SpyCast 1.31.23
Ep 572 | 1.31.23

"The Lion and the Fox – Civil War Spy vs. Spy" – with Alexander Rose


Andrew Hammond: Hi, and welcome to "SpyCast." I'm your host, Dr. Andrew Hammond, historian and curator here at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. "SpyCast's" sole purpose is to educate our listeners about the past, present and future of intelligence and espionage. Every week, through engaging conversations, we explore some aspect of a vast ecosystem that looms beneath the surface of everyday life. We talk to spies, operators, mole hunters, defectors, analysts and authors to explore the stories and secrets, tradecraft and technology of this secret world. We are "SpyCast." Now sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

Andrew Hammond: Welcome to this week's episode of "SpyCast." This week's episode is a thrilling spy v. spy struggle that took place during the U.S. Civil War in the city of Liverpool. At the start of the Civil War, the South had a single navy ship while the dockyards in Liverpool built more ships than the rest of the world combined. Charming and devious Southerner James Bulloch set out to covertly build ships for the Confederate Navy while getting around a number of British laws that forbid him to do so. Quaker abolitionist Thomas Dudley, the new console of the United States in Liverpool, set out to stop him. This is a fascinating spy story that took place thousands of miles from the Civil War battlefields. Alexander Rose is the author of six books, including "Washington's Spies," which would be the basis of the hit TV show on the Culper Ring, "Turn." 

Andrew Hammond: Well, congratulations on what I believe is now your sixth book. Can you tell us a little bit more about that book and what led you to write it up? 

Alexander Rose: You remember the old Mad magazine strip called "Spy Vs. Spy," where you have the Black Spy and the White Spy and they're both trying to outwit each other and they try and outfox and out-cunning each other? But I had that idea in mind that there would be these two blokes in Liverpool - one Union, one Confederate. And they would just try and run rings around each other like, you know, "Tom and Jerry" kind of thing. 

Andrew Hammond: At heart, it seems to me that the story's about the plot about a Confederate Navy and the Union's efforts to try to stop that happening. And it's a spy versus spy story at the heart of that. And it takes place in the city of Liverpool, which is not the first thing that would come to mind for many people. But there are very good and important reasons why Liverpool is the setting of this. 

Alexander Rose: Yeah, you pretty much hit the nail on the head there. I mean, one of the reasons I like Liverpool or, like, why I was interested in doing Liverpool is that I didn't want to write another Civil War book, you know, the kind of the Blue versus the Grey and the land war and Gettysburg and all this kind of stuff. And what I liked about it was is that it's set - and, again, it's not set in London, which everything else is. But it's two Americans who are, you know, sort of fish out of water in Liverpool, which at the time was the greatest port metropolis in the world. They built more ships in Liverpool each year than the rest of the world combined. It was the center of the cotton exchange, futures exchanges. A colossal amount of money and power flowed through Liverpool. And, again, it was a major city, but people who hadn't really focused on it at all. 

Alexander Rose: So that's why I wanted to set it there. I just wanted to have this - sort of this Civil War book that wasn't about the sort of conventional Civil War as we think of it. And, again, the fact that it's mostly naval rather than military is another - was another sort of added bonus. But you're right. There is - the whole thing is the intelligence war, which, again, is another aspect of the Civil War that often gets overlooked. 

Andrew Hammond: And I think it's great for the Spy Museum. You know, we're often trying to tell the hidden parts of history or the things that people don't normally think about. And like you said, it's normally Blue v. Grey. It's normally the eastern theater of the Civil War. It's Gettysburg. But there's a whole hidden part to this war that took place. And you've uncovered one of the rather interesting stories that took place thousands of miles away from any of the battlefields. 

Alexander Rose: Yeah, well, thanks. Again, you're completely right. I mean, the intelligence war or the intelligence aspect of most wars has generally been overlooked and, in the Civil War, particularly so. I mean, you tend to focus on a couple of the - you know, the big star names, you know, like Belle Boyd and Rose Greenhow and all these kind of people. But, you know, the fact is is that there was actually a much more important, much more critical shadow fight going on in Britain but also in Europe. There's also scenes in France and Belgium and so on. But most of it's in Britain because at the time it was the - you know, the height of the power of the world. 

