THE CONFEDERATES AND MEXICO

Mexican leaders were well aware that the "Manifest Destiny" political movement to increase U. S. territorial acquisitions until the country stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean was one of the driving forces of the 1846 war with the United States. The end result was Mexico losing a third of its country's land. Most of the proponents of "Manifest Destiny" had been men from the South. In any dealings with the Americans from the North or South, the Mexicans were understandably on guard and wary.

Nevertheless, the Confederates, individually and as a government, developed certain proposals involving Mexico. Initially they were an extension of the "Manifest Destiny" thinking. The movement having come to fruition for the United States, there were those in the Confederacy who wanted the same thing for it. Some Confederates had grand designs of a republic that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific and then south into the Caribbean and Central America. Most interest was concentrated on the northern tier states of Mexico that bordered the United States and Texas.

As the war went against the South, other Confederates began to think of ways to have the French in Mexico form a French Protectorate for the Confederates States or at the very least for Texas. This desperate thinking gave way to Confederates just looking for a place to live to build new lives after the loss of the Confederacy.

Below are just a few of the schemes and proposals a little research has turned up.

In May 1861, Robert Toombs, the Confederate Secretary of State sent a Mr. J. T. Pinkett to representatives of the Juarez government to see if there was any interest in forming an alliance against a mutual enemy, the United States of America . Mr. Pinkett was also to inquire as to the interest in a trade treaty. Another aspect of his mission was to feel out the Mexicans on the possible recruitment of privateers to attack Union ships and failing that to determine if Mexico would allow Confederate ships to take captured prizes to Mexican ports.

While he was in Mexico, Pinkett learned of the request of the United States was making of Mexico to allow U. S. troops to cross over Mexican territory to deploy against Confederate forces. When it was granted, Pickett let it be known if it was not immediately rescinded that Mexico would lose Tamaulipas in 60 days.

In January of 1861, Jefferson Davis sent a Mr. J. H. Quintero to Monterey, Coahuila to meet with Santiago Vidaurri a man with great influence in the province and neighboring provinces. Quintero was asked to attempt to obtain Vidaurri's cooperation in providing arms and ammunition to the CSA. A secondary mission was to organize an effort to have the leaders of the northern tier Mexican provinces resist allowing U. S. forces permission to cross their territory.

< J. H. Quintero...............................Santiago Vidaurri >

 

 

In January of 1862, General Sibley, Commander of Confederate forces in New Mexico, sent Colonel James Reily to meet with a Mr. Terrazas in Chihuahua with a similar request as that of Mr. Quintero made of Viadurri plus permission to pursue Indians across the border. Colonel Reily wrote John H. Reagan " we must have Sonora and Chihuahua…with Sonora and Chihuahua we gain Lower California." Such was his reception in Chihuahua, that Reily wrote to General Sibley congratulating him in obtaining the first recognition of the CSA by a representative of a foreign government.

Later in 1862, the French Consul in Galveston, a Monsieur Theron, conveyed to the Governor of Texas the suggestion that Texas consider withdrawing from the CSA and seek a protectorate status from France.

In September of 1863, General E. Kirby Smith, Confederate Commander in Texas sent a message to the CSA representative to the French in Paris, that if the French do not intervene soon on behalf of Texas, they will have a surely neighbor of Union forces on their northern border (Texas).

On October 27, 1863 Major John Tyler assigned with Confederate troops in Arkansas and the son of the former President of the United States, John Tyler, traveled to Texas to meet with Governor Lubbock and Governor Elect Murrah. His message was that if Texas would initiate a request for France to support certain guarantees that were found in the Louisiana Purchase Treaty of 1803, on the assumption that Texas was a part of the Louisiana territory, that France might be able to intervene on behalf of Texas rather than allow it to be occupied by Union troops.

In fact there is evidence that Texas was considered by the French to be a part of the Louisiana Purchase. A secret treaty was signed in 1762 between the two Bourbon Kings of Spain and France recognizing the Rio del Norte (Rio Grande) as the western most boundary of Louisiana. The importance of this treaty was overlooked by the events of just months later when France ceded Louisiana to Spain. When Spain gave Louisiana back to France and then three years later when France sold Louisiana to the United States. A copy of the secret boundary treaty was found in Mexican archives of the Spanish colonial period when the Vice Royalty was informed of the treaty. When Spain gave back to France in 1800 the boundary language in the Treaty of San Ildefonso was:

the colony or province of Louisiana, with the same extent that it now has in the hands of Spain and that it had when France possessed it, and such as it ought to be according to the treaties subsequently concluded between Spain and other states.

It was generally believed by many that Marshal Bazaine, Commander of French forces in Mexico, had instructions to seek suitable opportunities to infer French protection for Texas to Texas leaders.

Later in December of 1863, General Almonte, Commander of Imperial forces in Mexico was asking the CSA to send a representative of their government to his location so that the Imperialist could formally recognize the CSA. CSA Secretary of State, Judah P. Benjamin sent General William Preston to present to Maximillian a ten year alliance against the United States. Napoleon III was unwilling to risk the possible acquiescence of the United States to French domination of Mexico, thus Maximillian ducked receiving General Preston and nothing came ofit.

William McKendree Gwin, shown to the left, was the son of a Welshman. His father was a friend of Andrew Jackson and commanded 1400 riflemen at the Battle of New Orleans. William Gwin, who was born in Tennessee, first studied to be a lawyer but then changed his course of study for medicine and became a doctor and settled in Missippi. During President Jackson's first term, he was President Jackson's personal secretary. He left government work to return to medicine in Missippi. In 1833, President Jackson appointed him a U. S. Marshal in Missippi. Gwin was introduced to Mary Bell who would become his wife by Sam Houston. Together they operated a very large and successful plantation in Mississippi. In 1841 William Gwin was elected to the House of Representatives from Missippi. In 1843 he lost his seat to Jefferson Davis, mostly because Gwin did not support states rights. He went to California to organize the Democratic party there, Gwin eventually became one of its Senators (1849). Gwin was responsible for the founding of the famous Pony Express established to carry mail from Saint Jo Missouri to San Francisco. Then came the American Civil War or the War Between the States or as other southern leaders called it the War of Northern Agression. A U. S. Senator from California and a southerner who did not support secession, Gwin was surprised when on a trip to New York in 1861 he was arrested as a southern sympathizer. President Lincoln personally inervened to have him released.

