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Volume 29, No. 10 – October 2016

The President’s Message:

The annual Holiday Party will be on Wednesday, December 14th.  Robert Macomber will be our speaker. Gift certificates will be greatly appreciated for the raffle.

Dues will be collected starting in November.  Pay early and avoid the January rush.

I will be starting a new feature in the newsletter called “Fact or Folly”.  The answer will be given at the next meeting and will also be in the next newsletter.

Fact or Folly:  Is there anyone still receiving a Civil War military pension ?

November 9, 2016 Program:

Robert Krasner will be the speaker.  Robert's topic is "Stonewall Jackson - Military Genius?" Robert Krasner will give a biography and analyze Jackson's military prowess.

September 14, 2016 Program:

The Round Table meeting on September 14, 2016 was a panel discussion of what was going on in the world from 1845 - 1870.  The panel will be made up of our members with each one giving a 10 -15 minute summary of a particular country.  Countries to include Spain, England, Germany, Mexico, China, and France.

England, presented by Fred McCarty.  England was the most powerful nation in the world.  The Royal Navy projected this power on all of the oceans.  There were those in the government who wanted to invade the United States at its time of weakness during the Civil War.  Others had no stomach for a third war with America.  In order to balance this threat Lincoln formed an alliance with Russia.  In the fall of 1863 Russia sent a fleet to New York harbor and other ships to the west coast.

Early in the war the upper class in England backed the Confederate States of America.  To this end shipyards, particularly the yard of Laird and Sons, built ships for the South.  A few got out under false pretenses.  Most notably the CSS Alabama who holds the world record for sinking ships at war was built there.  However, diplomats from the US caused the British to rethink their policy of having a blind eye on warships built on their soil.  This had the effect of stopping the Laird rams, an iron-clad of particular menace.  In October of 1863 the Royal Navy to steps to capture the ships that were built and in the process of being armed.  Keys to the English change of heart were the Emancipation Proclamation, the Russian threat, and Union battlefield victories.

China, presented by Robert Krasner.  During the years under discussion China had a great deal of unrest.  The Qing dynasty was under pressure from a rebellion in the south.  From 1644 until 1912 the Qing ruled China.  In the late 19th century trade, war, and technology shaped events in the country.  Of particular note was the railroad on land and the steam ship at sea.  However, the Qing had been in decline after 1800.  The first Opium War (1839 – 1842) lead to the opening of Chinese ports to western nations.  A second Opium War (1856 – 1860) was fought leading to more western domination of trade.

The Taiping Rebellion (1850 – 1864) led to the death of 20 million and great unrest.  Chinese elites together with the aid of England and the United States helped the Qing to hold on to power.  The fact that China sided with the United States was due to the fact that the Union was facing a similar revolt from the South as the Qing was facing from the Taiping rebels.

Spain, presented by Robert Schuldenfrei.  The Kingdom of Spain and the Confederate States of America should have been allies during the American Civil War.  The fact that they were not is the basis for this brief discussion.  A superficial look at Spain would reveal that the kingdom had kept slavery alive in their Caribbean territories.  The United States had backed revolutions in Spanish colonies using the justification of the Monroe Doctrine.  Spanish elites including Queen Isabella II, Prime Minister O’Donnell, military leaders, and aristocrats were sympathetic to the Southern cause.  Plantation owners in Cuba and business leaders identified with the Confederates.  Spanish newspapers cheered Rebel victories.  Ports in Puerto Rico and Cuba provided safe harbor for smugglers and blockade runners.

Why Spain failed to recognize the Confederacy rests on internal Spanish affairs, European relationships, the arc of the Civil War, and Western Hemisphere activities and beliefs.  The reign of the Queen from 1833 until 1868 neatly covers the period of this discussion.  It was not a tranquil period of Spanish history.  It was fraught with unrest at home and abroad.

Spain was weak both financially and militarily so its options for direct actions were limited.  It did not want to upset the European powers, mainly England and France.  This led to inaction of the years of interest here.  Spain deferred to other countries and preferred a “wait and see” policy in most cases.  Both the liberal and conservative governments during this period took very little action.

