|Second Mexican War|
|Commanders and leaders|
|James G. Blaine|
The Second Mexican War was a conflict fought from June 25, 1881 until April 22, 1882. It was fought between the United States of America on one side and an alliance of the Confederate States of America, Britain and France on the other. Despite the name which came to be attached to this war, the government of Mexico itself had a minor role at best in the conflict. The war began when hard-line Republican U.S. President James G. Blaine declared war on the C.S.A to prevent its purchase of the states of Sonora and Chihuahua from Mexico. Unfortunately, the US Army was completely unprepared after years of neglect and poor organization. Hampered too by poor leadership, the US was defeated on all but one front. Blockaded by sea with no victories on land, the USA was forced to surrender, losing a chunk on northern Maine. This second humiliation finally rammed home to the people of the US that they needed European allies, which the US had steadfastly avoided. When Germany made overtures, the USA accepted them. The War also led to the Remembrance era in the United States, and the extension of the Great War to the North American continent in 1914.
- 1 Background
- 2 War Plans and Strategies
- 3 Confederate Front
- 4 Utah Territory
- 5 First Cease Fire
- 6 Canadian Front
- 7 War at Sea
- 8 Second Cease Fire
- 9 Final C.S. Ultimatum and U.S. Surrender
- 10 Long term effect
- 11 Trivia
Background[edit | edit source]
In 1880, a generation after the War of Secession had ended, the Democrats, who had mainly behaved subserviently to the CSA were finally voted out of office by a frustrated public, who returned to the presidency the Republicans under James G Blaine. Blaine's election campaign had relied mostly upon a hard-line platform towards the CSA, a stance which now appealed to the people of the USA.
To the south, the Empire of Mexico was bankrupt and desperately needed money to pay its creditors (primarily bankers in London and Paris). The CSA solved Mexico's financial problems by purchasing the provinces of Sonora and Chihuahua for three million dollars. Realizing that this would give the Confederates a Pacific port, President Blaine threatened war if the sale went ahead.
In the CSA, President James Longstreet knew that a quick, decisive war along with intervention from England and France was the CSA's only hope for victory, as he knew a long war with the USA would end only in defeat for the Confederacy. England and France, on the other hand, refused to assist the CSA unless they agreed to manumit their slaves; France also refused to act without England. Longstreet agreed to their demands, as he felt that slavery would stymie the Confederacy's economy in the 20th century, and pledged that all slaves within the CSA would be manumitted one year after the end of hostilities. With backing from both countries, Longstreet went ahead with the purchase.
On the 14th of June, CS forces moved into the newly purchased provinces and Blaine issued an ultimatum: withdraw all Confederate forces from the Mexican territories within ten days or face war. The CSA refused to do this and when the deadline passed, Blaine asked for and received a declaration of war from Congress.
War Plans and Strategies[edit | edit source]
The US Army, under the leadership of Major General William Rosecrans had only one strategy in mind: to strike at the CSA all at once along the entire frontier, forcing the Confederates to stretch thin their limited forces, thus making it easier to overwhelm the CS Army with the numerically superior US Army. Like many in the US, General Rosecrans believed in the overall superiority of the United States, and that Confederate victory in the last war had been a matter of luck. While Rosecrans chose to fight the war from his office in the War Department, he failed to properly coordinate his grand strategy with his field commanders. He did not provide them with strategic goals, letting them hit out at their own leisure, rather than organizing them to strike all at once, thus failing to win their respect and confidence. He also failed to construct any military plans for dealing with the U.K. and Canada to the north should they enter the war on the side of the Confederacy. Rosecrans adamantly believed that France wouldn't move without England, and that England wouldn't support a slave nation, while the CSA wouldn't let their slaves go that easily.
The CS Army, under the leadership of General Thomas Jackson preferred to take the war to US soil as soon as possible, hitting hard and fast wherever it could, thus destroying the US Army piece by piece before it could become a true threat. However, Jackson was ordered by President Longstreet to fight a defensive war only. Longstreet perfectly understood that the Confederate States had no hope of winning a war against the United States by itself, and he knew that the only hope the Confederacy had was the combined military might of England and France to help back them up. Although Longstreet had given his promises to manumit all slaves within the CSA, and although England had reinforced the Canadian Army with their own troops, and both England and France had moved naval squadrons into positions from which to strike the US, both nations still were hesitant to move. Longstreet understood that they did not fully trust the Confederates, and he wanted to demonstrate to the world that the CSA was a smaller nation defending itself from a larger aggressor. This he understood would finally bring their allies into the war against the Yankees. Although this strategy was not Jackson's instinctive preference, he appreciated the wisdom behind Longstreet's policy and conducted his operations accordingly.