Former Senator William M. Gwin of California was in Paris in 1863 seeking approval for a plan involving a mining colony in Sonora and Chihuahua. It is known he met with high officials in the French government including Napoleon III. He proposed that the territory of the proposed settlement was to be a department governed by military and municipal law. The French government was to furnish competent military protection to immigrants coming to the colony, and a Director-in-Chief of Colonization (Gwin) was to be appointed by the Emperor. He apparently had the plan approved at the highest levels. The French were interested to have a buffer between their Mexican protectorate and the United States. In the Summer of 1864, he was in Mexico trying to set the colony up , "by the whole power of the French Government and the Mexican Imperial Government about to be established, and by direct orders to the French general in Mexico, to give him what military aid he might require to lay the foundation".

It is felt it was a Confederate program because of correspondence like the following between John Slidell, the Confederate Minister in Paris and the CSA Secretary of State, Judah P. Benjamin. Slidell had been helping Gwin with appointments in the French government. On June 2, 1864, Slidell wrote that Gwin was on the way to Mexico where he intended to colonize Sonora with persons of southern birth or sympathies, and that he thought the project would, if carried out, be beneficial to the Confederacy. During the same month General Preston wrote Jefferson Davis from Havana to the effect that Gwin was very anxious to secure friendly relations between Mexico, and the Confederacy, since his scheme depended upon the emigration of southern men from California. Accordingly, Gwin was expected to get Maximilian to recognize the Southern Government.

A writer for the New Orleans Times wrote - "as director general of immigration from Sonora, Chihuahua, Durango, and Tamaulipas, with extra-ordinary powers and eight thousand French troops to back him. The emigration is to be strictly Southern, or Confederate. Ten thousand confederates are to be armed and paid by the empire, but kept in the above-mentioned states as protection to the emigrants. Strategical points are to be fortified and garrisoned on the frontier. Dr. Gwin's son has applied for and will get an exclusive privilege for all the railroads in Sonora. The southerners are elate and golden visions float before them."

Apparently convincing the French court was only half the problem, because Gwin was unable to convince the court of Maximillian. Intransigience by Maximillian and his inability to act on the proposal killed it. Maximillian feared that Gwin after establishing the colony, would give the territory to the CSA. Frustrated, Gwin took up a position on a major crossing point into Mexico on the Rio Grande in July, 1865 to warn all Confederates not to enter Mexico. After which he returned to California to a successful career in investments and mining.

In December of 1864, President Lincoln sent Francis P. Blair to Jefferson Davis. The Blair project, as it was called, was for the two adversaries to cease hostilities so the two armies could join forces to enforce the Monroe Doctrine against Napoleon III and defeat his design to control the continent. The point was made that if the current war was continued it only weakens, the survivor's ability to stop the French. The plan was for the Confederate army to withdraw to the Texas border and join with Juarez and remove the Imperial forces from Mexico and ultimately bring Mexico into the Union.

Jefferson Davis was listening but subsequent and immediate events over took any chance for him to act on it.

As the confederacy was collapsing many Confederate officers with means were making plans to escape to a plantation life in Mexico, or organizing a colony for Confederates to keep alive the ideals of the CSA. Others had more desperate survival plans. After Appomattox, the Confederates of the Trans Mississippi attempted to organize a force of 15, 000 men in Marshall, Texas for an invasion of Mexico.

On March 11, 1865, Major General Lew Wallace acting as an unofficial representative from U. S. Grant and President Abraham Lincoln met with Confederate Brigadier General John Slaughter and Colonel John Ford at Port Isabel. Brigadier General E. J. Davis of the Texas Second Cavalry was also involved. Wallace offered Texas a separate peace so the Union and Texas, as well as other states west of the Mississippi, could show a united front to French dominated Mexico. Texas troops were to keep their arms in case of problems with the French. Ford liked the offer. The offer was forwarded up the chain of command by Slaughter and quickly came back. It got no further than Major General John George Walker whose mother was the former Sarah Caffery. Walker was Commander of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. His response is below:

It would be folly in me to pretend that we are not tired of a war that has sown sorrow and desolation over our land; but we will accept no other than an honorable peace.

With 300,000 men yet in the field, we would be the most abject of mankind if we should now basely yield all that we have been contending for during the last four years, namely, nationality and the rights of self- government.

With the blessings of God we will yet achieve these, and extort from your government all that we ask. . . .

Walker reprimanded the two officers for talking to the enemy.It is possible Texas would have avoided the pains of Reconstruction had the offer been accepted.

As there were increasing signs that there was a secret alliance between Texas senior commanders and Imperial forces in Mexico, General Wallace abandoned the idea.

THE CONFEDERATES AND CANADA

At the time of the Civil War, Canada did not yet exist. The territory was called by one British source "the remaining British Colonies of North America". Officially the territory was composed of seven colonies and called British North America, BNA for short. England took a neutral position during the war. Its colonies in British North America and in the Atlantic (Bermuda and The Bahamas) and Caribbean were expected to do the same. Both sides in the American Civil War courted England to throw its weight their way. England and all its colonies were opposed to slavery and so it would appear they might be placed automatically in the Union's camp. But there were many in the British government and populace at large that would like to have seen the United States reduced in more ways than one. England did sway one way and then the other and then another.The fact that England chose to be neutral rankled the Union and that in turn brought a negative reaction from the English who felt fully entitled to making their own decision without undue influence. Problems were made worse between the two by two incidents at sea and an unofficial Southern favored trade policy.


The first incident was called the Trent Affair and occurred in November of 1861.


