Great friendship existed between the United States and Imperial Russia during the nineteenth century. The Old World Russian autocracy supported the young New World democracy because of the emerging U.S. role as a bulwark against Great Britain’s ambitions, in Asia and in the North Pacific Ocean region especially. In fact, when the American Civil War threatened to divide the United States, Russia alone among the European great powers gave no aid or comfort to the seceding states.
The surprise 1863 arrival of squadrons of Russian warships and thousands of Russian sailors in New York and San Francisco proved fortuitous, coming when the Union feared British and French intervention on the Confederacy’s behalf. C. Douglas Kroll, using both Russian and U.S. documents, investigates why the Russian Pacific Squadron came to San Francisco, a port of departure for California and Nevada gold headed east; what happened during its nearly year-long visit; and how its presence influenced events. With the units of the U.S. Navy’s small Pacific Squadron widely dispersed and Confederate commerce raiders on the loose, the Russians’ arrival suggested to on-lookers that they intended to defend the Union against interference.
Whether actively supporting the Union or training and refitting or both, the Russian officers and sailors endeared themselves to San Francisco’s citizens. Parades and balls, as well as dinners hosted by both sides, helped San Franciscans overlook the various differences they had with their Russian visitors. Kroll gives us a thorough examination of the Russians’ visit and its social, diplomatic, and military impact.
C. Douglas Kroll, a former Coast Guard officer with a Ph.D. in history, teaches at the College of the Desert, in Palm Desert, CA.
“This well-written and -researched book illuminates previously unexamined aspects of the Civil War, particularly the war as experienced by those on the West Coast—far from the action but still anxious about the fallout from Confederate agents and sympathizers. The author also outlines the lesser-known topic of U.S. diplomatic relations with Imperial Russia, emphasizing the uniformly friendly character of those ties. ‘Friends in Peace and War’ is for all those interested in the diplomatic aspect of the American Civil War, particularly how good relations with Russia countered the contentious ties with Britain and France during the conflict.”—Donald. L. Canney, author of Africa Squadron: The U.S. Navy and the Slave Trade, 1842–1861
“C. Douglass Kroll has identified an important chapter in American diplomatic and maritime history and has told the story in a highly entertaining fashion.”—Nautical Research Journal
“An excellent book.”—NYMAS Review
“For anyone interested in Russian-American relations or the West Coast during the Civil War, this is a must-read book.”—Blue & Gray Magazine
"For anyone interested in Russian-American relations or the West Coast during the Civil War, this is a must-read book.”—Blue & Gray Magazine
“Rich with fascinating detail. In all, "Friends in Peace and War" is an interesting and tightly-woven narrative of a long-ignored piece of American history.”—International Journal of Maritime History