Secret History of Confederate Diplomacy Abroad

Edited by Edwin DeLeon; William C. Davis

One of the Souths most urgent priorities in the Civil War was obtaining the recognition of foreign governments. Edwin De Leon, a Confederate propagandist charged with wooing Britain and France, opens up this vital dimension of the war in the earliest known account by a Confederate foreign agent.

First published in the New York Citizen in 1867–68, De Leons memoir subsequently sank out of sight until its recent rediscovery by William C. Davis, one of the Civil War fields true luminaries. Both reflective and engaging, it brims with insights and immediacy lacking in other works, covering everything from the diplomatic impact of the Battle of Bull Run to the candid opinions of Lord Palmerston to the progress of secret negotiations at Vichy.

“Davis has done a masterful job in editing, correcting,and placing De Leon's work in context. . . . The book provides the historian and general reader with interesting and colorful insight into the work of the Confederate diplomatic corps in Europe during 1862 and 1863.

—Journal of Southern History

“What sets this account apart from others is that De Leon is unusually forthcoming (some might say he is a gossip) in his criticism of Confederate foreign policy and President Jefferson Davis’ uncanny ability to send the wrong people abroad. . . . De Leon is a keen observer of events . . . and his opinionated walk through the Confedereacy's diplomatic struggle offers an insider’s view of the British and French reaction to the Southern cause.

—Washington Times
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De Leon discusses, among other things, the strong stand against slavery by the French and a frustrating policy of inaction by the British, as well as the troubling perceptions of some Europeans that the Confederacy was located in South America and that most Americans were a cross between Davy Crockett and Sam Slick. With Frances recognition a priority, De Leon published pamphlets and used French journals in a futile attempt to sway popular opinion and pressure the government of Napoleon III. His interpretation of the latters meeting with Confederate diplomat John Slidell and the eventual mediation proposal sheds new light on that signal event.

De Leon was a keen observer and a bit of a gossip, and his opinionated details and character portraits help shed light on the dark crevices of the Souths doomed diplomatic efforts and provide our only inside look at the workings of Napoleons court and Parliament regarding the Confederate cause. Davis adds an illuminating introduction that places De Leons career in historical context, reveals much about his propagandist strategies, and traces the history of the Secret History itself. Together they open up a provocative new window on the Civil War.

About the Author

Edwin DeLeon (1818–1891) was the author of several travel books and novels and a two-volume memoir, Thirty Years of My Life on Three Continents. William C. Davis is professor of history at Virginia Tech and a three-time winner of the Jefferson Davis Award for Confederate History. His other books include The Union That Shaped the Confederacy: Robert Toombs and Alexander H. Stephens, and, most recently, Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America.