From Spain’s view point Cuba and the lesser Caribbean was always the “elephant in the room.”  It guided all of the decisions.  Fear of revolution there or annexation by the United States was the main reason Spain did not choose sides.  The Spanish leaders believed that the South before the war would annex Cuba, Dominica, and Porto Rico and create new slave states.  During the war the Confederates looked to these islands as allies they could control.  So, in spite of the fact that Spain was in favor of slavery in Cuba it would not side with the South.  Spain simply mistrusted the Confederacy.  Spain saw in the North a country committed to the Monroe Doctrine ready to support revolution anywhere in the western hemisphere.  And, with the abolitionists firmly in control in the North, Spain could not side with them either.  As a world power the US was on the rise.  Fear, thus caused inaction.

France, presented by Barbara Susco.  France of the late 19th century was the beneficiary of the state left behind by Napoléon Bonaparte.  This legacy was manifest in government, art, and law.  Most of the countries of Western Europe, and Louisiana in America, used some form of Napoleonic law.  After the defeat of Napoléon I you saw a flowering of the arts called the Romantic Period.  This was expressed in painting, literature, and drama.  But the politics of this period was not all good for France.  France was improving internal public works and expanding externally by way of colonies.  However, the country was caught up in the wave of revolution in the 1830s and particularly 1848.

During our period of interest Louis-Napoléon, or Napoléon III, was emperor of France.  The reign was referred to as the Second Empire.  During the American Civil War, and with a weak Spain, his administration saw an opportunity to regain a possession in North America.  Mexico was the target.  France set up a puppet government headed by Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria enthroned as Emperor Maximilian I.  Sadly for the French, and personally for Maximilian, not all of Mexico wanted foreign domination.  The Second Mexican Empire faced resistance from the republican government of President Benito Juárez.  After victory in the American Civil War in 1865, the United States made clear that France would have to leave.  It sent 50,000 troops under General Philip H. Sheridan to the U.S.-Mexico border, and helped resupply Juárez.  France saw that they had no choice so they packed up and left, leaving Maximilian to his fate.

Back home, things went poorly for France.  Trouble with Prussia led to the Franco – Prussian War and the occupation of Paris in 1870.  Napoléon III was captured, imprisoned, exiled in England, and died in 1873.

Germany / Prussia, presented by George Nimberg.  In the days before unification Germany (January 1871), or Prussia, as it was known was not a world class power.  That it became so was due to one man, Otto von Bismarck.  Like all of the nation-states in Europe the 19th century, Prussia was in the middle of large scale industrialization.  Before there could be unification there was to be separation.  That took place along religious lines with Catholic Germans splitting off and bonding with Austria.  Protestant Northern Germans became what would be called Germany.  It was not all politics as many social reforms took place under Bismarck’s leadership.  That notwithstanding, he provoked three short, decisive wars against Denmark, Austria, and France, aligning the smaller German states behind Prussia in its defeat of France.  In 1871 he formed the German Empire with himself as Chancellor, while retaining control of Prussia.  His diplomacy of “realpolitik” and powerful rule at home gained him the nickname the "Iron Chancellor."  German unification and its rapid economic growth was the foundation to his foreign policy.  Coal and Krupp steel formed the backbone of a formidable army to carry out his policies.

Mexico, presented by Janell Bloodworth.  The principal story of the period under study is the saga of Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife Carlota.  Both Grant and Lee had fought during the war with Mexico as young American officers.  Both thought the war was a stain on the character of their nation.  By winning the war the United States gained most of the West.  It was the byproduct of the concept of manifest destiny.

In 1861 there was a partial political vacuum in Mexico.  France saw an opportunity to regain some North American territory while America’s hands were tied in the Civil War.  They set up Maximilian as emperor with the consent of upper class Mexicans.  It was not a complete takeover of Mexico as the Republican forces led by President Benito Juárez continued to be active in northern Mexico.  With the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the United States (which had been too distracted by its own civil war to confront the Europeans' 1861 invasion of what it considered to be its sphere of influence) began more explicit aid of President Juárez's forces.  Now, Maximilian was a benign dictator and had the best interests of the Mexican people in mind, however, he was tainted by the elite and seen to be the puppet of France.  When the American sent forces to the boarder in 1865 France left and it was expected that Maximilian would too.  But Maximilian stayed on and was arrested and executed in 1867.  Carlota had fled, but this matter was more than she could handle.  She went insane and remained so for 60 years!

Last changed:  10/12/16

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