Treasure and Empire in the Civil War

The Panamá Route, the West and the Campaigns to Control America’s Mineral Wealth

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About the Book

Across North America’s periphery, unknown and overlooked Civil War campaigns were waged over whether the Union or Confederacy would dominate lands, mines, and seaborne transportation networks of North America’s mineral wealth. The Union needed this wealth to stabilize their wartime economy while the Confederacy sought to expand their own treasury. Confederate armies advanced to directly seize the West and its gold and silver reserves, while warships steamed to intercept Panamá route ships transporting bullion from California to Panamá to New York. Union forces responded by expelling Confederate incursions and solidified territorial control by combating Indigenous populations and enacting laws encouraging frontier settlement. At sea, the U.S. Navy patrolled key ports, convoyed treasure ships, and integrated continent-wide intelligence networks in the ultimate game of cat and mouse.
This book examines the forgotten campaigns to control North America’s mineral wealth, linking the Civil War’s military, naval, political, diplomatic and economic elements. Included are the hemispheric land and sea adventures involving tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, admiral and explorer Charles Wilkes, renowned sea captain Raphael Semmes, General Henry Sibley, cowboy and mountain man Kit Carson, Indigenous leaders Mangas Coloradas and Geronimo, writer and miner Mark Twain, and Mormon leader Brigham Young.

About the Author(s)

Neil P. Chatelain teaches history at Lone Star College–North Harris and Carl Wunsche Sr. High School in greater Houston, Texas.

Bibliographic Details

Neil P. Chatelain
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Bibliographic Info: ca. 70 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9381-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5152-1
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Treasure and Empire in the Civil War is a must-read for Civil War naval history enthusiasts! In the broader scope of desires of the U.S. and Confederate governments to control the West and Southwest, Chatelain details the underappreciated naval actions taken by both governments to support their economic and financial interests related to the gold and silver of those regions and their transport by ‘treasure’ ships to the East Coast.”—Gary McQuarrie, managing editor,Civil War Navy—The Magazine

• “Chatelain offers a broad narrative, weaving his careful research into an account encompassing the Pacific Coast, western states and territories, Latin America, and the West Indies. While keeping the focus on motives stemming from the American Civil War, he explores how the struggle for financial resources and territorial gains played out on the geographical edges—far from Gettysburg, Chickamauga, or Atlanta. Treasure and Empire in the Civil War is a needed and readable adventure into the international politics and financially-inspired intrigues that evolved as Confederates and Federals maneuvered for pieces of victory.”—Sarah Kay Bierle, president, Emerging Civil War