Confederate Front[edit | edit source]
Indian Territory[edit | edit source]
The US landed the first blow of the war with a raid into Indian Territory by Colonel George Armstrong Custer. Armed with the latest weapon of war, the Gatling Gun, he lured first a war band of Kiowa warriors and then a company of Confederate cavalry into an ambush, decimating both groups.
The major consequence of this victory was that the US was perceived as the aggressor in the eyes of the world. This lead to England and France declaring war on the United States.
Maryland and Virginia[edit | edit source]
After war was declared, the forts of both the Confederates and Yankees outside Washington D.C. remained quiet. When the US struck the first blow in the Indian Territory, guaranteeing both England and France's entry into the war on the Confederate side, Colonel William Elliott of the Confederate forts demanded the surrender of the city. Rosecrans' adjutant, Captain Saul Berryman refused, and the bridge in Washington, leading from Maryland to Virginia, was blown up from both ends.
As the next day dawned, the Confederates opened up with an artillery bombardment on the city. Their targets were mainly government and military institutes, along with famous landmarks. The bombardment continued for a few hours before ceasing. Instead of trying to destroy the capital, the bombardment had been more of a demonstration that the Confederates had the capability to do so but had refrained. Having made this symbolic gesture, the Confederates largely ignored Washington as a military target until the end of the war.
The first major battle of the war occurred in Northern Virginia, where the Army of the Potomac clashed with the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Jackson at the Battle of Winchester. Here Jackson routed the US Army and chased the Americans back across the river. As he made ready to attack Harpers Ferry, he was stopped by Longstreet, who wanted London and Paris to understand that the CSA was fighting a defensive war only. The Army of Northern Virginia would remain camped along the Potomac for the rest of the war.
Throughout the rest of the war, the Maryland-Virginia Front remained quiet, until May of 1882 when the Confederates gathered their strength along the Potomac and threatened to attack Washington and annex the whole state unless Blaine accepted their peace terms. Although the US had likewise gathered troops to defend the city and state, they had little confidence in their ability to do so. The war ended before any attack could be made.
Kansas[edit | edit source]
In retaliation for Custer's Raid, the Kiowa and CS Cavalry launched continuous raiding parties into Kansas against local farms and infrastructure.
Although the border was being patrolled by the Fifth Cavalry, they were transferred to the Utah Territory in order to put down a rebellion there. Security of the border was handed over to a volunteer Cavalry regiment who proved unable to stop both the Kiowa and Confederates for the remainder of the war.
Kentucky[edit | edit source]
It was in Kentucky that the major campaign of the war was fought on the banks of the Ohio River. The U.S. Army, under General Orlando Willcox tried to cross into the Confederate state of Kentucky and capture the city of Louisville, as the first step towards returning the state to the U.S.A. The C.S.A., under their own General-in-Chief Thomas Jackson, was able to establish excellent defensive positions, resulting in the Siege of Louisville. The formidable Confederate defenses forced Wilcox's troops to advance incrementally at best, with each move paid for in blood.
Later, the United States belatedly attempted a flanking attack, but a combination of delayed launching of the attack as well as Confederate preparations meant the attack simply extended the lines of the siege and gained no further advantage.
The front remained the focal point of the war until the cease-fire was called. In spite of Jackson's demands, US forces remained encamped inside Louisville until January of 1882, when Blaine ordered a full withdraw in an attempt to avoid ending the cease-fire before he could gain another victory.
Arkansas[edit | edit source]
Arkansas was only a minor front during the war. Here the US Army crossed the border and captured the town of Pocahontas. However, due to a lack of military coordination, or any strategic goals, the American advance went no farther. Because this was the only victory the US Army had achieved for much of the war, it was over-emphasized by the War Department to the U.S. public. Unfortunately, the town fell back into Confederate hands not long afterwards, but they did not pursue the fight across the border.
New Mexico Territory[edit | edit source]
In the southwestern desert of the New Mexico Territory, the Trans-Mississippi Department under General Jeb Stuart led the Confederates' only offensive operation against US territory. Although Stuart was aware of Longstreet's defensive strategy, he believed that the best way to defend the new territories was to make the Yankees defend their own. Although communications from Richmond were sketchy at best, Stuart heard no word of reproof from the War Department about his plans, so he marched into New Mexico Territory as soon as the declaration of war reached him.