The TRENT AFFAIR


President Jefferson Davis of the Confederate States of America appointed James M. Mason of Virginia to be the CSA Minister to England and John Slidell of Louisiana to be CSA Minister to France in an attempt to gain support and recognition from the countries they were to visit. The two, with their secretaries had succeeded in getting to Havana, Cuba aboard a blockade runner. There they boarded a British mail steamer, the RMS Trent for passage to Europe. At sea, on November 8, 1861, the USS Jacinto, in violation of international laws, stopped the British mail packet. U. S. sailors under the orders of Captain Charles Wilkes, Commander of the U. S. S San Jacinto, boarded the RMS Trent and arrested the two Confederate diplomats and their secretaries and took them into custody aboard the U. S. S. San Jacinto and made for Boston where they were to be placed in the city jail awaiting transfer to Fort Warren.

A depiction of the Trent Affair in Harper's Weekly, November,1861

The English took the incident as an insult to the British flag, ship and country and also quickly pointed out it was a violation of international maritime law. The incident very nearly led to a war between England and the United States with France offering to support England in the event of a war.
The British Colonies in North America, in particular, felt the possible effects of it all and began to plan for a U. S. invasion. The Minister of Militia and Defence, John A. Macdonald doubled the militia forces of BNA from 50,000 to 100,000. Nova Scotia, alone, trained and armed 45,000 men. Great Britain developed a full set of plans for a war with the United States. These included defense of the southern BNA frontier until more troops from England could be deployed and pre-emptive strikes at vulnerable U. S. Navy targets by the Royal Navy.

The whole incident was diffused by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, who quite literally just before he died was able to soften the bellicose ultimatum that was being prepared to be sent to U. S. authorities demanding apologies, release of the prisoners and damages - to a more reasonably worded statement that the Lincoln Administration was able to accede to and avoid the war. Lincoln called it his - one war at a time policy.

On Christmas Day, the prisoners were released and tension eased somewhat but England, and more certainly its North American colonies were on alert and ready to react over any other belligerent acts on the part of the Union Navy or Army. The next incident came two years later and immediately brought forward all the previously felt anxieties. It was called the Chesapeake Affair.

The CHESAPEAKE AFFAIR

In December of 1863, a Confederate Navy prize crew brought the captured the U. S. Navy ship Chesapeake into Sambro harbor in Nova Scotia, BNA. The Chesapeake had left Portland, Maine for Halifax when it was captured. Two local (from Nova Scotia) engineers were asked to come aboard the ship after it docked to assess a problem they were asked to look at. The ship was also in the process of receiving coal from a local (Nova Scotia) schooner. A U. S. Navy gunship, the Ella and Anna suddenly came into the harbor and closed on the Cheasapeake. The Confederate crew was able to get on shore before the Chesapeake was boarded by Union sailors. They took the two engineers and placed them in irons on the Ella and Anna as well as another person hauled off the Nova Scotian coaling schooner and some trunks. The Chesapeake was then sailed in company with the Ella and Anna to meet with the U. S. warship, the Dacotah. All three ships then entered Halifax harbor in Nova Scotia. No reports were made by the Union ships to the local authorities. The local authorities sent a demand that was forwarded to the officer in command (a Commander Cleary of the Dacotah), to state the names of the ships under his command -- the object of their visit, and the circumstances under which the steamer Chesapeake had been taken out of the harbour of Sambro and brought here by men-of-war belonging to the United States Navy.

Further, under what justification had a man been forcibly taken from a British schooner in a British port, and was illegally being held a prisoner on board one of these vessels, together with two other local men?

The High Sheriff of Halifax, J.J. Sawyer, Esq, then informed Commander Cleary he would be in attendance on the Queen's wharf at one o'clock the next day to receive the men; and that Capt. O'Brien, of the Revenue schooner Daring, would take formal charge of the steamer Chesapeake, on behalf of the Queen's Representative.

It was learned that the man taken from the coaling schooner was one of the Confederates named Wade. The U. S. Navy made arrangements with the local American Consul for other Nova Scotian authorities to take the man a prisoner immediately after he was released to the High Sheriff to be held for extradition to the United States. What happened next is best reported using the official newspaper report from the Halifax newspaper, The British Colonist:

Accordingly, the Chesapeake was delivered over to Captain O'Brien; and a boat arrived from the Ella and Anna with the three men. They were marched up the slip closely guarded and handcuffed, in which condition the High Sheriff refused to receive them, when the irons were removed by the officer in charge, and the Sheriff, after reading the necessary documents pronounced the men free.

Immediately following this proceeding a scene occurred, which, as it is the subject of a good deal of comment, and caused a great deal of excitement, we shall describe particularly. During the proceedings, no one gave any attention to a boat which tossed about in the chop at the slip, in which sat two men who might have been attracted to the spot from the fish-market slip just opposite. The moment the Sheriff pronounced the men free, a gentleman who had placed himself during the reading of the documents, close beside Wade, told the latter to jump into the boat, and before anybody could realize what was going on the boat was two or three lengths of herself from the wharf. At this instant a policeman dashed through the crowd and shouted to the men in the boat to stop or he would shoot them dead, at the same time drawing a pistol from his pocket. Two or three gentlemen interfered and obstructed the policeman, and the boat, with Wade in it, escaped.

Most every BNA colonist enjoyed in Confederate Wade's escape but the fact that a U. S. warship would swoop into one of their harbors and seize what and whomever they pleased without offering any reason or explanation went a long way in bending more minds toward the South.

Those were the incidents. Because of them, a lot of British colonists saw a U S invasion of Canada, especially if the U. S. declared war on England, a real possiblilty. Another reason could be because of the illicit trade Britain was financing. This included the building, in British shipyards, of the Confederate warships the Alabama, the Florida and the Alexandria as well as the Laird Rams and the continuing unofficial British underwriting of the blockade runners who were operating from Halifax, Bermuda and Nassau - all British territories.