Andrew Hammond: And let's go on to discuss the two main characters in the book because it's interesting the way that you do it. They're both trying to get to a certain place or trying to stop the other person getting to a certain place. So it's that classic antagonist-protagonist struggle. And we know the spoiler alert more generally as the Union won the Civil War. So that's - you know, we know that that's coming. But nevertheless, just looking at that relationship - where they're both trying to do something or stop the other person doing something - that's where the tension and interest of the book comes from, right? 

Alexander Rose: Well, yeah, I mean, that's the drama of it. You know, history is interesting, especially when you can get this great, dramatic story in the middle of it of two very strong-charactered men, one of whom wants to do something and the other one wants to stop him doing it. I mean, that's - right there, that is your - you know, there's your conflict, as they say in LA. You know, so that's - you know, that's what attracted me. That's what I wanted to do the book about, rather than just a general intelligence history. You've got to - you know, to write certain types of history books, you've got to focus on character rather than just a sort of general view of it. And that's what I was trying to hit here. 

Andrew Hammond: So tell us a little bit more about Dudley and Bulloch, the two people that we're speaking about here. Give us, like, a pen portrait of each of them. They're very different types of men. 

Alexander Rose: Well, that's also another attractive aspect to them. You've got - you know, you've got the lion and then the fox, and they are combating each other. James Bulloch was a Southern or Confederate agent, and he's the fox of the title. You know, he was very cunning. He was very charming. He was very devious. He was very sly. And he was born in Georgia, and, you know, his family - you know, they've been there for several generations. They owned slaves. He didn't own slaves at all because he left for - he left to join the U.S. Navy several decades before the war and very rarely went back to the south. He was based in New York. And after leaving the Navy, he worked for a mail company, running steamers up and down the East Coast. So he had no property, no interests or anything in the South. 

Alexander Rose: But then he gets recruited into the secret world at the sort of opening of the war because he's sort of a perfect agent. He was completely clean. The union didn't know anything about him. Yes, he does have, you know, Southern views, as they say. But he was also an expert on, you know, Navy construction, ship construction, just because of his private experience. I mean, he'd commissioned ships before. He'd designed ships before, which is a very rare advantage in that line of work. He was also trustworthy. He was good with money. He was very sensible. So he gets sent over to Liverpool to commission, build, acquire - however he does it - a Confederate Navy in order to break the Union blockade and then eventually to drown the U.S. Navy ships at sea. 

Alexander Rose: The lion, on the other hand, was Thomas Dudley, who was this Quaker - modest background. Father was a farmer, died young. He became a local lawyer, put himself through school and so on - didn't have the advantages that Bulloch did. What he did have was is that he had this iron, rigid abolitionist view - I mean, from decades earlier. He would do things like travel to smuggle himself down south dressed in what he regarded as a - sort of a slave trader outfit, with a big hat and a couple of guns and so on. And he would purchase slaves who had been sort of kidnapped from the North and brought south to the - sort of the cotton fields and so on and bringing them back up north, really putting his life on the line. He was a very, you know, tough and brave man. 

Alexander Rose: And then, in sort of 1860 or so, he does a couple of political favors for Abraham Lincoln on his way to become president - you know, minor stuff - a bit of string-pulling, backroom deals to get Lincoln to the nomination for president. And as a reward, Lincoln says, look, would you like to be a minister to Tokyo - minister to Japan - you know, like, the ambassador - or would you like to be consul - which is a much lower diplomatic post - to Liverpool? And Dudley chooses Liverpool only because he wanted to be near good doctors because he'd gone through this sort of traumatic accident several years previously, where he'd been - he'd almost drowned in an icy river and had been revived at the last minute. So he wanted to be near good doctors. And he thought also this - you know, being a consul, he'd just be there for about a year and then come home, back to his little law practice and so on. And it ended up turning out that he was there for the next four or five years, fighting this intelligence war against Bulloch. 

