The First Battles: April 1861 to February 1862

International Events

What about the diplomatic front? What was the Trent affair?

In October 1861, President Davis sent three commissioners overseas to negotiate with Britain, France, and Spain. He knew, as did all of his advisers, that the Confederacy had to have outside help in order to win.

Two of the commissioners, James Mason and John Slidell, were captured when the USS San Jacinto stopped and boarded the British mail steamer Trent. Union Captain James Wilkes (1798–1877) had a fine reputation as a naval explorer—he had sailed much of the Pacific in the 1840s—but he overstepped diplomatic boundaries in seizing the two Confederate commissioners, whom he brought as prisoners to Boston. The people of that city were delighted, and the nation rejoiced to hear of the matter until it was learned that Great Britain might bring on a war against the United States.


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