There was another ship built by the English in Confederate service that is a part of this story. She was a former blockade runner (Atlanta) purchased by the Confederate Navy. She was commissioned as the C. C. S. Tallahassee. The Tallahassee, shown in the painting to the right, was commanded by John Taylor Wood, the grandson of President Zachary Taylor and nephew of Jefferson Davis. Wood, a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, left the United States' Navy and joined the Confederate Navy. He is shown to the left. John Taylor Wood was a unique person who rose rapidly in the Confederate ranks both militarily and politically. He was served on the deck of the C. S. S. Virginia (Merrimac) in the famous battle of ironclads, and became famous for his coastal raids on federal shipping and ports. He was one the few in the Confederacy to hold the dual rank of a Colonel in the Confederate Army and a Captain in the Confederate Navy. In August of 1864 he was the captain of the Tallahassee when it tallied 26 Union vessels destroyed and seven captured. He put the ship in to Halifax to take on coal and water. Two US warships (U. S. S. Nansemond and Huron) were close behind and dropped anchor in the main harbor channel to block any escape effort. This effectively closed Halifax harbor and was not appreciated by the Nova Scotians. A local pilot, Jock Fleming, took it upon himself to take the Tallahassee out through what had been thought to be an impassable channel in the dark of night. He was successful and the Tallahassee quickly got by the two warships pointed the wrong way and returned to sea to prey on more Union ships. Fleming became a local legend for steering the 500 ton steamship through what was believed by all to be a too narrow and shallow a channel and for showing up the Yankees.

The issue of the trade between the British and the South has already been addressed earlier in the text but it needs to be remembered in the context of BNA, Bermuda, Bahama, and English ship building ports with respect to their support of the South versus the North. Even those who were not particularly openly in support of the South tended to become lukewarm sympathizers of the South given their guardedness about Union aggression versus the urbane, southern gentleman types the CSA was sending to BNA, Bermuda and the Bahamas to conduct its business.

The Confederate operations out of or involving Halifax mostly worked to their favor such as the taking of the Chesapeake and the escape of the Tallahassee. There was also an earlier raid in the harbor in Portland, Maine in which Confederates out of Halifax captured the U. S. Revenue cutter, Caleb Cushing and had planned to take it to Nova Scotia. This operation was stopped when Maine locals surrounded the Caleb Cushing with their own boats blocking any escape route. The rebels were forced to burn and scuttle their prize.

But these acts pale to what emerged from Confederate plans out of groups headquartered in hotels in Montreal and Toronto in the Spring and Fall of 1864. The Confederate Congress secretly passed an appropriations bill to fund acts of sabotage in February of 1864. Perpetrators were to receive cash amounts equal to the damage for which they could claim responsibility. Confederate operations thus funded in and out of BNA were of such a nature that the tide of public opinion would again turn away from the South.

A large amount of this money went into operations to support what became known then as the Northwest Conspiracy. It is a bit of a misnomer today as they were talking about what is now the American Midwest. It was estimated by the Confederates that 40 percent of the population of those living in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois were originally from the South. Using an already existing secret society, the Knights of The Golden Circle which had evolved into the American Order of Knights and then to the anti-Union, anti-abolition Order of the Sons of Liberty, they planned to raise an insurrection in the Northwest. The Sons of Liberty were Peace Democrats who opposed the draft and called for the immediate end to the Civil War. An Ohio government official estimated that between eighty thousand and 110,000 Ohioans belonged to the organization at its peak. Southerners, Southern sympathizers and anti government members were recruited for the impending up rising. The Sons of Liberty members wore on their lapels the head of Liberty cut from a copper penny. They participated in many anti-Union demonstrations that evolved into more serious activities against the Union. Unionists called them Copperheads for the copper on their lapel and for the poisonous snake that often struck without warning or provocation.


While much of the money was used for recruiting in the states mentioned and in guerilla actions the impetus of the "Northwest Conspiracy" was to come from actions out of Toronto. the Toronto Confederate operation was headed by Confederate Captain Thomas Henry Hines, shown to the left, and Jacob Thompson, shown to the right. Thompson had been the Secretary of the Interior in James Buchanan's administration and was a former Governor of Mississippi. Hines had participated earlier in the guerilla raids of Morgan's Raiders in Kentucky and Tennessee. In the course of these raids he came into contact with people from the target area of the "Northwest". It was the goal of Captain Hines, and his civilian counterpart Thompson, to not merely sabotage the Union, but to raise an insurrection that would, he had said, turn the Northwest against the Union and help bring an end to the war in a way favorable to the South.

 

 

Drawing of the Union Prison for Confederate prisoners at Johnson's Island

There was a large Union prisoner of war camp on Johnson's Island in Sandusky Bay on Lake Erie not far from Sandusky, Ohio and not far from the border with BNA. It was the plan of Captain Hines and others to capture a couple of Lake Erie steamers or ferries and use them to board the only US warship on the lake, the U. S. S. Michigan. The Michigan is shown protecting the fort in the drawing. There was only one U. S. warship on the lake because of a treaty with England wherein the U. S. agreed to maintain only one warship in Lake Erie. With the Michigan in Confederate hands, they would then attack the minimal Union troops guarding the Confederate officer prisoners at Johnson Island. After taking control of the island they would arm and release the 3, 000 Confederate prisoners who would then join with elements from the Sons of Liberty organization to begin the insurrection in the Northwest states. One of the Confederate leaders claimed there were 300,000 Sons of Liberty ready to join the insurrection. One of the stated goals of the insurrection was to go into the other states and release Confederate POWs held there so as to grow their numbers. Camp Chase in Ohio was a stated goal. Camp Chase was located near Columbus, Ohio and had as many as 9,000 prsioners.

Coordination of the far flung Toronto operation with the Confederate government in Richmond Virginia was done mostly by couriers. One of the Confederate couriers, Richard Montgomery, was a double agent. Enroute to and from Toronto, he would provide Washington D. C. the dispatches he was carrying so they could be copied and deciphered. In this way the Union was very much aware of the Confederate plans.


The attack was begun by the Confederates on the morning of September 19, 1864. John Yeates Beall, shown on the right, and twenty Confederates boarded a small steamer at Detroit, the Philo Parsons, that, after making stops on both sides of the border area would dock at Sandusky.