Andrew Hammond: And quite interestingly, Bulloch - he has quite an interesting nephew - Teddy Roosevelt. And Teddy Roosevelt, as you point out in the book, really idolizes his uncle. 

Alexander Rose: Oh, yeah. He was - to a young Teddy Roosevelt, he was good-old Uncle Jimmy, who had this great stock of sea stories and was very entertaining and amusing and had a lot of experience with naval affairs. And for Roosevelt's, you know, big breakthrough book on naval power - sea power in the late 19th century - you know, Bulloch was one of his kind of readers. I mean, he gave him a lot of advice. And so the book is dedicated to Bulloch, which is quite interesting. But what's left out of it is that, you know, Bulloch, you know, had been on the other side, so to speak. So it was conveniently left out of the dedication. But, yeah, no, Teddy Roosevelt was a - you know, they used to visit each other occasionally after the war. 

Andrew Hammond: And as quite interesting that Dudley - he gets offered to be the ambassador to Japan or the consul to Great Britain in Liverpool. But - and at the time, in the book, you point out that Liverpool is arguably the most violent, crime-ridden place in Europe. And it doesn't - on the surface, it doesn't seem like much of a competition over which one to go to, but nevertheless, there he goes. And just help me understand this. When Dudley takes up, is Bulloch already there? And does he know that he's going to oppose Bulloch, or is that just something that transpires when both of them are living there? 

Alexander Rose: That transpires while they're living there. Bulloch had been over there for several months before. He got there very quite early in the war - about, you know, April, May, 1861 - and was, you know, running the roost. I mean, when I say Liverpool was, you know, to put it, the most sort of violent city, you know, really crime-ridden city in probably - maybe the world - I don't know - not just Europe, you know, for Bulloch, it was fantastic. I mean, he loved it there because it was basically his town in the sense that when he went over there, he remarked that there was more Confederate bunting around, more Confederate flags in Liverpool than there were in Richmond. This was friendly territory to him. All of the merchant princes there, all of the big cotton traders, all of the shipbuilders - these guys were, to a man, pro-Confederate. I mean, they would just usher him in, and he could do anything we wants. 

Alexander Rose: So for Bulloch, Liverpool was a great place to live. For Dudley, who came over later - and by that time, for various reasons, Bulloch was actually - had actually gone back to the Confederacy for a time and got stuck there. So when Dudley comes over, Bulloch apparently is long gone. And it's just going to be a quiet, little post. You know, he's going to be the consul. You know, the consul - Nathaniel Hawthorne, the great writer, had been consul to Liverpool in the 1850s and had a good time. It's - basically, you spend your time going to, you know, wine and cheese parties at various, you know, merchants' houses and shaking hands and occasionally bailing some drunken sailor out of prison who spent all his money. I mean, that's - and giving him a passport back to America. It's really not a very onerous or burdensome job. 

Alexander Rose: So when he gets there, you know, within a couple of months, he discovers that Bulloch is back in town. And, you know, the race is on. And so Dudley has to learn very quickly, you know, how Liverpool works. And it's a tough city to work in. And so that's what he - so he has to come up to speed. But for a long time, Bulloch was just outplaying him at every single turn. It's like the book "Washington Spies." You know, New York was almost a character in its own right in the book. And in this one, Liverpool is, too. So you - I like to distinguish between Bulloch's Liverpool and Dudley's Liverpool. They're two very different places. One of them is fantastic, and the other one is this sort of awful hellhole that he just wished he could leave at the earliest possible opportunity. 

