The Pendulum of War At the end of 1861, Lincoln called McClellan to take command of the Army of the Potomac, but after several failings to act against the Confederates, he was removed from his post. In early 1862, Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote succeeded in capturing Fort Donelson and outnumbering it’s 14,000 defenders. This victory was only the first of many Confederate defeats. The Southerners fervently believed in the power of the cotton and the textile industries to compel British and French intervention. They attempted to prove that the embargo on their products by Britain was illegal and inefficient but failed to do so. In 1862, the principal Confederate diplomatic effort shifted to the quest for official recognition. The model for this being the French recognition of the United States in 1778 followed by active assistance. Both the North and the South understood the importance of that matter. As early as May 21, 1861, Union Secretary of State William H. Seward had instructed the American Minister of Britain, Charles Adams, that if Britain extended recognition of the Confederacy that the Union would become enemies with Great Britain.
The Pendulum of War Napoleon III of France wished to recognize the Confederacy but he was reluctant to do so without Britain doing so as well. If Britain and France both recognized Confederate independence, all other European countries except for maybe Russia would follow suit. Britain wanted the South to prove its capacity to sustain and defend its independence beyond any doubt before Britain would risk recognizing it. The Confederates’ hope, on the other hand, was for Britain to help win that independence.
Taking Off the Kid Gloves In mid-1862, Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s mission was to create a diversion that would compel Lincoln to divert to the Shenandoah Valley some of the reinforcements slated for McClellan. Jackson succeeded so brilliantly that he became the most renowned commander in the South and most feared in the North until his death a year later. General Joseph Johnston launched a mismanaged attack against McClellan’s army which only resulted in the injury of General Johnston who was then replaced with Robert E. Lee. While Lee prepared his offense against McClellan’s Union army of 100,000 men, McClellan spent most of his energy arguing with Washington over his excuses as to why he couldn’t launch an offensive attack.McClellan was then defeated in the Seven Days battles by Lee. This victory elated the South and shocked the North.
Taking Off the Kid Gloves Confederate victories at Shenandoah Valley and the Seven Days battles confirmed Britain’s and France’s belief that the North could not defeat the South. In mid-july 1862, Britain and France scheduled a motion for mediation on the part of the South which seemed sure to pass. But Prime Minister Palmerston temporarily curtailed the motion with a short speech believing that Britain should wait until the independence of the South was firmly and permanently established and premature action might risk shattering their ties with the United States.
“The Federals Got a Very Complete Smashing” The Union suffered several embarrassing misfortunes at the hands of the Confederates. Beginning with the defeat of Farragut by Lieutenant Brown on the Mississippi river. This was followed by Buell, having a similar “soft” view of the South as McClellan, being beaten to Chattanooga by General Bragg. Bragg then, in cooperation with General Smith, left Chattanooga on August 28 moving north in parallel lines about 100 miles apart and captured Union garrison soldiers and causing Buell to break off his campaign against Chattanooga and protect Nashville.