The campaign got off to a promising start when he managed to bluff the US commander at Contention City into surrendering, which impressed the Apaches under Geronimo and lead to an alliance between the two forces. After this, they successfully lured US cavalry into an ambush at the Battle of Madera Canyon before fighting the Battle of Tombstone. Now having eliminated the US Army's ability to strike into Sonora and Chihuahua, they returned to CS territory where they smashed US Raiders with the newly formed Fifth Cavalry, now being called the Fifth Camelry. With no more opposition left, the New Mexico front remained quiet until early 1882, when tensions between the Apaches and the CSA's new Hispanic subjects led to the destruction of the town of Cananea. This resulted in a breakdown of the alliance between the Apaches and the CSA and a new conflict between the two. Stuart himself was killed shortly after by one of Geronimo's snipers.
Utah Territory[edit | edit source]
In the years following the War of Secession, the Mormons of the Utah Territory had grown dissatisfied with the rule of the United States, and their refusal to grant them proper statehood within the union.
When the Second Mexican War began in 1881, the US troops stationed within the Territory were shipped out to the threatened frontiers, and the Mormons under the leadership of John Taylor instigated a non-violent uprising. Aside from cutting off telegraph and railroad lines from Utah to the rest of the U.S., the Mormons took very little direct action against the United States, while the all-Mormon Militia units still stationed in Utah did nothing. Since the capital, Salt Lake City straddled the Transcontinental Railroad, the East Coast was effectively cut off from the West. It was vital that the Territory be brought back under US control.
In response, Brigadier General John Pope gathered as many artillery pieces as he could, and rather than engaging the rebels in combat, chose to overawe them with his weapons. The tactic worked and the entire state fell back under Union control without a single shot being fired. In the aftermath, Pope used a constant display of overwhelming force to keep the populace from rioting, as he introduced draconian policies and hanged a number of Mormon leaders, leaving behind an angry Mormon population determined to gain independence.
First Cease Fire[edit | edit source]
As the campaign in Louisville bogged down, the war for the United States was not going well elsewhere either. US forces had been defeated in Virginia and in New Mexico Territory, and the Royal Navy was blockading the US, though limiting itself to shore bombardments and seizing cargo ships.
CS President Longstreet asked for, and received a cease fire in order to offer peace terms. The terms were very generous: aside from the Confederacy keeping the Mexican territories it had purchased, Longstreet offered a return to the status quo ante bellum and demanded no reparations from the U.S. Blaine simply refused the terms, claiming that the U.S. although hurt was not a beaten foe, and the war quickly began again.
Canadian Front[edit | edit source]
In the years since the War of Secession, the British Empire had grown embarrassed with its ties to the Confederate States. The Confederacy still had not freed their slaves, and with the prospect of war looming, the British Empire made it perfectly clear that if military aid was to be supplied, the CSA had to free its slaves. Although given a guarantee by the Confederate President, and they did move naval and land assets into positions at which to strike the Union, they still did not declare war. When the US struck the first blow in the Indian Territory, the United Kingdom finally declared war, seeing that the US was the aggressor against a smaller nation defending its self.
In spite of the British Empire declaring war on the United States, US commanders were issued no plans for dealing with the Canadians to the north other than border patrol. After war was declared, the Royal Navy had formed and enforced a naval and economic blockade of the US, but had not committed any ground forces to the fight as they did not fully trust the Confederates to manumit their slaves. US commanders were trying not to antagonize the British while forces stationed there were ordered only to patrol the border.
On the Canadian side, the Canadian Army had been mobilized and British Troops had been shipped to the country to bolster their strength. Although they had moved troops into position, the front remained quiet as England was hesitant to help the Confederacy. During the Siege of Louisville, CS Army captured and returned US reporter, Frederick Douglass unharmed, thus proving to the British Empire that they were sincere on manumitting their slaves. After this political victory for the Confederates, the forces stationed in Canada finally moved against the US.
Maine[edit | edit source]
In order to force Blaine to quit the war, a combined British and Canadian Army crossed the border from New Brunswick and invaded Maine. This invasion had two purposes. To humiliate Blaine, whose home state was Maine, and to finally settle the Canadian / Maine border which the British had never been satisfied with. The invasion was a success and the combined armies drove the Yankees south overrunning the upper St. John and Aroostook River valleys. Upon the successful completion of the campaign, the British and Canadian armies halted their advance and remained encamped within the region until the US surrendered. After the war, the border was redrawn in favor of the Canadians.
