US National Overview:
This decade was the most politically chaotic for the United States since the Civil War. Much of the problem could be traced to the Confederacy’s empire-building and the inevitable US reaction – which in turn led to the only impeachment of a US president as well as conflict with the CSA.
It started with the election of 1892, when a conservative Democrat named David Hill won a contentious election against Republican John Sherman. Opposed to Civil Service reform and an expansionist, Hill moved to immediately annex the Hawaiian Islands had which found themselves leaderless following the overthrow of the last monarch; Queen Lili-uokalani – daughter of King Kalakaua who had died abruptly two years earlier.
By 1895, the excepted story that the coup had been orchestrated by foreign (primarily US) residents and businessmen had been revealed to have been instigated by President Hill in an effort to keep the islands out of the hands of an expansionist Confederacy. Despite protests he was acting in the interest of the country, the first Republican-controlled Congress in ten years moved to impeach. Found guilty of collusion, exceeding presidential authority and “conduct unbecoming a president” by the Senate – Hill was removed from office – replaced by Vice President William Jennings Bryan. The new president was more liberal and anti-imperialistic than his predecessor and this outlook would greatly inflame tensions between the Americas over the CSA’s war with Spain and expansionist moves in Central America which led directly to the Crisis of 1900-1901.
Beyond the political drama, the US found itself drawn increasingly into South American affairs as a consequence of its Containment Policy in regards to the Confederacy – which was becoming more involved in South America all the time. Diplomatic efforts resulted in consulates established in Argentina and Peru and increasing as well as more open hostility from Brazil and Chile (which were courted by the Confederacy). US-Mexican relations, meanwhile, remained good with Mexico rapidly becoming the US’s primary trade partner in the New World. In addition, for the first time US shipyards built warships for export in an effort to reinforce the Mexican Navy as a buffer against the CSN. European relations, meanwhile, had become more stratified as political alliances began to form among the powers of the continent (the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Russia) leaving the US with a bad taste in its mouth – increasing isolationist leanings throughout the country.
The only exception to this trend was with France’s canal project on the Panamanian Isthmus. When the project ran into financial trouble in 1894, the US and the CSA both came forward to offer assistance. Negotiations between the three countries lasted over six months, but in the end the Panama Canal project was resumed in early 1895 with France retaining 50% interest, the US 30%, and the CSA 20%. When the canal opened in 1905 it was hailed as an engineering triumph.
Only one state, Utah, was admitted to the union during this period, but additional territories were gained; Hispaniola in the Caribbean and Panama in Central America joined Hawaii as a territory and protectorate of the US respectively.
John Sherman (R-OH) 1889-1893
David B. Hill (D-NY) 1893-1895 I
William Jennings Bryan (D-NE) 1895-1901
Russell A. Alger (R-MI) 1889-1893
William Jennings Bryan (D-NE) 1893-1898 S
Office vacant 1898-1901
Political party abbreviations: D-Democratic Party; R-Republican Party; P-Progressive Party
Key: A: Assassinated; D: Died in office; I: Impeached; R: Resigned; S: Succeeded to presidency
States admitted (year):
Other acquired territory:
Hawaii: Annexed by the United States in 1893 – territory from 1899
Hispaniola: Annexed by the United States in 1898 – territory from 1904
Panama: Protectorate established in 1899 following the Spanish-Confederate War
CS National Overview:
For the Confederacy the 1890’s would be a time of expansion and great political and societal change as well as open conflict with the “old adversary” the United States, for the first time since the Civil War.
By the time John Daniel of the short-lived Confederation-Reform Party was elected in 1891 the Second Industrial Revolution was in full swing and the CSA was under tremendous pressure from Britain and France to finally abolish slavery – even hinting that future relations with both countries could be “adversely effected” if no action was taken to at least alleviate the situation.