Andrew Hammond: Yeah. And just to put that in a bit more context for our listeners - so Liverpool, Glasgow, where I am from, Bristol - those ports on the west side of the island of Britain - they all become important after the New World, after 1492 and Columbus' trip. And then as there's a more Atlantic world developing, then those ports on the west side of Britain become important. And I think Glasgow goes on to succeed Liverpool as the preeminent shipbuilding port. But there's that part there because as you point out in the book, you know, for a long period of time, Liverpool wasn't this city that it went on to become during the Civil War or even as it is now. 

Andrew Hammond: And just a couple of facts that you point out in the book - so modern-day New York - 27,000 people per square mile, which is by far the most densely populated city in the United States. But Liverpool at this time, by some reckoning, was 660,000 people per square mile. So that's 24 times more dense than New York City, which is just insane when you think about it. And then you point out that within 150 yards of the sailor's home, there's 46 pubs - I mean, 46 pubs. 

Alexander Rose: Sounds wonderful. 

Andrew Hammond: That sounds wonderful to many people. 

Alexander Rose: (Laughter). 

Andrew Hammond: But I'm sure it was crazy as well. And it seems like it was more - as you pointed out, it's more Bulloch's type of town. For a stern Quaker abolitionist, it's not really - you know, it's not really a welcoming environment. So I think that that's quite interesting - Liverpool as a character in the book. But it's also interesting the way that it interacts with the other two main human characters in the book. 

Alexander Rose: Yeah. I mean, Liverpool is such an interesting place. I mean, we tend to have a vision now of, oh, that's where George and Paul and Ringo and John are from. But the - you know, at the time, Liverpool was one of the greatest cities in the world. As I said - I think I said earlier that it built more ships there than the rest of the world combined. It was also the center of cotton trading. And that is a key factor here because the South's main export, the product that kind of fuels the sinews of the Confederate war effort, is cotton. Millions and millions of bales of cotton are being exported each year for decades and decades and decades, most of which goes to Liverpool. And at Liverpool, they have - they develop a cotton exchange, basically the - one of the earliest commodities exchanges where they were developing futures contracts and things like - pretty advanced stuff at the time. And from there, it gets sold out to various manufacturers, factories - all that kind of stuff - where it's then refined, made into high-quality clothing and other textiles and then re-exported to the rest of the world. This is a huge - cotton is a huge industry, the biggest by far in Britain. And it's kind of, almost, sort of forgotten about nowadays. 

Alexander Rose: But the fact is, I mean, they say something like - you know, I can't remember the exact statistics - but a large majority of the British population is somehow indirectly or directly reliant on the cotton industry. It's a huge business. And the South supplies about 98% of that cotton. Without that cotton, you could say the British economy would have, you know, a national heart attack, I mean, if that suddenly got cut. Now, the British, in the meantime, are trying to develop - they realize their own overdependence on a bunch of plantation guys in the South. And so they're trying to develop Egyptian and Indian cotton through the Empire, but the stuff just doesn't have the quality of Southern cotton. It just simply doesn't. It wouldn't have it for another 10 or 15 years. It takes a long time to develop these kind of industries. So, you know, the South knows that it has the British by the nose on this one. 

Alexander Rose: But Liverpool itself is an extraordinarily important city. And it's - as we said, you know, it's also - you know, it has, you know, a huge number of problems. It has the - well, the 19th-century equivalent of sort of opioid crises, which was booze - you know, the demon drink. And, you know, referring to all of those - referencing all of those pubs that you mentioned - you know, they - you know, the fact is that, at the time, there were virtually no licensing laws. You know, the ones that we know of basically came in during the Great War. The, you know - they - you know, basically anyone could open a pub in his house and - you know? - and it was a good way of making money 'cause there was so many people - you know, so many sailors there who would take it up. So there was a - it's a... 

Andrew Hammond: It was like Uber of its time? 