Montana Territory[edit | edit source]
In Montana, the US Army was likewise unprepared, and many volunteers found that they could only apply for the Volunteer service at military outposts, which were far and few between. The front was quiet for a good chunk of the war until a combined British and Canadian army under the leadership of British General Charles Gordon crossed the border with the intention of striking for Helena, and raiding the gold mines of the city.
The US Army under the leadership of Brigadier General George Custer, Colonel Henry Welton and Colonel Theodore Roosevelt engaged the British and Canadians at the Battle of the Teton River. The battle ended when General Gordon's forces attacked the US defenses head on and were decimated by Custer’s Gatling guns. The attackers were routed and forced to flee back to Canada.US forces were halted in their pursuit when word of a ceasefire finally reached them. For the remainder of the 2nd Cease Fire until the US surrender, what remained of the British cavalry and US Fifth Cavalry patrolled the border. The victory here was greatly hyped in the US press after a string of disasters and gave US president Blaine the courage to drag the ceasefire out until April of 1882.
As a result of this battle, Custer and Roosevelt became heroes of the war, prominent national figures, and rivals for the remainder of their lives.
War at Sea[edit | edit source]
The war at sea was a minor affair, due to the small size of the US Navy. The US Navy, much like the army wasn't a worthy fighting force after years of neglect but was still much larger than their Confederate counter part. In the Confederacy, as the deadline for the US ultimatum drew closer, the CS Navy took to sea. It's strategies and goals were unclear but it's prime objective was not to be caught and contained in their ports like they had been during the War of Secession.
When war was declared, the ships of the US Navy forced onto the defensive, due to the Royal and French Navies entering into the war on the Confederacy's side. The US Admirals had no major strategies for fighting a war with such a small force against three Navies, while the prime goal of the Royal Navy was to implement a military and economic blockade of the United States.
The Royal Navy's first blow landed on Lake Ontario, when a small fleet from Toronto attacked the cities of Rochester, Cleveland and Buffalo. After the first cease fire, and the Confederates convinced the Empire that they indeed intended to manumit their slaves, the Naval blockade began to intensify. The Royal Navy began bombarding major port cities, like New York and Boston on the East coast while the Pacific Squadron based at Pearl Harbour, Sandwich Islands attacked the US West Coast. In conjunction with the French Navy, whose ships sailed up from Mexico to bombard Los Angeles, the Royal Navy attacked San Francisco. This attack also included a raid of Royal Marines on the San Francisco Mint. This raid proved successful while the commander of San Francisco, Colonel William Sherman, proved helpless to stop it. After the San Francisco raid had contained the US Pacific Squadron, the Royal Navy's Pacific naval force split off and sailed north to attack Seattle, while the offensive on the Great Lakes branched out to Lake Erie, where the port city of Erie was attacked.
After these attacks, what little remained of the US Navy was confined to their ports as the ships of both England and France now lay at anchor outside all major port cities of the US, blockading both coastlines. Their major goals completed, the blockade of the US was kept in place for the duration of the war, and the ensuing cease fire, until the US agreed to surrender.
Second Cease Fire[edit | edit source]
By November of 1881, the war for the US was going badly, with defeats on all fronts and forces closing in from five different sides. US commanders seemed to have little in the way of strategies while their Confederate counterparts were beating them at every turn. General Rosecrans started drinking heavily, becoming increasingly reclusive and even openly critical of President Blaine. When the US Army was defeated in Maine, resulting in half the state being annexed into Canada, he lost his cool with Blaine, telling him in no uncertain terms that the war was lost, and that Blaine should take the best offer he could get. Shortly after, Jackson launched a counter attack in Kentucky that destroyed the US salient there. Blaine finally saw the writing on the wall and asked for an unconditional cease fire along all fronts.
Blaine was hesitant to surrender as the US was in no position to bargain and he would be condemned for a poor outcome. He also didn't want to lose the northern part of his home state of Maine. However up in Montana Territory, the US Army there had dealt the invading British and Canadian Army a savage blow. It was a much needed victory and gave Blaine hope that he could salvage something from the fiasco. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to win favorable terms, and as 1882 began, the Republicans suffered a three-way split with the more liberal faction leaving to form the Socialists. The party's supporters started turning up presure to end the war with public demonstrations outside the War Department in Philadelphia.