Beall, pronounced "Bell" was of Scottish heritage. A list of some of the men is provided below, note the Celtic names among them:

J. S. Riley, M.D.
H. B. Barkley
R. F. Smith
David H. Ross
R. B. Drake
James Brotherton
M. H. Duncan
W. B. King
Joseph Y. Clark
Wm. Byland
Robert G. Harris
W. C. Colt
Tom S. Major
U. S. Johnson John Bristol
F. H. Thomas
J. G. Odoer


 

 

 

 

 

The ship made its regular stops at North, South, and Middle Bass Islands, and also at Kelley's Island. These Lake Erie islands are located just north of Sandusky. After leaving Kelley's Island the conspirators overpowered the crew and took control of the Philo Parsons. As per the plan, the steamer remained on course for Sandusky Bay until, at 5:00 P.M., the conspirators observed the U.S. Gunboat Michigan, 14 guns, anchored near Johnson's Island. Beall was informed that there was insufficient fuel to carry out the entire plan, so he decided to return to Middle Bass Island to take on more wood. Approaching Middle Bass, the conspirators encountered another vessel, the small steamer Island Queen which was also taking on wood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Island Queen was seized and her stunned passengers and crew were put ashore on Middle Bass Island along with those from the Philo Parsons. After filling the Philo Parson's wood bunkers, Beall and his crew again set out for Sandusky Bay, towing the Island Queen astern. The set the Island Queen adrift to sink after opening some valves. It was now dark and they were in position to attack the Michigan with grenades and grappling hooks.

 

 

On board the U. S. S. Michigan, which had been alerted to the plan, was a full complement of Union troops. They planned to allow the rebels to board the ship and then spring the trap so as to capture all the rebels. But the rebels had a spy of their own who was to send a visible signal from the Michigan that all was in readiness for a successful attack. Confederate Captain Charles H. Cole had been in Sandusky for the past two months posing as a banker and entertaining the officers of the Michigan. He was provided the money by the Confederate government. He threw lavish parties. He was to have gotten himself aboard on the appointed day. Cole reported progress to Thompson; he felt that his part of the job was succeeding and that the officers who could not be bribed could be rendered helpless by being drugged at a wine party on board the gunboat on the night of the capture. Cole was to give a signal that all was going according to plan on the Michigan but he was found out and arrested without the Union officers knowing anything about the signal. The Confederates on the Philo Parsons began to get anxious as they stood off from the Michigan awaiting the signal that never came. They elected to stand down and call off the attack, sailing back to Canada.

A second attempt was planned, this time the boarders would be armed with more than grenades and grappling hooks. Not far from Toronto in Guelph, Ontario, was an iron foundry. It was started by a Scottish immigrant, Adam Robertson, in 1852. He together with others including his Scottish born cousin, Bennett Burley, who was also a Confederate officer, made some cannon and cannon balls for John Yeats Beall. The plan was the same with one major change. The Confederates would buy a large lake steamer and then arm it with the cannon from the foundry to take on the Michigan. Jacob Thompson bought the steamer Georgian on November 1, 1864.

 

Originally built for lumber loads, she could carry heavy loads at a shallow draft. Besides arming her with cannon the Confederates planned to reinforce her bow to be used as a ram against wooden ships. It seems as if everyone knew the plan. When the Georgian arrived in Buffalo, New York for some work, the mayor there sent the U. S. Navy a telegram stating the Georgian was to "be armed on the Canada shore for the purpose of encountering the USS MICHIGAN and for piratical and predatory purposes." With that kind of notoriety how could the plan proceed? Thompson wrote Benjamin "She had scarcely been transferred when the story went abroad that she had been purchased and armed for the purpose of sinking the Michigan, releasing the prisoners on Johnson's Island, and destroying the shipping on the Lakes and the cities on their margin. The wildest consternation prevailed in all the boarder cities. At Buffalo two tugs had cannon placed on board; four regiments of soldiers were sent there - two of them represented to have been drawn from the Army of Virginia; bells were rung at Detroit, and churches broken up on Sunday. The whole lake shore was a scene of wild excitement. Boats were sent out, which boarded the Georgian and found nothing contraband on board; but still the people were incredulous. "

Thompson continued in his report to Richmond - "The bane and curse of carrying out anything in this country is the surveillance under which we act. Detectives, or those ready to give information, stand at every street corner.

Canadian authorities seized the Georgian on April 6, 1865. On board they found documents making reference to "Greek fire" and the intended use of an armed crew to attack American ships on the lake.

While this plan was foundering others were underway. A friend of Bealls came to visit him at the hotel in Toronto. His friend was the actor John Wilkes Booth. Booth and Beal had known each other since they were together in school. Through the years they visited each other often. Booth was party to a plan to kidnap Abraham Lincoln. The plan was to take Lincoln to Richmond and hold him there until the Union agreed to release Confederate prisoners in Union prisons.This operation was being planned for the Spring of 1865. By March, 1865 the plot to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln was expanded to include Vice-President Elect Andrew Johnson and General U. S. Grant.

Meanwhile the Confederates who were operating from the St. Lawrence Hall Hotel in Montreal launched an invasion into the United States. It was a raid into St. Albans, Vermont and took place one month after the attempt to attack the Michigan. The Montreal Confederates were led by Clement Claiborne Clay, a former US and Confederate Senator from Alabama. He recruited a Confederate Lieutenant, Bennett Henderson Young shown at the left, to lead the raid. Young was from Kentucky and was an eighteen year old with Morgan's Raiders who were captured in 1863 in their raid through Indiana and Ohio. He was taken to Camp Douglas near Chicago. Young escaped from the prison into BNA. He returned to Kentucky where he was promoted to Lieutenant and sent back to BNA to participate in the secret missions there. Lt. Bennett H. Young led the Confederate raid on St. Albans on October 19, 1864.. The raiders, in Confederate uniforms, robbed all three banks in the town, burned several houses, caused the death of one person and harmed many others and then changed into civilian clothes and escaped across the border with a quarter million dollars. There were orders issued to a U. S. Army unit to pursue the raiders into BNA and eliminate them. Fortunately, President Lincoln countermanded that order. Had this been done, it would have again stirred the issues raised by the Trent and Chesapeake Affairs and probably brought England into the war against the Union. But, quick action by the BNA officals rounded up all the raiders and placed them in jail awaiting a trial.

As mentioned, the Toronto group ran into some problems with the Georgian and their alternate plan to release the Confederate prisoners on Johnson Island and began to focus on another prison camp, Camp Douglas, in Chicago.

