Russia "Imperial Fleet In N.Y. Harbor" September 1863 - June 1864
The international affairs of the United and Confederate States were complicated by the relations among the three major European powers at the time of the Civil War - England, France, and Russia. England and France would have liked nothing better than to see the the downfall of the upstart U.S. government and the division of its territory. On several occasions they had openly considered recognizing the Confederate States of America as an independent country. Russia was the only major European power to come down squarely on the side of the North. She had recently suffered a humiliating defeat by France and England in the Crimean War and wished for a strong United States to offset the growing influence of her European rivals. In January 1863, a nationalist movement in the Russian satellite state of Poland threatened rebellion. England and France supported the Polish bid for independence, Prussia sided with Russia, and it seemed that the European continent was about to be embroiled in another war.
On September 11, 1863, astonished New Yorkers watched the Imperial Russian Fleet sail into New York Harbor. The unexpected arrival was just as much a surprise to the governments in Washington, London, and Paris. There were rumors that a Russo-American alliance would contest the British and French threats to recognize the Confederacy and intervene in Poland. The Russian officers and sailors were treated as honored guests and numerous banquets were held in their honor. President Lincoln received the fleet's officers in the White House. All of this was noted with great concern in England and France.
By June, the POlish independence movement had fizzled, and the threat of a European war subsided. The Russian czar called his fleet home. Had the European war happened, his ships would have been safe from blockades and icy ports, and free to roam the seas to prey upon British and French supply vessels.
Fascinating Fact: While in New York City, the Russian sailors were horrified at the living conditions they observed in the dreary city tenements. They donated $4,760 of their own money to help alleviate those conditions.
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