The Reform Wing of the Confederation Party had risen during the 1880’s as an offshoot of the Determinist Movement and had largely taken control of the party platform by the mid-term elections of 1891. In a close election (several state recounts occurred – delaying the inaugural of the new president) Daniel ran on a platform of fundamental change – including the use of the “E-word”…emancipation. Despite his victory, however, Daniel was unable to achieve his radical goal due to a hostile political environment dominated by disaffected Confederation and States First politicians and it would fall to his successor to finally do away with slavery in the Confederacy – albeit at the cost of his life.
Stymied on his initial goal, President Daniel found an alternative to focus the country’s attention on – the deteriorating situation with Spain. Media coverage by yellow journalists fanned the flames with (mostly) exaggerated stories of Spanish cruelties and oppression in the Caribbean and the Philippines.
In October of 1895, relations completely broke down and after Confederate diplomats were expelled (allegedly at gunpoint) from the embassy in Havana, Cuba, war was declared. Lasting until August of 1897, the Spanish-Confederate War was the first real test of the Confederate Navy against an Old World power – albeit one on the decline (see Spanish-Confederate War section for more information).
After the conflict ended with Spain’s surrender after the Battle of San Juan in April of 1897, the Treaty of Lorient ceded control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the Confederacy. The US protested this “blatant land-grab” and voiced concerns over the inhabitants of these territories trading one set of tyrants for another. Unsurprisingly, this did little to quell the rising tensions between the Americas.
The election of 1897 saw another Confederation-Reformist take up residence in the Executive Mansion; Benton McMillin – who managed to push legislation through the CS Congress to abolish the institution of slavery in the CSA, but left enough loopholes so the practice of “Indebtedness” or indentured servitude remained – albeit kept low key. As a result; freed blacks were rarely retrained in other jobs outside of agriculture and would remain second-class citizens for years afterwards. Many instead made their way North where opportunities were better and society more accepting.
This Emancipation Act; restricted as it was, still infuriated many in the Confederacy and McMillin, hoping to divert attention as his predecessor had, tried focusing the country’s attention on Central America – fomenting rebellion in Nicaragua and Honduras in an effort to gain control of those nations. This backfired severely as both the United States and Mexico denounced these acts as destabilizing and threatened military intervention, setting the stage for what later historians would call the Central American Crisis.
John Tyler Morgan (S-AL) 1886-1892
John W. Daniel (CR-VA) 1892-1898
Benton McMillin (CR-TN) 1898-1900 A
George G. Vest (CR-MO) 1900-1903 R
Isham G. Harris (S-TN) 1886-1892
Wilkinson Call (CR-FL) 1892-1898
George G. Vest (CR-MO) 1898-1900 S
Office vacant 1900-1904
Political party abbreviations: C-Confederation Party; S-States First Party; CR-Confederation-Reform Party; RF-Reform Party; F-Foundation Party
Key: A: Assassinated; D: Died in office; I: Impeached; R: Resigned; S: Succeeded to presidency
States admitted (year):
Independence (1894), Jefferson (1899)
Other acquired territory:
Cuba: Ceded by Spain to the CSA in 1897 following Spanish-Confederate War
Puerto Rico: Ceded by Spain to the CSA in 1897 following Spanish-Confederate War
Philippines: Ceded by Spain to the CSA in 1897 following Spanish-Confederate War
Link to original map at d-maps.com https://d-maps.com/m/america/amcentrale ... rale06.gif
Spanish-Confederate War 1895-1897:
Following the expulsion of Confederate diplomats from Cuba and the formal declaration of war between the CSA and the Spanish Empire – it quickly became apparent that the two nations’ navies would be the deciding factor in the conflict. Although Confederate land forces were employed throughout the conflict against Spanish occupation troops, the principle battles were at sea.
Battle of Havana: November 5, 1895
Taking place only fourteen days after the formal declaration of war, the battle for Cuba’s capital was the first real test of the Confederate Navy since the Civil War. A force of seventeen Confederate ships under the command of Commodore Jeb Langston hit the blockading Spanish ships in Havana Harbor before reinforcements from Santiago de Cuba (the principle Spanish anchorage) could intervene.