Alexander Rose: So to - yeah, so to speak. I mean, anyone could do it, you see? And you know, there's plenty of opportunities for crime in this and, you know, then you have the gambling problem, and then you have the other stuff. The overcrowding was in certain areas where people were just living, you know, there was something - I can't remember the exact number, but, you know, tens of thousands of children living on the streets, essentially, in these, you know, horrid slums near the waterfronts. I mean, this was a large area. It wasn't the whole - but 666,000 per square mile. That was a sort of per capita kind of thing. A lot of it was caused by two factors over the previous decades. One was the massive industrialization of Britain. That's the key one. You know, people - all of these people came from somewhere. They didn't just start in Liverpool. They came from the countryside, came to Liverpool for the factories and manufacturing and the - you know, the sea trades and all this kind of stuff. The second was, you know, massive Irish immigration from, obviously, across the channel. 

Alexander Rose: And so you have this huge influx of population there. I mean, Liverpool, in the early - you know, in the very early 19th century, just before the Industrial Revolution, you know, was kind of a - I wouldn't say small, but a modest fishing and shipbuilding town. That's what it was. By the Civil War, it was, as I said, the biggest shipbuilding port metropolis empire in the world. So it was just - you know, the population had quintupled, sextupled - whatever it was. And, you know, so obviously, you're going to get a lot of social problems there. 

Andrew Hammond: We'll be right back after this. 

Andrew Hammond: Tell us a little bit more about King Cotton, cotton diplomacy or white gold, as you call it in the book, because that's really at the center of all of this for the South. They are very reliant on that - Britain is very reliant on it. So it seems that, at one level, it's obvious that the South and Britain are going to link up because they've got this mutually shared interest in cotton. But it's not quite as simple as that, is it? And also, Britain begins to - although it's not of the same quality, they begin to bring in a lot more cotton from different places, which the South doesn't foresee. It almost reminds me a little bit like when Russia invaded Ukraine, and Germany and other countries were like, you know, maybe we don't want to be relying on one country for all of this stuff because, if something happens, then we're exposed. So just walk us through that - the cotton geopolitics, almost, of the American Civil War and the role that it plays in the relationship with Britain. 

Alexander Rose: Yeah, it's a big question. You know, cotton was the South's biggest export. It was basically its only export. And its biggest customer - one of its only customers - was Britain. So if you were a Southern plantation owner, or you were, you know, a Southern politician, you know, you - before the war, you believed that, if war came, Britain and the South were natural allies against the North, which wasn't popular in England anyway because, you know, Lincoln was regarded as a tariff man who was only interested in protecting northern manufacturers. The Brits at the time were heavily in favor of free trade. You know, the Southern aristocrats were in favor of free trade, too. So everything is a natural alliance. And as I mentioned, when Bulloch - 'cause that's one of the reasons why when Bulloch goes to Liverpool, he sees all these Confederate flags around. Within Britain, the British attitudes towards the South and the North were - and the Civil War, for that part - were - you know, there was this odd mixture. Most - at the beginning of the - and they would change over time. Most of the people, you know, especially the upper classes in Britain, had a kind of romantic attachment to the South before the war. They were so-called, you know, gentlemen just like them. You know, they owned large properties. There were some unfortunate aspects of those properties, including slavery. But, you know, it was kind of assumed that, you know, over the next decade or two, there would be a lot of manumission, this whole antique institution of slavery would kind of just go away and we could get back to business. There's also an idea of, you know, the South being an underdog and the North picking on them and bullying them and all this kind of stuff. 

Alexander Rose: On the other hand, there was also this competing problem of if you are running an empire like the British, do you really want to be encouraging small underdogs to start rebelling against the central power of, say, Washington or London? I mean, for instance, if the South can rebel against the North, then why can't your colonies in the West, in the Caribbean, rebel also? So there was a little bit of a restraint on getting too excited about Southern rebellion. There was also an aspect of, well, you know, look, these guys have just - they didn't get what they wanted and now they've gone off and started a war and, you know, now they're trying to drag us into it. So the basic British attitude - the official British attitude was one of strict neutrality. Strict neutrality as well meaning we're going to wait and see to see who's winning, and then we'll come in on that side. That was, you know, just the usual great power politics. France had the exact same policy on this. There's also a lot of confusion about what on Earth this Civil War was all about. Nobody really understood it. So it was regarded as this kind of - one of these, you know, occasional breakouts of insanity among their sort of colonial cousins across the pond, so best just to stay out of this. 

