mig
 The San Francisco Call, 3/8/1896, p. 23 (accessed on 1/28/2022, https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SFC18960308.2.198&e).
 Letter dated 6/14/1861 from Consul Amos B. Corwine to Secretary of State William H. Seward (accessed on 1/28/2022, https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/115/0360). Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series L Volume 3, Operations of the Cruisers (April 1, 1864-December 30, 1865), WPO 1896, p. 212.
 Dyer, Brainerd. “Confederate Naval and Privateering Activities in the Pacific.” Pacific Historical Review, vol. 3, no. 4, University of California Press, 1934, pp. 433–43 (accessed on 1/28/2022, https://www.jstor.org/stable/3633146).
 Letter dated 9/16/1865 from the Secretary of War to the President (accessed on 1/28/2022, https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/121/0751).
 Letter dated 3/24/1863 from Brigadier General G. Wright, Commanding, Department of the Pacific, to that Adjutant General of the Army, Washington, D.C., (accessed 1/28/2022, https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/106/0364).
 Asbury Harpending, The Great Diamond Hoax and Other Stirring Incidents in the Life of Asbury Harpending, 1913, pp 47-48.
 The San Francisco Call, 8 March 1896, p. 23 (accessed on 1/28/2022, https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SFC18960308.2.198&e).
The American Civil War marked a turning point in our nation's course toward liberty, individualism, and equality.
It was the first significant step in removing the black mark that stained America’s history—that is slavery. Although the framers of the U.S. Constitution wrestled with the future of this “peculiar institution,” ultimately, they chose to chose to tolerate it. Their hesitation contributed to the conflict that cost over half a million American lives and nearly shattered our union.
Whether you are a historian, political scientist, human rights defender, or just a plain ol' U.S. citizen, the American Civil War has significance to you. It demonstrated the commitment of a people to correct an institutionalized wrong. Although we can point to other catalysts for this war, slavery was the underlying cause.
Every American should have a fundamental understanding of our Civil War. This novel, "California Blood at Gettysburg," is intended to entertain while increasing knowledge of this pivotal point in our history. I hope that you enjoy the story and increase your knowledge of this pivotal point in American history. --Mig
My intent is to offer occasional short comments on my writing, our history, or your questions. Let me know what you think, Mig