The Spanish squadron – consisting of one protected cruiser the Isla de Luzon
, five unprotected cruisers: Navarra, Isabel II, Don Juan de Austria, Reina Cristina
(flagship), and Conde de Venadito
, three torpedo gunboats, and four torpedo boats – met Langston’s flagship, the armored cruiser Furious
, accompanied by protected cruisers Persephone, Hera, Athena
, the old armored frigate Houston
, and twelve torpedo boats.
In the ensuing battle, the entire Spanish force, save the Don Juan de Austria
and two torpedo boats, was annihilated for the lost of a single Confederate torpedo boat and several ships damaged – the Athena
severely. Marines were then landed and quickly gained control of the capital. Organized resistance collapsed shortly thereafter and remaining Spanish forces were withdrawn to Puerto Rico.
Battle of the Surigao Strait: June 16, 1896
By late April of 1896 the Confederacy had begun planned an offensive aimed at securing the Philippines. This was very ambitious in scope – requiring logistic support across the vast Pacific. Quietly, the CSA gained the covert assistance of Great Britain for access to its coaling stations in the Far East and help establishing supply caches. Despite the good relationship between the two countries it is difficult for modern historians to determine Britain’s exact motives – most likely a desire to undermine Spanish influence in the region was a factor.
Spanish intelligence did uncover some of this activity, but lack of time prevented the transfer of additional ships to the squadron based in the Philippines. Nevertheless, the Spanish Asiatic Squadron was powerful and included Spain’s only battleship – the Pelayo
– as well as the armored cruisers Infanta Maria Teresa
and Almirante Oquendo
, three protected cruisers; Reina Regente, Marques de la Ensenada
, and Alfonso XIII
, and ten torpedo boats.
The Confederate Far-East Squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral David Arthur, consisted of the battleships Missouri
, the armored cruisers Dauntless
, the protected cruisers Callisto, Minerva, Zeus
, and twenty torpedo boats. The Squadron arrived in the Philippines the night of June 12 and anchored in Leyte Gulf where Marines were landed unopposed on Leyte Island proper the next day. When word of the landings reached Manila, the Spanish force raised steam and set sail for Leyte. Tipped off by local spotters, the CS force immediately moved into the Surigao Strait to intercept the Spanish ships. Contact was made early in the morning of the 16th.
The battle consisted of two distinct phases and lasted until sunset at 6:30pm local time. When contact was broken a half hour later, the Spanish force had been severely mauled with Infanta Maria Teresa, Reina Regente, Marques de la Ensenada
, and six torpedo boats sunk. Pelayo, Almirante Oquendo, Alfonso XIII
, and four torpedo boats – all damaged to varying degrees – escaped back down the Strait and eventually back to Spain – where after repairs formed a squadron intended to protect the Spanish Coast.
Confederate losses were lighter – but still the highest of the War. One cruiser, the Apollo
, had been sunk and several others, including the battleship Kentucky
, had been damaged.
Following the battle, Spanish forces were largely evacuated as more CS troops were landed. Within two months these forces managed to secure the rest of the Philippines and also the islands of Guam and Wake. To protect the Philippines while the war against Spain moved back to the Caribbean, the cruisers Audacious, Callisto,
were temporarily home-ported in Manila Bay.
Battle of San Juan: April 22, 1897
Following the occupation of the Philippines both sides pulled back – the Confederacy to build up additional ground forces and repair ships, while the Spanish – now down to one armored cruiser and three protected cruisers still operational, repaired damaged ships to be redeployed to Spanish home waters, and rushed new ships under construction to completion.
