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Spain and the American Civil War

Wayne H. Bowen

Publication Year: 2011

In the mid-1800s, Spain experienced economic growth, political stabilization, and military revival, and the country began to sense that it again could be a great global power. In addition to its desire for international glory, Spain also was the only European country that continued to use slaves on plantations in Spanish-controlled Cuba and Puerto Rico. Historically, Spain never had close ties to Washington, D.C., and Spain’s hard feelings increased as it lost Latin America to the United States in independence movements. Clearly, Spain shared many of the same feelings as the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War, and it found itself in a unique position to aid the Confederacy since its territories lay so close to the South. Diplomats on both sides, in fact, declared them “natural allies.” Yet, paradoxically, a close relationship between Spain and the Confederacy was never forged.


In Spain and the American Civil War, Wayne H. Bowen presents the first comprehensive look at relations between Spain and the two antagonists of the American Civil War. Using Spanish, United States and Confederate sources, Bowen provides multiple perspectives of critical events during the Civil War, including Confederate attempts to bring Spain and other European nations, particularly France and Great Britain, into the war; reactions to those attempts; and Spain’s revived imperial fortunes in Africa and the Caribbean as it tried to regain its status as a global power. Likewise, he documents Spain’s relationship with Great Britain and France; Spanish thoughts of intervention, either with the help of Great Britain and France or alone; and Spanish receptiveness to the Confederate cause, including the support of Prime Minister Leopoldo O’Donnell.


Bowen’s in-depth study reveals how the situations, personalities, and histories of both Spain and the Confederacy kept both parties from establishing a closer relationship, which might have provided critical international diplomatic support for the Confederate States of America and a means through which Spain could exact revenge on the United States of America.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-x

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pp. 1-14

The American Civil War was primarily a domestic conflict, pitting the southeastern slaveholding states against the more urban and industrial North and the antislavery West. Other nations, including major powers such as France and Britain and less globally significant...

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Chapter 1: Prewar Tensions between Spain and the American South

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pp. 15-33

The fifty years before the American Civil War saw increasing tensions between Spain and the United States, with conflicts over independence movements within the Spanish empire, expansionist ambitions among Southern US politicians, and other diplomatic and...

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Chapter 2: Spain in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

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pp. 34-54

Even after the end of its sixteenth-century Golden Age, Spain continued to be globally significant because of the extent and importance of its territorial possessions. The country had been in relative decline for many years, and the Napoleonic years were cataclysmic, causing...

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Chapter 3: The First Year of War—Flirtation with Alliance

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pp. 55-83

During the first phase of the Civil War, when Confederate optimism in battlefield victories rode high, Southern leaders put little faith and fewer resources in diplomacy. “King Cotton Diplomacy,” the conviction that the South held the upper hand in relations with...

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Chapter 4: Spain’s Dominican Enterprise

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pp. 84-106

Spain’s most spectacular attempt to revive its imperial glory came in March 1861 when it annexed the Caribbean state of Santo Domingo, allegedly to protect the Dominicans from potential invasion from Haiti. Santo Domingo, the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola...

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Chapter 5: King Cotton, the French Temptation, and Spain First

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pp. 107-122

During the American Civil War, it was France that seemed most likely to lend aid to the Confederate cause, given the open sympathy toward the South expressed by Napoleon III and his ability to direct his own foreign policy without much deference to the legislature. In...

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Chapter 6: Collaboration in the Caribbean

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pp. 123-135

The Caribbean Sea was an area of great concern for the United States during the American Civil War. Confederate blockade runners and surface raiders carried the war through coastal waters and into the Atlantic. Especially during 1861 and 1862, when the US Navy was...

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Chapter 7: Opportunism and Delay

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pp. 136-148

Spain’s hesitancy to join in an alliance with the Confederacy reflected not only its weak international position and subordination to France and Britain but also a feeling of deep ambivalence about the Confederacy. Spain believed that the South, if successful, would...

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pp. 149-156

The American Civil War officially ended for Spain even later than it did for the Confederacy, when, on June 5, 1865, Spain withdrew its recognition of Confederate belligerent rights. Even though this gesture was a formality, coming almost two months after General Robert...


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pp. 157-176


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pp. 177-184


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pp. 185-188

Back Cover

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p. 200-200

E-ISBN-13: 9780826272584
E-ISBN-10: 0826272584
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826219381
Print-ISBN-10: 0826219381

Page Count: 198
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1