Alexander Rose: Complicating all of this was the cotton issue. And as we talked about before, you know, Britain was heavily reliant on Southern cotton. So they had to be - they had to maintain the flow of cotton in order to keep their own economy on the straight and narrow. And the problem is, is that the Southern plantation, the Southern governing class, were also very, very aware of this. So, you know, I think in one of the great mistakes of the South - I mean, you could say they made a lot of mistakes, but this is one of the biggest ones - is that they imposed a cotton embargo near the beginning - after a few months of the war, in that they held back their cotton supplies, in order - the thinking being that it would bring the Brits to their senses after this ridiculous neutrality proclamation. And they would come in on their side, and there would be this grand Anglo Confederate alliance. The Royal Navy would come over and blow away Lincoln's little ships blockading the South while Southern armies struck north like a blitzkrieg, and British armies came down from - you know, came down from Canada and relived the War of 1812, with maybe burning Washington or something like that and kicking the impertinent Lincoln to the curb. 

Alexander Rose: So there's a great scheme going on here. But there's a problem with this is that you don't usually twist a lion's tail like that. What it did was instead of bringing the British in on the Southern side, it annoyed the British greatly because they could see when they were trying to be manipulated into a war they didn't really want. So, yes, they begin, as you mentioned, to try and accelerate efforts to grow their own cotton, especially in Egypt and India. And, you know, it didn't work out for the time being. But they, you know, over the next decade or so or several years, those imports began to grow considerably. You know, then the South also made a huge mistake in this cotton embargo in that they also needed the money from the cotton being sold in Liverpool. So they suddenly not only annoyed Britain, but they also starved themselves of the financing needed to run a war. And that's where Bulloch came in, in that he was always looking around for sources of financing. And that's how he got into this kind of dark financing with this rather shady front bank in Liverpool, which I talk about in the book. It becomes like a gun and cotton smuggling scheme. 

Andrew Hammond: It's quite interesting that own goal, having an embargo, and then the blockade close up and then you can get rid of the stuff that you've embargoed. So yeah, that seems like quite a significant own goal at the beginning. But I guess all of this is on the presumption that the British just can't do without the cotton. They're so addicted to, so to speak, that they have to get access to it. So they have to make terms. So I think that that's quite interesting. The other thing that I think is quite interesting is - so it's something like 3 1/2 thousand miles of coastline in the South that the Union Navy has (inaudible). But in reality, it's more simple than that. It's really seven ports - Norfolk, Wilmington, Savannah, Charleston, Galveston, Mobile and New Orleans. So really, there's only those seven ports there that they have to keep the stranglehold on. And the South begins the war with only one ship. This is where the Confederate Navy in your book becomes so interesting because, you know, this is strangling the life out of the Southern war plan because of this issue. So getting a Navy or getting blockade runners or commercial ships that are going to harass commercial ships and so forth is really, really important. So I actually - Bulloch's mission is - in many ways, it's kind of central to the whole outcome of the war, even though maybe it's not thought of in those terms. 

Alexander Rose: Exactly. I mean, the - you know, the naval aspect of many wars is often downgraded in terms of - you know, in terms of interest in the land - you know, the great land decisive clashes. But the attritional struggle at sea during the Civil War is extremely important. And as you say, you know, Bulloch exemplifies that. The Union blockade, you know, at the beginning, was full of holes. You can't guard 3,500, 4,000 miles of coastline with just the handful of ships that the U.S. Navy had. The South knows this. What the South didn't work out was is that - as the Union admirals worked out fairly quickly, is that, as you said, you just have to block the major ports, and then you cut off 95% of the international trade. So that's why you - that's where Bulloch needs to start buying up and commissioning a huge number of blockade runners. These are smaller, very fast ships that would sneak in and out of southern ports, go to somewhere like the Bahamas or Nassau - and Nassau was the sort of the center of all of this trade. It's quite an amazing place, Nassau, during the Civil War. And then they would be transshipped over to Liverpool. 

