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Devyn Williams
Mr. Dreisbach/Mrs. Andrews-Williams
24 August 2013
What Could Have Happened?
1861-65 were very crucial years in American History. Many lives were lost. Many
families were torn apart. During wartime, all the events could have gone differently. However,
there are four that standout in history. They include the failure to reinforce Norfolk Navy Yard,
Britain nearly causing a second war with the United States, General McClellans Quaker Gun
affair, and Frmonts Proclamation.
As a result of not willing to give Virginia a reason to secede, President Lincoln held his
command to strengthen the defenses of Norfolk Navy Yard. He finally decided to give the order,
it was too late. The confederate army had already taken over the artillery and the premier ship,
the Merrimac. By losing, the Unions naval power reduced significantly. Had the President not
hesitated, the Union would have taken the Merrimac and the ammunition, giving them the
necessary weaponry they so desperately needed and could not afford. Lincoln looked to Chase
for guidance on the complex problem of financing a war at a time when the government was
heavily in debt (Goodwin 365). However, this would not stop the union from using naval power
in the future.
In April of 1861, President Lincoln declared a blockade on the Confederate coastline.
This caused major issues with two parties; the Confederate States of America and Great Britain.
With the South being one of the prime cotton producers in the world and Britain using that cotton
for its textile industry, the blockade was a recipe for disaster. Deprived of the cotton, Merchants

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would lose money, and thousands of workers would lose their jobs (Goodwin 363). This made
Seward fearful that, England would back that South simply to feed its own factories (Goodwin
363). To combat this, Seward drafted a letter to be given to Lord John Russell, Britains foreign
secretary. It stated, If the vexing issues were not resolved, and Britain decided to fraternize
with our domestic enemy, then a war between the United States and Britain may ensue, caused
by the action of Great Britain, not our own (Goodwin 364). Consequently, had President
Lincoln hesitated to send that letter, Britain would have looked at the confederacy as its own
country, thus, diminishing the moral of the troops and the country they served. Without a doubt,
this was the difference between a Union and Confederate victory. Though the issues at sea were
pressing, they did not compare to those on land.
General McClellan, the first general-in-chief of the Union Army was relieved of
command due to his inability to lead. This is one of the best decisions made on the part of
President Lincoln. The Quaker Gun affair, which was the last straw, happened when
McClellan decided to move his troops to capture the confederates, and found to his disbelief, that
they had already packed up and left. Furthermore, the heavy artillery that had prevented his
command to move, for months, was just logs painted black to resemble cannons. Had Lincoln
not relieved McClellan from his post, he would have made bold, counterproductive, and deadly
decisions to try and re-establish his reputation. Unlike Lincoln, the proud war secretary did not
ignore the arrogance of the general-in-chief (Goodwin 427). Stanton noticed that McClellan
was arrogant and this did not sit well with him. That will be the last time General McClellan
will give either myself or the President the waiting snub (Goodwin 427). Any man that will
keep the president waiting is egotistic. On the other hand, so is one who takes matters into his
own hands without the consent of the president.

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Lastly, Frmont declared a proclamation which declared martial law in the state of
Missouri. He did this to shift the purpose of the war to emancipation. However, he did not
consult Lincoln. This brought concerns that the shift would cause the Border States to join the
Confederacy. Lincolns fears about the reaction to Frmonts proclamation in the border states
were justified. Within days frantic letters reached Washington from Unionist in Kentucky
(Goodwin 390). Lincoln had to take immediate action. Frmont was removed from his
command. In retrospect, had Lincoln not, without a doubt the Border States would have seceded.
In conclusion, if the President Lincoln reinforced the Norfolk yard, the Union would have
had better naval power. Also, if Seward had not initiated the letter written to Lord Russell, the
United States could have been involved in a second war. If General McClellan was not removed
from his command, move lives would have been lost during the war due to his egocentric
attitude. Finally, had Lincoln not acted quickly on Frmont Proclamation, the boarder states
would have seceded from the Union.

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Work Cited
Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York:
Simon & Schuster, 2005. Print.