Between August of 1896 and March of 1897 there was a series of small, mostly indecisive, encounters before the next major battle – which would be over Spain’s last significant holding in the Caribbean; the island of Puerto Rico, occurred. Hastily commissioned in February and March of 1897, the powerful armored cruisers Cristobal Colon
and Emperador Carlos V
led the Spanish First Caribbean Squadron to reinforce the ships stationed in San Juan Bay.
The force the Confederate Navy assembled in Mobile to counter the Spanish build-up consisted of the battleship Missouri
, the armored cruisers Furious
, the protected cruisers Persephone, Hera
, and Minerva,
and twenty torpedo boats. A troop convoy carrying 15,000 mixed Marine and Army regiments was readied for operations if the Spanish blockade was successfully broken.
That blockading force consisted of the two new armored cruisers, the older armored cruiser Vizcaya
, two protected cruisers, Isla de Cuba
, and Lepanto
, five unarmored cruisers; Castilla, Velasco, Infanta Isabel, Alfonso XII
, and Reina Mercedes
, four torpedo boat destroyers; Destructor, Furor, Pluton
, and Terror
and three torpedo gunboats. The Spanish commander, Almirante (Admiral) Pascual Cervera y Topete, was a realist and knew his ships – although outnumbering the Confederates – weren’t a match in terms of either quality or firepower, but was resolved to making a last stand sighting “Fortune often favors the Bold”. His flagship was the armored cruiser Cristobal Colon
His opponent, Rear Admiral David Arthur – victor of the Battle of the Surigao Strait – was a cautious man who never underestimated an enemy so while many of his officers were confident of an easy victory, Arthur was adamant they proceed carefully and “remain focused in conscientious pursuit of the enemy”. His cautious nature had been drilled into him as a young lieutenant aboard CSS Savannah
when she was lost during the Mexican-Confederate War to an enemy his superiors also underestimated. Arthur’s flagship was the armored cruiser CSS Furious
Battle was joined at 0932 hours the morning of April 22nd as the smaller torpedo-armed ships made multiple attacks with the mutual intent of “softening up” their opponents. Two Confederate TB’s were sunk by their new nemesis – the torpedo boat destroyer – but managed to damage the Vizcaya
and sink two of the unarmored cruisers – the Castilla
and Alfonso XII
. The Spanish were not as effective as the slower torpedo gunboats were used in the initial strike as the TBD’s were otherwise engaged and all three were sunk for only a single hit on Minerva
which nevertheless flooded a boiler room causing her to fall behind – she took no further part in the battle as a result.
In the action between the main bodies of the two squadrons which followed, Cervera’s ships opened fire first at about 4,600 yards, with the Confederate force replying immediately – superior gunnery training and Missouri’s
13.5” guns having an immediate effect – the Lepanto
disintegrating in a magazine explosion killing most of her crew. The two squadrons then passed in inline formation between 4-5,000 yards exchanging a violent barrage of fire – leaving Reina Mercedes
and Isla de Cuba
in sinking condition and Dauntless
with major topside damage and only one functioning main battery.
The two forces then reversed course twice more and passed again exchanging further salvoes, resulting in the sinking the Emperador Carlos V, Vizcaya, Castilla
and the destroyers Furor
. With his surviving ships all damaged to varying degrees, Cervera had had enough and ordered the battered remains of the Spanish squadron to break off at best possible speed and make a run for the open sea.
The Confederate force fared better, but all the ships took some damage with Hera
taking the worst of it – being dead in the water. With Dauntless
too badly damaged and Persephone
too slow this left Admiral Arthur only Missouri, Furious
and the torpedo boats which could pursue. Instead, Arthur ordered his ships to break off and return to the Bay – securing it for the landings to follow.