Originally, it was planned to do the Johnson Island and Camp Douglas attacks simultaneously, so that many more Confederate prisoners would mix with the Sons of Liberty to begin the long awaited insurrection. But it was if the Union Army knew of their plans. Agents and bands of men kept getting arrested. Even the BNA colonists were beginning to impede the Confederates ever since the St. Alban's Raid. The colonists were embarrassed by that raid and did not appreciate the heat it brought on them from the United States. Due to manpower problems and the fact the Federals were on their guard both aboard the Michigan and on Johnson Island, it was decided to move ahead with the attack on Camp Douglas. At Camp Douglas, 800 Union soldiers guarded 9,000 Confederate prisoners. The prisoners were restless because they had been hearing rumors for some time of an attempt being made to attack the prison and release them. The commander of the prison was also aware something was up.

The Confederates planned the attack for November the eighth. They were going to attack at night, release and arm the Confederate prisoners, cut the telegraph lines and organize for the next day. The next day they would begin a campaign to burn railroad depots, rob banks and stores containing arms and ammunition. They would then move on to release Confederate prisoners in the states of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio and augment the planned uprising of the "Northwest Conspiracy".

Before the Confederates could get their plans underway, the Camp Douglas Commander, Colonel Benjamin J. Sweet, struck first on the seventh of November. He arrested all the known Confederate leaders in the Chicago area along with Sons of Liberty officers and all transients. From collaborator's homes he confiscated 142 shotguns and 349 revolvers and ammunition. With those arms he armed a miltia group of 250 men who along with his men and some other Union troops stood guard in the city looking for anything to start. This stopped the attack on Camp Douglas. Despite these failures the Confederates from BNA struck again. This time in New York City.

The plan was to set fire to New York City. Eight men, one of whom was Robert Cobb Kennedy, were assigned the mission Kennedy was a Confederate officer who had escaped from the Johnson Island prison into BNA and joined the operations there. Each of the men were issued twelve dozen bottles that contained four ounces of Greek Fire. There have been several recipes for Greek Fire throughout the ages and some people claim that the true recipe has been lost. When thrown on a combustible surface, it would burst into flame as the liquid evaporated and an element exposed to the air became combustible. The men each checked into several hotels. In the end fires were set in 19 hotels, a theater and P. T. Barnum's American Museum. The last fire was set by Kennedy. The fires were soon put out by an efficient fire department. Kennedy was the only one caught and executed by Federal authorities.He is pictured to the right, the day before he was executed.

Doctor Luke Pryor Blackburn, from Kentucky, assisted in a Yellow Fever epidemic in Bermuda in 1864, He collected clothes and blankets worn by the victims of the disease. He packed and shipped them to Halifax. It was his plan to send gifts of blankets and clothes mixed with the clothes and blankets he had collected in Bermuda to various destinations in the Northern United States. Dr. Blackburn thought the blankets and clothes he had collected were infected with Yellow Fever (this was before it was discovered the disease was transmitted by mosquitoes) and that they would cause outbreaks of Yellow Fever epidemics in the United States of America. He was stopped and arrested before shipping anything from Halifax.

Any of the Confederates operating out of Canada, if caught in the United States were hung or sentenced to long prison terms. The Confederates in BNA were slowly being arrested, most but not all, were extradited to the United States. Because the St. Albans raiders were in uniform and under orders during the raid, BNA did not convict them and disallowed any extradition proceedings. Lt. Young was not pardoned by President Andrew Johnson as were most other Confederate officers after the Reconstruction Period. He did get back to Kentucky after attending universities in Ireland and Scotland studying law. He became a prominent Louisville, Kentucky lawyer and President of the Louisville Southern Railroad.

< The St. Albans Raiders in Canadian custody, Lt. Young to the right in the gray tunic.

By December of 1864, John Yeates Beall was one of the few of the Confederate agents still operating out of BNA not yet caught. He was captured trying to derail Union trains outside of Buffalo, New York that were transporting Confederate prisoners from one prison to another. There was a trial and he was sentenced to be hung. John Wilkes Booth obtained an appointment with President Lincoln and asked that Beall's sentence be commuted. He spent some time pleading before President and Mrs Lincoln on behalf of his friend. President Lincoln agreed to commute the death sentence and Booth left to tell his friend. Learning of the President's promise to Booth to commute Beall's death sentence Cabinet Secretaries Stanton and Seward let Lincon know they would resign if he fulfilled his pledge to Booth. President Lincoln was persuaded to allow the death sentence to be carried out without giving any notice to John Wilkes Booth. Upon hearing of the execution of Beall, John Wilkes Booth is said to have begun his plan to assassinate President Lincoln rather than kidnap him. Two of his fellow plotters also residing at Mrs. Surratt's Boarding house were to kill Secretaries Stanton and Seward at the same time he was going to kill Lincoln.

On April 14 , 1865 John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at Ford's Theater in Washington D. C. Secretary Seward was stabbed multiple times but was able to escape his asassin's knife with his life. The persons assigned to kill Secretary Stanton was unable to act upon it. Secretary Stanton's doorbell was broken when the assassin came to call and no one would open the door. When Booth was killed several days later they found on his body a draft from a bank in BNA.

THE END

In the summer of 1861, a retired wholesale grocer and Celt by the name of Wilmer McClean had a farm on Bull Run, near Manassas Junction, Virginia. The first major battle of the war was fought in his front and back yards. A cannonball crashed into his house. McClean's home was later taken as a headquarters for P. T. Beauregard. McClean decided to move his family south, to escape the war. He bought a new farm in a quiet, small community in the south of Virginia.

< Wilmer McClean

 

On April 9, 1865, Generals U. S. Grant and Robert E. Lee met in the parlor of his new home at Appomattox. Lee was described by Confederate Major William Owen as "... in full uniform, with a handsome embroidered belt and dress sword, tall hat, and buff gauntlets. His horse, "Old Traveler" was finely groomed, and his equipment; bridle, bit, and so forth, were polished until they shone."

