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 United States or Confederacy would dominate lands, mines, and seaborne transportation networks of North America’s mineral wealth. The U.S. needed this wealth to stabilize their wartime economy while the Confederacy sought to expand their own treasury. Confederate armies advanced to 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. United States forces responded by expelling Confederate incursions and solidified territorial control by combating Indigenous populations and enacting laws encouraging frontier settlement. 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 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 is an assistant professor of history at Lone Star College–North Harris and historian for Emerging Civil War.

Bibliographic Details

Neil P. Chatelain
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 284
Bibliographic Info: 72 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9381-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5152-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Preface 1

Introduction 5

 1. Visions of Treasure and Empire 9

 2. Bullion and the Start of the Civil War 28

 3. The Panamá Route at the Start of Hostilities 37

 4. Confederate Expansionism 49

 5. The Southwestern Campaign of 1862 69

 6. Capture of Ariel and a Shift to Naval Operations 85

 7. Birth of the Convoy System 98

 8. Lost Silver of the Benjamin F. Hoxie 112

 9. The California Privateers 121

10. Solidifying U.S. Control of the Pacific Coastline 130

11. Expansion of the Convoy System 143

12. The Salvador Pirates 164

13. Solidifying U.S. Control of Western Territories 175

14. Final Operations in the West 187

15. The War’s Conclusion 197

Epilogue: Final Implications 213

Chapter Notes 223

Bibliography 253

Index 267

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, managing editor, Emerging Civil War