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Liverpool and the American Civil War

Sentiment, profit and commercial laissez-faire bound the merchants of England's busiest port ever closer to the rebel confederacy across the Atlantic after 1861. John D. Pelzer explains how and why.

The ringing of hammers and the buzzing of saws, the usual sounds of the orderly and businesslike atmosphere of John Robinson's shipyard, were silent on the evening of July 9th, 1863, replaced by a hum of activity and an air of excitement more akin to a carnival than to the waterfront of a working seaport. Instead of the usual gangs of workmen, a crowd of well-attired spectators milled along the quay, and small boats and steamers filled the river, each vying to provide its occupants with the best view of the festivities.

On the slipway stood the hull of a newly completed barque; at a little past 6 p.m., a young woman stepped onto the platform. Breaking a bottle across its bow, she christened the new vessel the Virginia. On cue, the hand, stationed strategically on a vessel anchored nearby, filled the air with the strains of 'Dixie'.

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