Grant was described as having his boots and clothing mud-splattered. His pant legs were still tucked into his boots, his hat was slouched and without a cord. He wore a common soldier's blouse with his rank pinned to it. The blouse was unbuttoned. Grant did not wear a sword. The two generals talked of their last meeting in Mexico when Lee berated Grant for his slovenly appearance. Grant apologized to Lee for his appearance. He explained that when he got word the meeting was on, he hurried right over rather than delay events with his returning to his camp and dressing.

The meeting at Appomattox as depicted by Donald M.Yena

 

 

 

Amenities aside, the South then surrendered (actually Lee only surrendered the Army of Virginia, but when the South heard its hero surrendered, the other armies followed like dominoes. Several of them in contradiction to the desires of their general officers).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Furl that Banner, for 't isweary

Round its staff 'tis drooping dreary

Furl it, fold it - - it is best;

For there's not a man to wave it

And there's not a sword to save it

And there's no one left to lave it

In the blood which heroes gave it

And its foes now scorn and brave it.

Furl it, hide it - - let it rest!

from "The Conquered Banner" by Father Abram Ryan

 

 

 

 

 

 

< The McClean home in Appomattox where Wilmer McClean moved after his home at Manasses became engulfed in the war. Here the two opposing sides met again to end the war

After the historic meeting in his parlor, Wilmer McLean saw the furniture in his house disappear. Union officers shoved money into the family's hand for this and that piece of furniture known to have been touched by one or both of the generals.

 

Lee surrendered on April 9, five days later, on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. The battered and torn flag that was pulled down in surrender at Fort Sumter was again raised into place by then Major General Anderson and attended with much ceremony. Major Anderson had lowered the Union Flag on April 14th, the day of his official surrender, and took it with him to New York. The flag was used as a patriotic rallying symbol in the North for the duration of the war. It was auctioned off regularly to raise money for the war effort, with the expectation that everyone who "bought" it would immediately return it so it could be auctioned again.

The flag that was lowered at Fort Sumter on April 14, 1861 in surrender and raised on April 14, 1865 in victory

To all present it signified the formal end to the war. To celebrate, President Lincoln and his wife made plans to spend the evening out with General and Mrs. Grant. Something came up during the day and the Grant's were not able to attend.

The evening began as planned with the Lincolns and some other friends attending a play at the Ford Theater in Washington D. C. . Agent John Parker stood guard outside the President's box.

Actor and southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth made his way into the President's box and shot the President point blank in the head. Booth jumped to the stage and announced "The South is avenged!" The dying Lincoln was brought to a home across the street and placed in a bed. Vice President Andrew Johnson was brought to Lincoln's death bed by Major James R. O'Bierne. Licoln was the first U. S. President to be assasinated.

O'Bierne later assisted in locating Booth in Richard Garret's barn. Among Booth's co-conspirators were two Irish brothers, Samuel and Michael O'Laughlin. They were former schoolmates of Booth and both were former Confederate soldiers. Lincoln's assassination, coming after he preserved the Union in its most difficult time, made Lincoln a martyr, and hardened the hearts of the victors toward the South.

FORD AGAIN

Aware of the events at Appomattox, Colonel Rip Ford was keeping an eye on the Union troops on Brazos Island (also called Brazos Santiago).On May 11, 1865, Colonel Ford's scout saw Union troops again move off of Brazos Island under the cover of a driving rainstorm.The unit that moved was under the orders of Colonel Theodore H. Barrett.In doing so, Colonel Barrett was violating a gentlemen's agreement between Colonel Ford and General Wallace to keep things quiet on the Rio Grande, since it was obvious to all the end of the war was at hand. Barrett was a politically appointed officer, apparently feeling he needed to perform something of note before the war ended to boost his career. He had asked for permission to "demonstrate" against the rebels. This was denied. He decided to move anyway.

< Colonel Theodore Barrett

The actual unit that Barrett ordered forward was a negro regiment, the 62nd U. S. Colored Troops, Infantry from Missouri. The unit, known as the Morton Rifles, had a white commander Lt. Colonel David Branson. Barrett ordered Branson to attack a suspected Confederate camp on the White Ranch and then move on to Confederate Brownsville. Fifty unmounted voluteers from the Texas Second Union Cavalry and two of its officers went with Colonel Branson. The Texas Second Cavalry was commanded by Colonel John L. Haynes of Laredo.He became the first chairman of the Texas Republican Party after the war.

Finding no one at the White Ranch Lt. Colonel Branson allowed his men (200 of the 62nd and 50 from the Cavalry) to rest and the next morning attacked a Condfederate camp on the Palmito Ranch. The Confederates left some supplies and scattered. Colonel Branson burned some of the supplies. and then moved down on the road to Brownsville. There they met Confederate calvary (Gidding's Regiment) under Captain W. R. Robinson. Captain Robinson had about 190 men. Branson decided to pull back under cover of nightfall to the White Ranch and advise Colonel Barrett of the situation.

PALMITO HILL II

This incident is often erronously called the Battle of Palmetto Ranch or Palmetto Hill, sometimes with just one 't'. The chain of events began on May 11th and ended in the battle on May 13th more than a month after Appomattox.

Robinson sent messages to Colonel Ford in Brownsville of the situation and that he would keep contact with the Union troops but that he needed help. Colonel Ford decided to hold the Union advance, and more - to push them back to Brazos Santiago. Colonel Branson advised Colonel Barrett of his withdrawal. Colonel Barrett arrived at Whites Ranch with 200 reinforcements (the 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry under Lt. Colonel R. G. Morrison)). His intention was to continue the original mission.

On 12 May, Colonel Ford began organizing his response and issued this order:

Every officer and soldier ...will hold himself in readiness to march and meet the enemy at a moment's notice.The Brigadier Commanding is determined to contest every inch of ground, and, if possible to drive back the insolent foe who advances to rob and enslave us. Now is the time for every soldier and every patriot to show his love for his Country and his Cause. Every man must do his duty, and all will be right. Men resolved to be free, can never be conquered.

