Trading with the Enemy: The Covert Economy During the American Civil War

Philip Leigh. Westholme, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-159416-199-5
Leigh's short but thorough account provides a window into the frequent but illegal trading that took place between North and South. With the outbreak of the war, New England mill owners were clamoring for Southern cotton, and Southerners were desperate for guns and money. Leigh reveals how widespread illicit trade was between the two warring nations—from New Orleans, where Union General Benjamin Butler made a fortune indirectly by allowing illegal trade with the Confederates to the port of Matamoras, Mexico, which during the war saw the arrival of 20,000 English-speaking speculators to even New York City, where mayor Fernando Wood suggested the city should declare itself independent in order to allow for continued trade with Southern states. Leigh's revelations about who encouraged and allowed for this kind of illegal trade are at times shocking. Abraham Lincoln, who despite numerous military complaints about the illicit trade taking place, believed trading with the Confederates would actually weaken their position. Instead, Leigh says, in this damning portrait of greed and its consequences, that "a culture of abuse became acceptable for those with power and influence," and that in the end, Confederates benefited mostly from these illicit trades, almost assuredly lengthening the conflict. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/26/2014
Release date: 05/01/2014
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