Topic In Search of Historian: The US Civil War in Tangier, Morocco

TALIM James de Long (1) At left: American Consul in Tangier, James De Long, circa 1861 (Click on photo to enlarge to full-size pop up).

Thanks to Tangier native and Parisian pediatrician (and author) Philip Abensur, we have this photo of the Civil War era Consul James De Long.

De Long, who served from September 1861 through March 1862, might have been a major player in one of the Civil War's many sideshows, one which President Abraham Lincoln feared could widen to a second front: the seizure of Confederate ships trading with foreign powers.

From the Legation website:

Early in the Civil War, Confederate ships called at Tangier. After the Union government called this indiscretion to the attention of the Moroccan authorities, life at the Legation was occasionally disturbed by hostile crowds protesting the U.S. Navy's interference with Moroccan trade. On several occasions it became necessary for U.S. Marines to come ashore to move prisoners which had been taken from Confederate ships, through town to U.S. warships.

In seizures elsewhere, Lincoln thought better of pressing the Union cause.  From The History Place Civil War timeline:

November 8, 1861 – The beginning of an international diplomatic crisis for President Lincoln as two Confederate officials sailing toward England are seized by the U.S. Navy. England, the leading world power, demands their release, threatening war. Lincoln eventually gives in and orders their release in December. "One war at a time," Lincoln remarks. TALIM James de Long (2)

Okay, we've established that Consul De Long was here from the fall of 1861 through the spring of 1862.  That U.S. Marines landed in Tangier to escort Confederate prisoners to Navy warships.  And that president Lincoln feared that such incidents would lead to a wider war.

Sounds interesting, no?  Worthy of an entry in "Tweeting the Civil War" perhaps? Or maybe the Washington Post's detailed parallel history in honor of the Civil War's 150th Anniversary?

Either of the above would be fine.  But more than a fleeting blog post like this, or an even briefer 140 character Twitter blurb, the history of American diplomatic Civil Warfare appears to be a subject worthy of a proper historical inquiry.

What better place than the research center of TALIM here in Tangier?  In congenial 18th century surroundings, a properly-funded scholar could delve into the American Consulate and American Legation archives of the period.  Explore American actions and Moroccan reactions.

Doesn't anyone else see the timeliness of this topic?  And not just in this 150th Anniversary season.  American engagement with the entire Middle East and North Africa region is not only a matter of the 21st or even 20th centuries.  American interaction in places like Tangier, Algiers, and Tripoli dates back to our earliest days as an independent country.

We'll be here.  So Civil War scholars, start planning your trip to Tangier!   

Gerald Loftus

4 thoughts on “Topic In Search of Historian: The US Civil War in Tangier, Morocco”

  1. Hello,
    This is my great-great-great grandfather James De Long. Do you have contact information for Philip Abensur? I would like to contact him about this research.
    Than you.

  2. Further to my previous comment, I was wondering if you might know how to contact Dr Abensur. As you can guess, I would love to use this photo – with full credit – in my doctoral dissertation, which is extremely likely to become a book too in the next few years. I was hoping not just for his permission but also a high quality scan, one that could stand up to occupying a full page of a standard-size book. Many thanks for your help, even if the answer is unfavorable.

  3. Fascinating. I was just googling De Long to find his background before he ended up as consul to Aux Cayes (modern Les Cayes), meddling in one of Lincoln’s African-American colonization schemes on Ile a Vache, just off the south-western coast of Haiti.

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