More to Explore
People and Groups
This Day in History
On this day in 1862, Confederate General Earl Van Dorn thwarts Union General Ulysses S. Grant's first attempt to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, when Van…
The American Civil War, fueled by the debate over slavery and states' rights, pitted North against South in the costliest conflict fought on U.S. soil.
In 1860-61, after years of rising tensions, 11 southern states seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America, leading to the American Civil War.
On November 8, 1861, the U.S. Navy boarded the Trent, a British mail steamer at sean near the Bahamas, and arrested Confederate envoys James Mason and John Slidell.
Ulysses Grant commanded the Union army during the Civil War and later became the 18th U.S. president.
Did You Know?
U.S. Senator Charles Sumner initially considered asking for damages of $2 billion, or the annexing of Canada to the United States, as payment for the Alabama claims.
The Alabama claims were brought by the United States against Great Britain for the damage caused by several Confederate warships built in Liverpool during the Civil War, most notably the commerce raiders Alabama and Florida. The British Foreign Enlistment Act of 1819 forbade the construction and outfitting of foreign warships. The Confederates evaded the letter of this law during the early years of the war by various ruses and managed to purchase a number of cruisers. After these vessels were completed, they destroyed or captured more than 250 American merchant ships and caused the conversion of 700 more to foreign flags. By the end of the war, the U.S. Merchant Marine had lost half its ships. The subsequent demands for compensation took the title of the vessel that had done the most damage-Alabama.
Most historians now believe that the raiders' worst effect was on the U.S. Merchant Marine, which never regained its prewar standing, rather than on the actual course of the war. But at the time many Americans believed that the raiders had indeed lengthened the war. British and U.S. diplomats worked out the Johnson-Clarendon Convention of 1869, recommending a commission to review the Alabama claims, but this proposal met overwhelming defeat in the Senate, where Charles Sumner, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, spoke passionately against it. He maintained that the British were accountable not only for private citizens' losses but for all the costs of the war after Gettysburg, on the grounds that the Confederates were defeated by then except for their maritime operations. He proposed a compensation of $2 billion and recommended the cession of Canada as well.
Diplomacy resumed nevertheless, and in 1871 Secretary of State Hamilton Fish negotiated the Treaty of Washington, calling again for an arbitration panel. This time the proposal was accepted on May 8. The arbitrators met in Geneva in 1871-1872. They dismissed the 'indirect' claims for war costs but granted the full amount of private compensation requested, $15 million.
The Reader's Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!
Keep up with the latest History shows, online features, special offers and more.Sign up
Classroom Study Guides
The Hatfields and the McCoys. Their names evoke images of a bitter feud between two American families. But many people may be unfamiliar with the story behind this legendary conflict.
Teacher's Guide to the program covering the last few weeks of the Civil War, from President Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration, to the surrender at Appomatox, the assassination of Lincoln, and the final laying down of arms by the Confederacy.
Sherman's March (PDF)
Teacher's guide to General William Tecumseh Sherman's military campaign. In 1864 General Sherman began his "March to the Sea," burning crops, confiscating supplies, destroying buildings and ripping up the rail tracks on his way.