The Lion And The Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy
“Alexander Rose, a journalist by trade, has written a very interesting and informative story that follows the machinations, maneuverings, and politics that influenced what went on behind the scenes . . .”
There should be a general familiarity with the contemporary controversy surrounding this subject in which the government of the Confederate States attempted to contract for, purchase, and commission vessels in the neutral-declared United Kingdom. The U.K. had at least two laws on the books that were intended to prevent the enlistment of British subjects by a belligerent power as well as obtaining ships which would also benefit said belligerent.
To that end, the United States government certainly went out of its way to hold Her Majesty’s government’s feet to the fire in the enforcement of these laws. What is fairly well known about this effort comes through the auspices of Charles Francis Adams, the U.S. consul, or ambassador, to the Court of St. James and not those of the first of the so-called spies listed in the subtitle: Thomas Dudley.
On the Confederate side, James Bulloch’s attempts to circumvent these laws have been fairly well-publicized. He was, at least initially, successful in evading British officials as well as Thomas Dudley in obtaining vessels that went on to considerable notoriety, such as the Alabama and Shenandoah and other ships which either ran the blockade or raided Union shipping on the high seas to the consternation of the British, Dudley, Adams and the Federal government.
As a result, the story here goes deeper into the details of what transpired between the two antagonists with the British government caught in the middle.
Indeed, it was largely a pas de deux, or even a chess game, in which each man was working to effect those ends and make those moves which would be to his advantage.
Inasmuch as most of the details are previously known in general histories on the subject, there are events and circumstances that have not really seen the light of day. That is what is most relevant here for those who wish to delve deeper into this topic, especially the legal maneuvering and court trials that occurred when Dudley could finally manage to motivate the British into actually making an effort to enforce the laws in question and not always successfully for that matter.
Having said that, it should be mentioned that the “two rival spies,” referenced in the subtitle, is somewhat of a misnomer as neither was really a spy in the conventional and usually understood context of the word. Admittedly, there was a considerable amount of intelligence gathering on the part of Dudley and his cohorts, but espionage was not the raison d’etre on their part. For Bulloch, of course, it was simply a matter of evasion and avoiding discovery by the former.
Bulloch, an uncle of Theodore Roosevelt, played a shell game in evading his antagonists by camouflaging or covering up ownership of vessels with fake companies and real ship owners, and even tried to use the French government in one instance. As the war went on, blockade running became less lucrative and the British ultimately came around to the federal government’s viewpoint and made it more difficult for Bulloch.
Author Alexander Rose, a journalist by trade, has written a very interesting and informative story that follows the machinations, maneuverings, and politics that influenced what went on behind the scenes to fully flesh out what has been written before on this subject.
As such, he is not a historian, but has still made an effort to provide footnotes in order to “legitimize” this nonfiction narrative. Consequently, each chapter is divided into sections by Roman numeral with the bibliographical sources for each being represented by a single, all-inclusive footnote.
Creditably, there is a contemporary illustration of Liverpool, where most of the action takes place with locations noted that are specific to the text. Interspersed through the text are illustrations, maritime and otherwise, and photographs of the referenced principal players and documents.
The bibliography consists of personal archives, official government archives and documents as well as secondary sources. Considering what is already in print on this topic, the author had a wide variety of informational sources from which to choose.
Even without reading this publication, one can figure out for oneself who is the lion and who the fox. For those wishing to be engaged and even better informed on this Civil War maritime give-and-take, look no further than this well-written and researched volume.