Alexander Rose: You know, and it works really well. The problem is, it's very difficult to run a real war using blockade runners. You have to - eventually, you have to smash the blockade itself. And to smash the blockade itself, you need to sink ships in decisive clashes - engagements at sea. And so that's one of the reasons why sort of phase three of his scheme is to build these very advanced, very powerful, iron-clad rams. And they would literally ram. They had a huge ram at the front. And their job was to go out, find a U.S. frigate and sink the damn thing. You know, you do that enough, then, you know, and they would be - these things would be virtually unsinkable themselves. So there would - it was a - it was part of a very long-term - quite a well-thought-out plan, but it had these huge holes in it. And one of them was - is that, at the beginning of the war - yes, you have all these fleets of blockade runners, many of which were owned by Bulloch's sort of, you know, front bank - the financier of this whole thing, called - it was a sort of sinister outfit called Fraser, Trenholm. And, you know - and they owned a lot of these things. But the thing is, it's not really run by the Confederate government. 

Alexander Rose: What you have is you have these blockade runners smuggling in stuff like chandeliers and sort of marble statues and pianos and things like that because, you know, people will pay a huge amount for them, and then they will also just - but at the same time, they'll leave, you know, an area open for important stuff, like arms, munitions, you know, medicinal drugs for wounded soldiers, stuff like that. And they'll be - but, you know, they'll be charging premium rates for that kind of freight to smuggle in. It's only very late - and so what happens is you just - they don't have their priorities right. They're shipping in useless rubbish. It's only very late in the war that the Confederate government sort of takes over things and begins to rationalize and order these blockade runners to bring in only war materials. But by then, it's too late. It's very efficient, but it's just way too late. By that time, 1864, the South is on its back foot. This was coming to its end, and most people knew it. 

Andrew Hammond: And it's almost as if it's a battle of the Atlantic way before the Second World War battle of the Atlantic because the Atlantic, as a theater of the conflict, is foundational because, if the South can't get money, if it can't get arms, if it can't supply its armies, then it slowly is going to get worn down. It's almost like kryptonite. It just slowly drains the energy away from it. And for the Union, this is central to their strategy as well. You know, we know what happens now. But at various points, there's people in the North that want to, you know, reach out or try to settle it or for the war to come to an end. So there's the period where it's kind of critical, and this is not the kind of thing that people necessarily gravitate towards, like the Battle of Gettysburg or, you know, Shiloh or something like that. But this is at a more grand, strategic level. This is really central to the Civil War because, if we look at the time period when - you know, it isn't the Battle-of-Waterloo-type affair. It's becoming more industrialized - trains, communications, telegraphs - just the sheer number of people that were involved as well. Compared to the Battle of Waterloo, it's like - what? - you know, 30,000 people on a field or something. We're talking huge numbers of people that are involved in the Civil War. So I just think it's really, really interesting that your book touches on that bigger, strategic role of the maritime theater and the eventual outcome of the American Civil War. And we don't have time to go into that - I don't - but I just find it really, really interesting. So thanks for bringing it up, and... 

Alexander Rose: That's part two of this (inaudible)... 

Andrew Hammond: Yeah, that's part two. Yeah. 


Alexander Rose: Stay tuned - the same time next week. 

Andrew Hammond: So let's go on to, you know, our two main figures, Dudley and Bulloch. Can you give our listeners an example when the two of them butted up against each other? So we've spoke at a more general level. We've spoke about Britain and the South. But for Dudley and Bulloch and Liverpool, is there some example - maybe a specific ship or a specific operation or some covert enterprise where the two of them were struggling against each other to try to prevent or make something happen? 

