The First Battles: April 1861 to February 1862

International Events

What was the reaction in Great Britain?

Victoria was the queen of England and the empress of a vast overseas empire, but her government was run by Lord John Palmerston. Tradition has it that on learning of the Trent’s seizure, he flung down his hat on the table and shouted to his Cabinet: “You may stand for this, but damned if I will!” Recognizing the vulnerability of British Canada, Palmerston rushed 8,000 veteran soldiers there, and he sent blustering diplomatic messages to the United States. The implication was clear: return the commissioners, or face a war.

In England, the aristocrats favored the South, while most British citizens were with the North, so when Prime Minister Lord John Palmerston threated war on the Union after the USS San Jacinto stopped a British ship and seized the two Confederate diplomats on board, he had no support from his countrymen.


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