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Enforcing the Monroe Doctrine

The War Between the States provides an intriguing window into an aspect that is generally relegated to irrelevance: American foreign policy and Europe. For instance, one of the biggest boosters of Lincoln and the Northern states was Czarist Russia. For despite the Civil War, America was coming on as an industrialized state, hence a growing power in the Age of the Industrial Revolution. Manifest Destiny, that quest to erect a contiguous empire was proceeding unabated; as it was with Czarist Russia. St. Petersburg had been pursuing a program of Manifest Destiny on the Eurasian land mass, just as America had been on the North American landmass.

Union troops marching in the grand review of victory, May 1865.

Five years before Fort Sumter, Czarist Russia had lost the Crimean War to a coalition of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire. This led to the demise of the Holy Alliance; an accord which saw Czarist Russia, Prussia and Austria as allies. Yet Prussia and Austria did not assist Russia in the Crimean conflict. So Czarist Russia saw this growing America as a potential future ally.

France: Napoleon III, in attempting to resurrect France as a great power, had occupied Mexico, putting Maximilian from the House of Hapsburg on the throne in Mexico City as the French satrap.[1] President Lincoln was hardly in a position to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. Number one, America, for most of its history up to this point, had relied on a militia system for much of its military power. The Founders had been suspect of having a large professional army after the Revolution, seeing same as a threat to the Republic. So a small regular army was bolstered by the militia system; or, the citizen-soldier concept. The governors actually controlled the mass of America’s soldiers. All white males, age 18-45, were in each state militia, not only controlled by governors, but led by officers picked by the states, with militiamen buying their own guns, powder, ball, shirts, pants, etc. But the Civil War began to change the military course of America.

May 1865, President's reviewing stand to acknowledge the armies of Generals G. Meade and William T. Sherman.

The War Between the States became an industrialized, corporatized, commercialized war. The North will crush the Confederacy with a large regular army, backed by a nation with over 110,000 factories, resources, manpower and finance. The Confederates tried to build a military-industrial complex, starting in 1861. Too late did the Southerners understand that a nation of farmers in the Age of the Industrial Revolution was not going to defeat an opponent with masses of wrench-turners in a conventional war.

At the war’s conclusion, April 9, 1865, the Union Army boasted 2,213,000 men. The largest conventional armed force in the history of North America up to this point. The Confederate Army had been crushed; yet, the French were still in Mexico. Another war? Maurice Matloff takes up the narrative from here:

“The military of the Union was put on display late in May 1865, when Meade’s and Sherman’s armies participated in a grand review in Washington. Sherman’s army alone taking six and one-half hours to pass the reviewing stand on Pennsylvania Avenue. It was a spectacle well calculated to impress on the Confederates and foreign leaders alike that only a strong government could field such a powerful force.

Union Army General, Philip Sheridan, commanded 52,000 Union troops on the Texas-Mexico border in 1865. His potential task was that of having to enforce the Monroe Doctrine in Mexico against the occupying French Army if diplomacy failed.

“But even as these troops were preparing for their victory march, the War Department sent Sheridan[2] to command an aggregate force of about 82,000 men in the territory west of the Mississippi and south of the Arkansas, of which he put 52,000 in Texas. There Sheridan’s men put muscle behind diplomatic protests against the presence of French troops in Mexico. The French had entered that country several years earlier ostensibly to collect debts, but since 1864 had maintained their puppet Maximilian on a Mexican throne in the face of opposition from Mexican patriot forces under Benito Juarez. While the Civil War lasted, the United States had been unable to do more than protest this situation, for even a too vigorous diplomacy might have pushed France into an alliance with the South. Now stronger measures seemed necessary.”[3]

Rawley, James A., Turning Points of the Civil War, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Neb., 1966.

War will be avoided, primarily because of events in Europe. In 1866, Otto von Bismarck led Prussia, together with Italy, in a short war against Hapsburg Austria. Berlin now extended its control of the German states, hence Germany. Napoleon III quickly understood the threat to France’s eastern frontiers. French occupation troops were pulled out of Mexico, leading to the end of Maximilian.

A potential war with France had been averted. And while a well-blooded United States Army led by an experienced commander lent to President Andrew Johnson’s political efforts, what could have become an ordeal by battle between two former allies, was avoided; in the end, by the machinations of Otto von Bismarck in forging a united Germany. Indeed, though, the United States Army did stand ready to evict a foreign power from North America so as to enforce the Monroe Doctrine.

Endnotes

[1] Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph Maria, House of Hapsburg-Lorraine, was the younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Austrian Hapsburg realms.

[2] General Philip Sheridan.

[3] See page 282, Chapter 13, “Darkness and Light, the Interwar Years, 1865-1898,” American Military History, Maurice Matloff, General Editor.

Biblioraphy

Donald, David, Why the North Won the Civil War, Louisiana State University Press, Macmillan Publishing Company, Inc., New York, NY., 1979. Originally published 1960.

Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative, Red River to Appomattox, Vol. 3, Random House, Inc., New York, 1974.

The first and only emperor of the Second Mexican Empire, Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph Maria of the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine, younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. He accepted Napoleon III's petition to become Emperor of Mexico, for the Second Mexican Empire of France. In Spanish he was known as Fernando Maximiliano Jose Maria de Hapsburgo-Lorena. With the removal of French troops in 1866, the Second Mexican Empire collapsed. Maximilian was executed by Don Benito Juarez in 1867.

Matloff, Maurice, General Editor, American Military History, Office Chief of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1969.

Rawley, James A., Turning Points of the Civil War, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Neb., 1966.

Union Army General, Philip Sheridan, commanded 52,000 Union troops on the Texas-Mexico border in 1865. His potential task was that of having to enforce the Monroe Doctrine in Mexico against the occupying French Army if diplomacy failed.

May 1865, President's reviewing stand to acknowledge the armies of Generals G. Meade and William T. Sherman.

Union troops marching in the grand review of victory, May 1865.