End of the War and aftermath:
Following the Battle of San Juan and subsequent landings of Confederate troops and with its fleet in shambles, the Spanish government, with considerable prompting from Admiral Cervera, agreed to a ceasefire. France offered to serve as host for the peace negotiations which began in September of 1897 in the small coastal town of Lorient. The resulting Treaty of Lorient effectively dissolved the Spanish Empire – awarding control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam to the CSA. Spanish diplomats and many in the military were outraged but the government knew that the country – particularly the Navy – could not continue a prolonged war and quickly accepted the Treaty’s conditions. Many in the US were also concerned. The policy of the country for nearly three decades had been one of containment of Confederate ambitions and the Treaty seemed to cement the CSA as a colonial power. Tensions would simmer for a mere two years before another conflict erupted.
Central American Crisis 1900-1901:
Following its relatively easy victory over Spain, the Confederacy was eager for its next territorial opportunity. By the end of 1899 further expansion in the Caribbean was stymied by the US annexation of Hispaniola the previous year and the continued British presence in Jamaica and the Bahamas (a nominal ally at any rate). So the attention of the McMillin Administration turned to Central America. McMillin – hoping to divert attention from his controversial Emancipation Act – decided to covertly support rebel elements in both Nicaragua and Honduras with an aim to topple the already unstable governments in both countries.
In February of 1900, Confederate troops were landed in both countries in open and direct support of the rebels. US President Bryan and Mexican President Porfirio Diaz quickly issued a joint statement that “Confederate Adventurism” would not be permitted to expand unchecked. All three countries then began deploying naval forces into the region to support their interests. Although no formal declaration of war was issued, there were a number of incidents over the next six months and by the end of August, the US had stationed troops in Costa Rica and newly-independent Panama and the Mexican Army had occupied Guatemala.
Only two significant, albeit indecisive, naval encounters occurred before the situation was turned on its head by the assassination of Confederate President McMillin in September of 1900. The first was in April, when a Confederate troop convoy bound for Honduras was intercepted by US ships blockading the port of Puerto Cortes. The situation quickly deteriorated and finally shots were exchanged for the first time since the Civil War. Several ships on both sides were damaged before the Confederates chose to withdrawal – they would take the port two months later after a protracted siege against the government-controlled coastal forts there when US forces were redeployed to protect Costa Rica and Panama. The second was in early August when a chance encounter off the western coast of Nicaragua saw the CSS Audacious
exchange fire with the USS Portland
class) and NRM Triunfante
class). Although all three vessels were damaged to varying degrees, the battle proved to be inconclusive.
By the beginning of 1901, the new CS President George C. Vest was unable to do more than consolidate the country’s gains in Central America due to the near-chaos and anti-Reform backlash in Richmond following the assassination. As a result the conflict – limited as it was – ground to a halt by the middle of March. A mutually-declared cease-fire was declared soon after but no formal peace treaty was ever signed. The US quickly moved to create protectorates in Costa Rica and Panama (outside the neutral Canal Zone – still under construction), while Mexico annexed Guatemala – admitting it as a state two years later. The Confederacy retained both Nicaragua and Honduras – creating protectorates there by the end of the year.
US Navy 1891-1900:
The US Navy continued to expand during this decade both in numbers and technologically. The principle advance was the adoption of “smokeless” gunpowder which allowed higher muzzle velocities which in turn allowed guns with greater range and power – longer barrels of up to 35-40 calibers becoming the norm. A second generation of heavy warships was built using these new guns including the Michigan, New York
classes of battleships and the Topeka
classes of armored cruisers.- these ships also began the trend of very heavy secondary batteries which would be a feature of US capital ships well into the following decade. This period would also see the first successful US ships specifically designed to combat the Confederacy’s growing number of torpedo boats. Beginning with the Ogden
class of 1894 (named for Lieutenant William Ogden – killed in action at the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War) through the Henley
class six years later a total of thirty of these “destroyers” had entered service.
By 1900, the US Navy consisted of 96 active warships; 3 coastal battleships, 8 (pre-dreadnought) battleships, 10 armored cruisers, 16 protected cruisers, 30 torpedo boat destroyers, 14 torpedo gunboats, 8 torpedo boats, and 7 armored frigates.
