Before and during the Civil War, both North and South lobbied hard in key European capitals to convince officials and the general population of the justness of their causes.
Impressively, Doyle (History/Univ. of South Carolina; Secession as an International Phenomenon: From America’s Civil War to Contemporary Separatist Movements, 2010) provides some novel insights about this most chronicled of conflicts. Although he alludes periodically to the military campaigns—from Bull Run to Appomattox—he uses them principally as reference points, signposts on his journey through the complex and fierce diplomatic efforts underway in England, France, Italy and the Vatican. Many Europeans, especially those with republican sympathies, could not understand why Abraham Lincoln, early in the war, refused to declare the North’s effort as a war on slavery; Southern diplomats sought to downplay the slavery issue for their own reasons and focused on the tyranny of the North and on the Southern desire for independence. The South desperately sought political recognition from European powers and hoped for military and financial aid as well. They found precious little, and as the war wound down, the European powers backed off (some had made renewed efforts to re-establish themselves in the Western Hemisphere—France in Mexico, for example), especially when the South remained intransigent about slavery. Doyle brings onto the stage a number of figures unfamiliar to all but scholars of the Civil War—envoys and diplomats, some of whom surreptitiously sought to enlist the participation of Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was virulently opposed to slavery and who toyed somewhat with the offers to lead the Union Army. Lincoln’s eloquent oratory was among the most powerful of the Union’s weapons abroad, and Doyle ably conveys the widespread, genuine grief in Europe when news of his assassination arrived.
An important—even necessary—addition to the groaning shelves of Civil War volumes.