In the Shadow of the Alabama

The British Foreign Office and the American Civil War
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Published:June 15, 2015
By Renata Eley Long (Author)

Praise for In the Shadow of the Alabama ~

"This is a worthwhile read, a detective adventure overlaid by multiple layers of mystery."—The Northern Mariner

“Long’s story is at its best when framing the struggle that went into creating the special relationship between Great Britain and the United States.”—JAMP (Journal of America’s Military Past)

This book looks at an allegation of betrayal made against a young Foreign Office clerk, Victor Buckley, who, it was claimed, leaked privileged information to agents of the southern States during the American Civil War. As a consequence, the CSS Alabama narrowly escaped seizure by the British government and proceeded to wage war on American shipping. Victor Buckley’s background is examined against the hitherto erroneous belief that he was an insignificant member of the foreign office staff.

The American minister Charles Francis Adams oversees a network of spies endeavoring to prove contravention of The Foreign Enlistment Act. The South’s agents, Captain James D. Bulloch and Major Caleb Huse, are the prime targets, and a battle of wits ensues as Bulloch oversees construction of his ships on Merseyside.

A member of a prominent City family offers to enlist the help of a relative who, he claims, holds a confidential position in the Foreign Office. The Confederate agents are soon receiving information about the status of Anglo-American diplomacy and are able to outwit the Union spies and dispatch arms and supplies to the South. Their coup d'état is achieved with the arrival of a message that hurries the Confederate’s most formidable warship out of British waters.

After the escape of the Alabama, the government moves to curtail Bulloch’s operations. When the war ends in 1865, investigations begin into the circumstances surrounding the Alabama’s departure. As America demands reparation, evidence apparently incriminating Victor Buckley is acquired, but before the claim reaches its hearing in Geneva, diplomatic moves (some involving Anglo-American Masonic influence) result in a treaty and ensure that no allegation is made against any individual member of foreign office staff. Queen Victoria, anxious to see the Alabama claims settled, is spared embarrassment.

A scandal erupts in the foreign office in 1878 as a freelance clerk, Charles Marvin, leaks sensitive information to the press and subsequently writes of his experiences, revealing much of the ethos of the office pertinent to Buckley’s story. The writer Arthur Conan Doyle becomes fascinated by Anglo-American diplomacy and the Alabama question, and, soon after joining a London gentlemen’s club where Buckley’s alleged contact is a member, writes a Sherlock Holmes story involving a Foreign Office clerk’s apparent betrayal.

Coincidentally, Conan Doyle has been acquainted with Buckley’s associate some years earlier, and he soon makes a thinly veiled appearance in a fictional work by England’s most famous crime writer.


List Price: $37.95
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Product Details
  • Subject: Civil War
  • Hardback : 280 pages
  • Illustrations: 16 b/w photos & illustrations
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (June 15, 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 1612518362
  • ISBN-13: 9781612518367
  • Product Dimensions: 6.125 X 9.25 in
  • Shipping Weight: 19.78 oz
  • In the Shadow of the Alabama is written with a refreshing lack of academic jargon. Long is a freelance writer-historian whose book-jacket bio lists no academic credit. One hopes that the comment ‘writes like a novelist’ wouldn’t be an insult; most historical novelists would love to write as well.”—America’s Civil War
  • “Why is the Alabama claims case still worthy of study and this book still relevant? Despite advances in technology since the time of the Civil war, diplomatic histories give a reader insight into the inner workings of foreign relations, which haven’t really changed that much since then. And of course, the citizens and even governments of ostensibly neutral nations will always find compelling reasons to interfere in other nations’ wars, and with that in mind, Long has written an intricately-crafted cautionary tale.”—The Daybook, Hampton Roads Naval Museum
  • "...fact of it all remains the Civil War very much was a global conflict, with long lasting results on this side of the Atlantic as well as in Europe. An excellently done book that most recently addresses this side of the conflict is Renata Eley Long’s In the Shadow of the Alabama. Long’s book is a worthy addition to libraries for those who seek to understand the war beyond the familiar battlefields in Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia."—Emerging Civil
  • “The mysteries surrounding the Alabama are explored in this new book. There are a number of them and each is given a thorough look, allowing the reader an in-depth look at the political machinations of the American and British governments at a critical time in their relations. The involvement of the British in the American Civil War is full of intrigue, and this story of the vessel is a fascinating tale well presented.”—Military Heritage
  • “This new examination of Buckley’s role as a possible Foreign Office mole is Long’s greatest contribution to the literature on British supporters of the Confederacy. More germane is the impressive variety of rare and in some cases heretofore unused personal accounts and memoirs Long has uncovered, including privately printed internal histories of the British arms companies that supplied the Confederacy and the memoir of British Confederate sympathizer M. J. Butcher.”—
  • “Long’s story is at its best when framing the struggle that went into creating the special relationship between Great Britain and the United States.”—JAMP (Journal of America’s Military Past)
  • “This is a worthwhile read, a detective adventure overlaid by multiple layers of mystery.”—The Northern Mariner
  • “The author has done a good job to bring the times and people to life in what was really a cat-and-mouse game—but a game with deadly results.”—Sea Classics
  • “A fascinating new tale of an old story—the Anglo-American dynamic of the Civil War era—that is part history, part mystery, and compellingly crowded with statesmen, spies and great scholarship. Renata Eley Long has given us much to think about and her impact upon the historiography on both sides of the Atlantic is much-needed and unique.”—Howard J. Fuller, author of Clad in Iron: The American Civil War and the Challenge of British Naval Power and Empire, Technology and Seapower: Royal Navy Crisis in the Age of Palmerston

