So why is the American Civil War being re-enacted in the UK?
America in the 1860’s was a young nation, being made up for the most part of recent immigrants from all over Europe, and consequently thousands of Europeans took part in the war on both sides. Many people in Europe can trace back to relatives who took part. For example German families such as the Rothenburgs and Wolters fleeing persecution in Prussia after German unification ended up in Hull, and Pennsylvania. (There was an Augustus Wolters in the Bucktails – a very traditional German name). The Butterfield family of funeral directors of Yorkshire had members emigrate to switch their talents to stagecoach building (and one even became a famous Civil War general!) Many Irish of course, emigrated to the US after the potato famines of 1848.
Britain had very strong links with the Southerners, and very nearly took a more active part in the war. Any large family or stately home probably had trading links with the USA.
There were links with cotton, and factories in Liverpool and Manchester of course. Britain was a major Arms exporter to both sides with the Enfield Rifle being very popular (what’s new…).
As Joshua Chamberlain says in the film Gettysburg, It was also perhaps the first war of ‘ideas and ideology.’ To Abolish slavery, ‘to set another man free.’
It was a war of technological changes too. Our breechloading Sharpe’s Rifles were the iPhone of the day with most other units using a musket that had changed only slightly since the Napoleonic Wars…After failed charges at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg men would soon stop lining up and firing at each other with changes in tactics to become the more trench warfare style. Although unreliable and rarely used, the first machine gun: the Gatling gun makes its first appearance in the American Civil War. Lessons were learned in the US on the fields of Cold Harbour and Bull Run that would not be learned by the Armies of Europe until 1914.
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