Byline: Peter Elson
MANY stories and myths surround the American Civil War. But firmly rooted in fact is the premier part that Liverpool and Birkenhead played in the conflict, dubbed America's darkest hour.
Such was the important impact of the two towns' role that a leading Civil War historian believes they prolonged the war by several years.
Historian and lecturer Tom Sebrell, from Virginia, who is about to receive his doctorate from Queen Mary, London University, is working with Liverpool City Council to commemorate the War for its 150th anniversary on April 15, 2011.
Not only that, but events could roll on for four years until 2015, says Tom.
James Dunwoody Confederate
Because it was in Liverpool that the Confederate flag was lowered for the last time.
This was when the Southern raider, CSS Shenandoah, surrendered in the port, on November 6, 1855.
"An influx of entirely new American tourists to Liverpool will have enormous benefits for Merseyside," says Tom.
Both sides of the Mersey are bristling with American Civil War historic sites.
So much so that the Wirral waterfront is only the second place outside the US to be accorded American Civil War Heritage Site Status, by the Civil War Preservation Trust.
Charles Kuhn Prioleau, Confederate paymaster general, and by far the most important Southern representative in Liverpool, if not the UK, lived in the palatial 19 Abercromby Square, now owned by Liverpool University.
His office, at Fraser, Trenholm & Co in Rumford Place, now a handsomely restored late Georgian courtyard, was really the Confederate naval HQ.
"Meantime, round the corner, US Consul Thomas H Dudley's Unionist spy network was operating out of the Consulate at 22 Water Street," says Tom.
"Dudley's main concern was to monitor the South's ship-building activity on the Mersey.
"We're discussing linking all these sites with walks and bus tours to connect sites in the city centre, Birkenhead, Toxteth, Wavertree and Edge Hill."
Along with CSS Shenandoah, other Mersey-built raiders like Alabama and Florida wrought havoc among the Northern US states' shipping.
Alabama, built by Laird's at Birkenhead and crewed by 30 Liverpudlians, burned or sank 65 Union ships before being destroyed off Cherbourg in 1864.
Such Southern warships severely under mined Britain's claim of neutrality during the Civil War.
What incensed Dudley and his Northern masters was that it was illegal for British shipyards to build warships for either side. But Mersey shipbuilders overcame this by constructing so-called merchant ships which, once they left UK waters, were renamed and armed as raiders.
Bulloch, foreign agent
However, this dubious connection makes the UK the most important place in the Civil War outside the US, and therefore Merseyside its naval epicentre.
The South's warships were commissioned by the Liverpoolbased Confederate naval officer James Dunwoody Bulloch and paid for by Prioleau.
After the Civil War, unable to get a pardon from the US, Dunwoody made Liverpool his home and became a successful cotton merchant and broker. He was buried in Smithdown Road Cemetery in 1901.
Not only was Mary Elizabeth Prioleau, wife of Charles, a celebrated beauty, hailed as "the Belle of Liverpool", but she used her top-drawer social standing for the Southern cause.
Most prominent was her Grand Bazaar for the Southern Prisoners' Relief Fund, at St George's Hall, in October, 1864.
Organised with the wives of the Southern Independence Association, it was due to run for two days, but lasted for five and raised the vast sum of pounds 22,000.
"Prioleau was ruined by the war, as he paid for several Confederate ships out of his own pocket," says Tom.
"He was told he would be reimbursed when the Confederates won the war. They didn't and he wasn't, so Fraser, Trenholme & Co went out of business.
"Thomas Dudley went after Prioleau when the war finished and he had to leave Liverpool in 1857 for London.
"Unlike Southern soldiers, who the Unionists had to designate as Prisoners of War, as Britain and France recognised their belligerence, Prioleau didn't receive a pardon.
"If he had returned to Charleston, Carolina, he would have been hanged for treason. I believe, without his actions, the Civil War would have lasted about a year, rather than be prolonged for nearly five years."
On July 26 this year, Tom and his student team discovered Pioleau's lost grave at Kensal Green Cemetery, London.
"American tourists will be thrilled by what's in Liverpool and Birkenhead," says Tom.
"These places have maintained a Victorian appearance, as if in a timewarp, which London has largely lost.
"These towns' big problem is that there is nobody in the US to advertise what is on offer in them.
"There's also great human interest stories around here, like the future US president Teddy Roosevelt's early life in Liverpool.
"He was a nephew of Dunwoody and aged 10 got into a fight with the son of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis at their Wavertree school.
"That building, at 9 Waterloo Road, is now a private house."
US tourism bosses in states such as Virginia and Carolina are already interested in the Liverpool angle.
Tom plans to stage a major Civil War convention at St George's Hall, an event already interesting leading US historians.
Cllr Berni Turner, executive member for environment, and Cllr Gary Millar, executive member for tourism, are very supportive of Tom's plans.
This is a fascinating subject with huge potential for Liverpool, believes Cllr Turner.
"There's clearly a lot of passion from people and this is a real opportunity. It would be great to get it off the ground for the start in 2011," says Cllr Turner.
Tom adds: "Given that Shenandoah's surrender was enacted in Liverpool, this gives the city an exciting claim to host the 150th anniversary closing event on November 6, 2015."
So, once again, Liverpool has a priceless opportunity to revive its seminal links with the US.
Liverpool house is key to Confederate history in UK
LIVERPOOL should mark the Civil War anniversary by securing Confederate paymaster Charles Prioleau's former home, according to one US Civil War expert.
"This amazing house at 19 Abercromby Square should be given English Heritage Grade-I listing," says Tom Sebrell, American Civil War historian.
"There is so much symbolism in that house to do with South Carolina, introduced by Charles Prioleau and his wife, Mary Elizabeth."
There are busts of the Prioleaus in the stairwells, and portraits of them as Roman patricians on the ceilings.
The entrance ceiling depicts a palmetto tree, the state symbol. Plaster mouldings represent the yellow jasmine state flower and stars from the Confederate bonnie blue flag.
Another fresco shows a child riding a turkey, or "gobbler", a Southern folklore image.
This terrace house was also formerly home to Bishop Chavasse and his son Noel Chavasse, VC and Bar, MC.
"There are three leaks in the roof which must be repaired to stop major damage to the house," says Tom.
"The dining room should have its cheap-looking fluorescent lighting and modern corner closet removed.
"This room also has the best ceiling paintings and these need restoring.
"It is a fantastically important house in US history."
A plaster bust of Charles Prioleau, the Confederate 'banker', in his old Liverpool home, at 19, Abercromby Square James Dunwoody Bulloch, Confederate chief foreign agent Ted Walker's atmospheric painting of CSS Alabama (at that time named Enrica, to avoid detection) leaving Laird's Shipyard, Birkenhead, for her sea trials, in August, 1862 St George's Hall in 1858, six years before Mrs Prioleau's grand bazaar Picture: W HERDMAN, Bluecoat Press and Liverpool Record Office Rumford Place, Liverpool, headquarters of Confederate naval operations abroad The grave of James Dunwoody Bulloch, 18231901, in Smithdown Road Cemetery…