  • “Renata Eley Long’s In the Shadow of the Alabama peels away the many layers of intrigue surrounding Britain’s involvement in the American Civil War, and in particular the events leading up to the escape of the Confederate cruiser Alabama. The author’s narrative illuminates the inner workings of the British government and exposes the machinations of Victorian entrepreneurs’ intent on profiting from America’s disunion. Told in a way only possible by a writer with an intimate understanding of English customs and society, her book will delight followers of Alabama’s enduring saga.”—Stephen Chapin Kinnaman, author of Captain Bulloch: The Life of James Dunwoody Bulloch, Naval Agent of the Confederacy
  • “The story of the CSS Alabama marks a turning point in the history of relations between Great Britain and the United States. In giving precedence to arbitration and compromise over coercion and confrontation, the governments in Washington and (more especially) London laid the foundations of the later ‘Great Rapprochement’ between the two countries. Ironically, then, Confederate marauding in European waters lies at the root of the twentieth-century Anglo-American relationship that many, on both sides of the Atlantic, thought—and continue to think—‘special.’ In the Shadow of the Alabama takes the reader behind the scenes, and offers a fascinating glimpse of the inner workings of the two governments at a crucial moment in U.S.-British history. It does so with great poise, lucidity and a fine sense of history’s ironies.”—T.G. Otte, professor of diplomatic history, University of East Anglia (UK)
  • “The escape from Merseyside of the newly launched Enrica—CSS Alabama—became a major bone of contention between Great Britain and the United States and has intrigued and baffled historians ever since. Renata Eley Long has ventured into these murky waters in a meticulously researched book that provides numerous clues to solving the mysteries. It is a major contribution to the complex story behind the most successful of the Confederacy’s commerce raiders.”—NORMAN C. DELANEY, PHD, author of John McIntosh Kell of the Raider Alabama and The Maltby Brothers’ Civil War

  • “Long’s examination of the topic is meticulous without being tedious. She presents characters in detail and follows them from birth to the grave and somehow manages to give them to the reader in a way that keeps them from being lost in the sea of biography. Hers is a masterful work that reads like a novel.”—Sea History
  • “This is a very readable synthesis of an extremely important episode in Anglo-American history. Specialists will revisit familiar events and be pleased to have a reliable and up-to-date account. In the Shadow of the Alabama follows the ‘traditional’ interpretation of British views of the American Civil War established in the 1920s, accepting British elite support for the Confederacy and working class support for the Union, overlooking recent, more complicated interpretations. It is a nice addition to the field.”—International Journal of Maritime History
  • “Long’s work is exceptionally well researched in terms of details regarding the British government’s inner workings during the time of the American Civil War and for a few years surround the period. She has done a remarkable service to the historiography of the American Civil War, particularly the international relations element, by adding this wealth of insight to the scholarship.” — U.S. Military History Review
  • In the Shadow of the Alabama contributes to the growing literature on Civil War diplomacy though its interesting profiles of sometimes obscure figures and useful survey of Anglo-American interactions over shipbuilding and arms distribution.” —Michigan War Studies Review

Renata Eley Long is a freelance writer and historian who has lived and worked on both sides of the Atlantic. Her childhood in Cornwall and Bristol fostered an early interest in maritime history that developed into a passion for research and unearthing the untold stories of the past.

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1 Review
Average Customer Reviews
4.00 Stars
In the Shadow of the Alabama
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
By: Allen D Boyer
With this deeply researched book, Renata Eley Long paints in the background of a famous, notorious set of warships, the Confederate commerce raiders Georgia, Florida, Shenandoah, and the lethal Alabama. At the book’s center is a diplomatic scandal. Long after the Civil War, Foreign Office clerk Victor Buckley was accused of informing Southern agents that the British government planned to seize the Alabama before she could sail – information that allowed the Confederates to hurry the raider out of the Mersey and on to the Azores, where she took on a battery of cannon, ran up the Confederate ensign, and began a career during which she would burn scores of Union merchantmen. Conclusive evidence against Buckley remains elusive. To build a case from inferences, Long focuses on the diplomatic and political milieu. Her story revolves around Liverpool and the Merseyside, where the Confederacy found British shipwrights ready to build vessels to its order, and Westminster, where British lawyers and diplomats too often let these ships slip away to the open sea. Two figures dominate the narrative: Confederate spymaster James D. Bulloch and Charles Francis Adams, Lincoln’s wartime ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. The fight between Adams and Bulloch plays out against the grasping, hard-edged side of Queen Victoria’s Britain. Adams and the Union had the support of millhands who favored abolition, but Bulloch could count on the sympathies of Privy Council peers and Fleet Street publishing barons. Readers may lose sight of Buckley amid the characters and issues that fill Long’s panorama: cotton prices, Confederate bonds, jobbing gun-makers, piratical naval men, and a civil lawyer committed for lunacy. Dickens would have satirized the greed; Trollope would have understood the frustration and hostility that lay just beneath the veneer of scrupulous protocol, and the perennial difficulty of moving a government into action. And the scandal in the Foreign Office may echo in “The Naval Treaty,” one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of Sherlock Holmes.


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