Trent Affair

Trent Affair, the most serious diplomatic crisis between Britain and the US federal government during the American Civil War. On 8 Nov 1861 Capt Charles Wilkes of the Northern navy stopped the Trent, a British merchantman and mail packet, in neutral waters between Havana, Cuba, and London, to take captive 2 Confederate emissaries to London and Paris. In both Britain and British North America news of the seizure (and violation of British neutrality) was greeted by demands for apologies from the US and for its surrender of the diplomats. War appeared possible between Britain and the North, with Canada bound to be a battleground, and colonial and provincial officials conferred about how best to defend Canada. When British troops, sent to reinforce the meagre border garrisons, had to cross through Maine to reach Canada, Canadian leaders recognized Canada's vulnerability. The crisis passed. The North returned the Confederate commissioners, but without apology, on Dec 26.