With Barrett now in command, the Union force moved back to Palmito Ranch. There they burned the rest of the Confederate supplies and pushed Captain Robinson back west of Palmito Hill. Robinson kept the Union forces engaged but had to steadily yield progress on the Brownsville road to the larger Union force. That evening part of the Union forces camped at a small hill further down the road toward Brownsville and set pickets of the 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry at the base of the hill under the command of a Lt. Abraham H. Templer. The 2nd Texas Union Cavalry took a position behind and supporting them, Robinson took a position opposite these forward placed units.The main force of the Union troops were in a line roughly across the Brownsville road. The 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, less the skirmishers, was just south of the road, on a ridge of Palmito Hill behind the 2nd Texas Union Cavalry. Just to the north of them straddling the road was half of the 62nd US Colored Troops, Infantry. The other half of the 62nd was deployed parallel and just north of the road.

The French General in Matamoros, Commandant A. Veron, loaned For three French artillery batteries (two guns per battery). Colonel Ford and his force of about 300 men rode hard to get to the position, arriving between three and four o'clock in the afternoon of the 13th of May.. They found the fight already in progress with Robinson's cavalry unit in contact with the line of Union skirmishers that were at the base of the small hill. The rest of the 34th Indiana was still on Palmito Hill. Behind the small hill the 2nd Texas Union Cavary was positioned to support the skirmishers. Colonel Ford deployed an artillery battery to the front along side Robinson's and Wilson's cavalry units and another battery along with more cavalry under Lt. Jesse Vineyard in defilade on a hill forward and to the North between the contesting forces. He kept the third battery in reserve. The French artillery pieces, under the command of Lieutenant O. Jones, came with French gunners who Jones placed under Lt. Smith with Robinson and and Wilson's cavalry units. Lieutenant Gregory moved two cannons to the hill with Lt. Vineyard. Colonel Ford seeing that the Union troops were without artillery and pretty much out in the open decided he would charge forwardafter the artillery was in place. At the sametime he sent Captains Gibson and Cocke with companies to move around the hill to the North and effect a flanking movement. This would cut off Barrett's force from any escape back to Brazos Santiago. As the artillery was unleashed, Barrett realized his position and immediately ordered a withdrawal. The pickets and 2nd Calvary were left to cover the movement of the 34th and 62nd as they moved northeast to the road. Originally Barrett had planned for the 34th to provide a screen on the road for the other units to get behind. He was not to sure of the 62nd's abiliity to perform under fire versus the veteran Indiana 34th. Even though the 62nd was closer to the road than the 62nd, the 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry got to the road first and were moving quickly toward White's Ranch and Brazos Santiago. The key to the withdrawal was for Barrett's men to get to the road and set up the screening move before Ford's men could cut of the maneuver. Barrett, who was with the 34th, rushed back to the 62nd and found that they had set up a line of skirmishers just as Ford's flanking maneuver made their appearance between the two hills North of the road.

While all this was going on, Wilson, Robinson and Vineyard's units rushed the picket line of the 34th that was left behind and quickly captured them. Colonel Ford and his men went past the picket line toward the 62nd and seeing the 2nd Texas Union Cavalry engaged and captured them. Captains Cocke and Gibson were held at bay by the effective fire and numbers of the 62nd Skirmishers. A running battle was fought along the road to the White Ranch as the skirmishers moved East and then reset across the road to protect the retreating Union force.

Colonel Ford came up to evaluate the scene and decided his men and horses having made a forced ride from Brownsville and then the fight, were too exhausted. Evidence of this were the artillery units whose horses having moved position several times were spent and could go no further and could not support an attack further East on the retreating Union troops. Ford also considered the fact that Union re-inforcements may be coming from Brazos Santiago and he needed to rest his men to face that force for a possible battle the next day. Confederate General Slaughter, Ford's immediate commanding officer arrived on the scene about this time with a battalion of men and a lot of supplies. He ordered Ford to pursue the enemy. Ford, and the sel-evident condition of the men and their mounts soon changed his mind. Among Ford's men at Palmito were James O. Luby, whose parents were Irish born; and John Dodd McCall, who would later be a mayor of Austin.

When it was all over the Union casualties, killed, wounded or captured were about 116 men. The official report for the Confederates were about five men injured, but most historians today agree that the Confederate reporting procedures were as varied as the number of units participating and put the number close to the same as the Union's casualties.

The pictures below are taken from a diorama of the battle:

This scene shows the view from the Union side southwest as the Confederate cavalry engage the 34th Indiana line of skirmishers and the rest of the 34th Indiana move off a hill toward the Boca Chica Road, behind the 62nd U. S. Colored Troops

In this view, we see the Confederate riders moving to flank the Union withdrawal while the calvary charges the picket line with the support of the <French artillery.

This view shows in more detail the Confederate cavalry's charge on the line of skirmishers and you see behind them the first rider of the unit riding to flank the Union troops.

In the following view, you can see the red and blue uniforms of the French artillery battery

behind the charging Confederate cavalry.

In the next view we can see the movement of the 34th and 62nd units to the right toward the Boca Chica Road while the Union skirmishers absorb the Confederate charge.

The diorama of the battle has itself become a battle. For details follow this link >

More detailed topograhic map of the Palmito Hill area from University of Texas collection >

The battle was a bitter one. Had the battle not begun with a broken gentleman's agreement and the invading Union forces not included negroes and Texas turncoats ( as the southerners saw it), there probably would not have been as much fighting. There was no reasonable purpose to the actions of Colonel Barrett, the entire effort was as useless as a maneuver made by Don Quixote. One of the more interesting facts about the battle is that it was fought with Americans (Confederates with Texans and Mexicans, and Union units including an African American unit that saved the day for the boys in blue) and Frenchmen - all present on the field of battle.

 

 

< John Jay Williams, one of the 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry skirmishers was the last man killed in the battle and thus the last man killed in action in the American Civil War. Colonel John Salmon Ford was involved in the first and the last battle of the Civil War.

General Edmund J. Davis accepted the surrender of the Texas and Louisiana areas from General Edmund Kirby Smith and General John Magruder aboard the Union warship Fort Jackson in Galveston Bay.

Galveston was the only major Southern port still held by the Confederacy at the time of the final surrender.