CS Navy 1891-1900:
This decade was significant for the Confederate Navy as it became a battle-tested blue water navy in the eyes of the world for the first time. Its decisive defeat of the Spanish fleet during the Spanish-Confederate War was proof of that. That victory would not have been possible, however, without the build-up – begun in the 1880’s – in both quantity and quality in ships, equipment, logistics and training which the CSN had undertaken. Like its northern rival – the CSN also adopted the new gunpowder formulas and a new series of heavy guns were designed by Tredegar Works to utilize them – including a copy of the British 13.5”/30 which armed the two ships of the Missouri
class. The first Confederate armored cruisers – the Furious
class – entered service between 1894 and 1895 and played a vital role in the Spanish-Confederate War. They were followed by the faster and more heavily armed Courageous
class by the end of the decade. With 80 torpedo boats in service by 1895, the CSN was at first reluctant to field TBD’s – but after observing the US vessels in action decided to built them as well, with the first; CSS Advent
, entering service in early 1898.
By the end of the decade the Confederate Navy comprised 112 ships; 4 battleships, 6 armored cruisers, 10 protected cruisers, 12 torpedo boat destroyers, 77 torpedo boats, and 3 armored frigates.
Note on format:
From this point forward ships will be arranged in order by type – largest to smallest and by year of commission within type – the USN first, then the Confederate Navy. Ships from the Mexican Republic Navy and eventually those of South America in this timeline will be detailed as time permits and where appropriate.
Michigan class (US):
When originally authorized in 1890, the two ships of the Michigan
class were intended to be progressive refinements of the previous Pennsylvania
class but Naval Secretary Richard Hardison felt those ships were too unorthodox as well as technological dead-ends and directed Chief Langford to instead pattern the new ships on the earlier Wisconsin
class. This change would in turn set the pattern for US heavy warships well into the following decade.
class was 358 feet long overall, with a 65 foot beam and a nominal draft of 23 feet. They displaced 10,540 tons normal and 11,390 tons full load. They were armed with four 12”/35 Mk.2’s in twin turrets fore and aft. The secondary battery consisted of twelve 6”/35 Mk.3 guns in casemate mounts amidships with a light battery of eight rapid-fire 6-pounders. They were twin-shaft and powered by triple-expansion engines generating a total of 7,700 shaft horsepower. Rated speed was 16 knots, while maximum range of 6,500 nautical miles.
Armor comprised a 14” belt tapering to 8” at bow and stern, a 3” armored deck, 14” main turrets with 12” barbettes, 8” casemates, and a 9” conning tower. Crew complement was 597.
(B-6) and USS Connecticut
(B-7) were laid down during 1892 and commissioned in 1895. After entering service both ships served primarily in the Atlantic Fleet – although they were shifted temporarily to the Caribbean Squadron based in Santo Domingo, Hispaniola, during the Spanish-Confederate War (where they were the squadron’s most powerful members) and remained there through the Central American Crisis – returning to the Atlantic Fleet in early 1902.
Following a major refit in 1904-05 where, among other improvements, their primary weapons were replaced by 12”/40 Mk.3’s and their secondary battery by new 6”/40 Mk.5 guns, the two ships were re-assigned to the Pacific Fleet home-ported in Kitsap, Washington, as second-line units.
During the Western Pacific War both ships were actively deployed, but as they were unable to keep up with newer battleships worked as heavy convoy escorts and in shore bombardment duties. Neither was lost during the conflict – however Connecticut
was damaged in early 1908 by shore batteries while off the hotly contested island of Guam. After the war, the ships continued in second-line or training duties before being placed in reserve in 1916. Although offers by Peru to buy one or both of the ships were discussed, ultimately they were deemed obsolete and remained in ordinary until 1920, when both were struck from the Naval Registry and sold for scrapping. Interestingly, both ships’ bells were salvaged and placed on display on the Lansing and Hartford capital grounds.