The idea behind creating London’s first-ever American Civil War walking tours originated when Dr Thomas E. Sebrell II was conducting research in 2005-09 for his PhD thesis on Union and Confederate propaganda in Britain. His research uncovered not only a great wealth of knowledge pertaining to American Civil War activities occurring in London (and other areas of Britain), but the locations of most events and the personnel involved. Upon further research, Tom discovered that most sites not only still exist, but are largely in their 1860s’ setting, unlike most urban Civil War sites in the United States owing to urban renewal. At the recommendation of several British and American academics, most notably his PhD supervisor Dr Peter Catterall, Tom began mapping out walking tours, creating four of which he has used for privately-arranged tours since summer 2009. Starting October 2010, three of these tours will open to the public.
Guides for the three American Civil War tours will be undergraduate students from the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London, in addition to Tom, and are funded partly by Queen Mary Innovation Ltd.
American Civil War
The American Civil War saw the United States split between two belligerencies, with the North & South pitted against each other in a war which would see more Americans killed than in all other wars in which Americans fought combined (including both World Wars). The seceding Southern states, the ‘Confederacy’, looked back to the American War of Independence, which ended just three-quarters of a century earlier, and recalled the role played by the French in aiding the American victory, forcing the British to the negotiation table, resulting in the creation of the United States. The Confederates were then in a similar position of attempting to gain independence from the Federal government in Washington. Lacking both manpower and munitions necessary to win against the much more heavily-populated and industrial North, the Confederacy looked to Europe for intervention and realised Britain was most likely to fill this role owing to the Mother Country’s need for Southern cotton.
At the start of the war in 1861, therefore, the Confederate Cabinet sent numerous agents to Britain to secure war munitions and, most importantly, recognition as an independent nation. Although President Abraham Lincoln did not require any form of foreign intervention in order to defeat the Confederates, his strategy for ultimate victory included sending his own agents to prevent the South’s forming an alliance with Britain or securing materiel of war.
Dr Thomas E. Sebrell II
A native of Virginia, Tom graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 2001 with a BA in History. In 2002 he began working towards a MA in United States History, with a specialty in the American Civil War, at Virginia Tech where he worked under the supervision of Professors James I. ‘Bud’ Robertson, Jr. and William C. Davis, both internationally renowned historians of the subject, for his MA thesis on the 5th Michigan Infantry Regiment, which has since been published. Additionally, while at Virginia Tech Tom was awarded the J. Ambler Johnston Scholarship for Civil War History. In September 2004 he arrived in Britain to start work towards his PhD in History at Queen Mary. His thesis, ‘Persuading John Bull: The American Civil War Comes to London’s Fleet Street’ (2010), has attracted attention from publishers and the US and UK media, including the BBC, The Guardian, and the Charleston Mercury. Also whilst at Queen Mary, Tom received an oversees scholarship and taught on numerous undergraduate history courses, including ‘Race in the United States: From Slavery to Civil Rights’, ‘Building the American Nation: 1763-1917’, ‘The British Empire’, and ‘Historical Writing’. At the end of the 2008-09 academic year he was nominated by his students for the College’s Draper’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
In addition to developing these tours in London, he is also working with Liverpool John Moores University’s Centre for American Studies to develop American Civil War walks and a bus tour in that city. Furthermore, he is serving as historical consultant for the American Civil War tourism packages being advertised in the United States by UK-based Discover Travel & Tours.
Tom can be contacted at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org