Final C.S. Ultimatum and U.S. Surrender[edit | edit source]
As the ceasefire dragged into April, the patience of the Confederacy finally wore out. After Easter passed, the US Ambassador to the Confederacy, John Hay, and General Rosecrans met in Richmond with CS minister to the USA, Judah P. Benjamin, along with General Jackson. As Hay attempted to present President Blaine's peace proposal, General Jackson interrupted the proceedings as he issued the United States one final ultimatum: they had 48 hours to surrender on Confederate terms or the war would begin again. All throughout May of 1882, General Jackson had shipped men by rail to bolster the Army of Northern Virginia, which was encamped along the Potomac. Should Blaine refuse, they would attack Washington, DC and annex the entire state of Maryland into the Confederacy, much like the British and Canadians had done to the northern half of Maine. Although Rosecrans was aware of this, and had also shipped as many troops to the capital as possible to counter any attack, he had by that stage lost all faith in himself as a military commander, having been so unnerved by Jackson's own generalship. Faced with no way out, Blaine agreed.
As part of the peace agreement, the United States were forced to recognize the provinces of Sonora and Chihuahua as Confederate Territory, as well as ceding the northern half of Maine to the Dominion of Canada.
Long term effect[edit | edit source]
With the war over, the United States had suffered two humiliations within one generation, creating a national trauma. During the war, frustrated German observers pointed out to both the US President and Chief-of-Staff the flaws in their ideology and grand strategies. The leaders of both the United States government and army had stubbornly heeded George Washington's farewell address warning against "entangling European alliances," but the Confederate States had decisively beaten the United States in two major wars specifically because the Confederacy had allied with Britain and France. They also argued that having a General-in-Chief was insufficient for strategy and contingency planning while relying on volunteers rather than conscripts was foolhardy and that the US Army needed a major overhaul. In the years following, the United States allied itself with Germany in order to counterbalance to the CSA's allies, while the entire US Army was reorganized into the Prussian style army, complete with General Staff style leadership and compulsory military service.
US politics also suffered heavily from the war. Many political and military career were in tatters after the war and the people of the Union no longer believed that they and their way of life was superior to others and that it was clear to everyone that the entire nation needed to change. The Democrats had done little to improve the country, while the Republicans hadn't rectified the situation either. During a caucus called in January of 1882, former president Abraham Lincoln argued for replacing the party's main plank of antagonism towards the CSA with workers rights plank. Unfortunately, the major party leaders could not come an agreement, resulting in a three-way split. The more conservative faction led by Benjamin Butler defected to the Democrats, intent on remolding that party, while the more liberal factions led by Lincoln left to form the Socialist Party, leaving the Republican Party nothing more than a centrist regional party. After the war, Democrats took power once again and rebuilt the country into a more authoritarian nation. Under their guidance, the country embraced the ideology of Remembrance, along with rationing. April 22 was designated Remembrance Day in honor of the country's defeat in two wars.
The Confederacy experienced an era of good feelings after the war. Having beaten their much larger foe twice in short order within a generation had left many Confederates with an overall sense of superiority over the United States. Two new territories had been admitted to the Confederacy, and now their borders stretched from the waters of the Atlantic to the Gulf of California. However, this had come at a price. In order to insure the CSA's continued alliance with Britain and France, Longstreet had agreed manumission of the slaves. Although there was outrage at this, and even an attempt at stopping the amendment by force by CS senator, Wade Hampton III, it was squashed by the more politically savvy Longstreet. Another problem were the newly freed slaves themselves. Although freed, the blacks of the CSA had very little freedom as they were still on the bottom of the social ladder, while the Hispanics of the new territories and the Native Americans of the Indian Territory still had greater rights than they did. This resentment would fester over the years as many blacks met in secret to discuss the revolutionary and social ideas of Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln, plotting to one day overthrow the government of the Confederacy.
In Canada, like the Confederacy, the people experienced their own era of good feelings after the war. However, the seething animosity between them and the United States that had festered since the War of Succession was now firmly cemented. The United States saw the Dominion as a launching pad for England, and both sides prepared accordingly for the next conflict. On the Canadian side, their border with the United States, which had been relaxed, was now heavily fortified and a greater emphasis on defense rather than goodwill was a priority. Having militarily intervened on the Confederates side, England found themselves firmly pushed into the Confederacy's camp, as the United States began to cement its alliance with Germany. The British needed to rely on the Confederates to help keep the Yankees in check in order to protect Canada. This in turn was the beginning of the two biggest and most powerful political alliances in the world, the Entente and the Central Powers.
In Germany, Alfred von Schlieffen developed the Schlieffen Plan based on his studies of Robert E. Lee's victory at the Battle of Camp Hill. The plan was employed in the Great War, which the Central Powers eventually won.
Trivia[edit | edit source]
The name "Second Mexican War" is something of a misnomer, as the government of Mexico itself played little to no role in the actual conflict.