Alexander Rose: Yeah, they were constantly doing it. The interesting thing was I never found a record of them meeting. I mean, it's a small town. Their sort of - their different headquarters were not very far away from each other. They must have seen each other and - you know, over time, but they just kept this distance between each other. The biggest clash was over a ship known - that would become known and feared as The Alabama, which was a - you know, the cotton - the commerce raider. What Bulloch tended to do was he would use front companies. He would use cover stories and so on to build the ships. It's a complicated, you know, subject. But essentially, you could not build warships or anything that even looked like a warship, you know, or was armed as a warship in a British port for, you know, combatants in which Britain is neutral - for a different theater. So he always had to disguise his ships as, you know, kind of civilian merchant men. 

Alexander Rose: And the plan was - is that you would do all that. You would recruit a civilian crew from Liverpool who allegedly didn't know what was going on. You know, everyone had to pretend to be completely innocent and ignorant of any - but, of course, they all knew. That ship would then go out somewhere way beyond British jurisdiction - somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic - where it would rendezvous with a smaller ship - like, just an old tender or an old freighter - that was filled with armaments. The weird thing was you could buy arms in Britain, but you couldn't build ships. And then they would rendezvous out of sight of Her Majesty's government, and the arms and the cannons and the cannonballs and the shrapnel and all this kind of stuff would be transferred over to the so-called civilian ship. Then, a Confederate crew would arrive. You know, Confederate officers would arrive and, you know, oversee this operation. And then all of a sudden, miraculously, you would have a Confederate armed vessel at sea - you see? - and be renamed, as in this case, you know, The Alabama. 

Alexander Rose: Dudley is onto this in Liverpool, but it's very, very difficult to break through these walls of secrecy that Bulloch constructed. Remember, he had all the shipyards in his pocket. He had all the shipyard owners in his pocket. They were all - so everyone - it was this great conspiracy of silence. So Dudley has to sort of hire his own spies and detectives to try and - to sneak in there and try and get information and so on. And he has to prove it. He has to prove it legally. This is the thing. It's not just about - it's not James Bond, where he gets the MacGuffin, and suddenly the world is saved. I mean, Dudley - I mean, he's not going to go around assassinating people. It's just not that kind of game. He has to put together a dossier. He has to put together legal documents, affidavits - all this kind of stuff - and go through the embassy in London, which then has to persuade the Foreign Office and the British government to act - to bring, you know, cases against these shipyard owners for breaking the law. It's known as The Foreign Enlistment Act - for building ships for a combatant nation. 

Alexander Rose: So these guys - so Bulloch and Dudley are constantly, you know, circling each other, trying to - you know, trying to look for the weaknesses, trying to exploit each other, trying to send in spies. You know, Bulloch - for his part, he's always got his eyes on Bulloch. At one point, you know, Dudley is sending in a detective named Maguire to go, you know, pick up gossip in taverns and so on about what exactly this mysterious ship is going to be. Whereas, at the same time, Bulloch gets a coup when he somehow recruits a clerk in Dudley's solicitor's office who then sends him long and detailed notes of exactly what Dudley's about to do. And so - and I reproduced these. I actually found the original copies from this clerk mentioning it to - you know, detailing everything that Dudley was about to do, which is one of the reasons why Dudley thinks that, for a long time, Bulloch's a magician. I mean, the guy can see around corners. He seems to know everything that he's about to do. And he can't figure it out until it becomes clearer later that, really, Bulloch's just a cheap conjurer. You know, he had this inside man. And once Dudley found it out, then he cuts him off. And suddenly, Bulloch isn't quite as brilliant and as clever as he was sort of masquerading. So it's this very interesting sort of dynamic between the two, with Bulloch trying to construct a ship very, very secretly - you know? - and not antagonizing the British government in any way, and Dudley trying to penetrate that secrecy and to try and, you know, bring him to heel and to get the government to act and to take down Dudley. So that - Bulloch, sorry. So that's the essential sort of fight between them. But that goes on for quite a long time. And, again, they just have round after round after round. And most of the time, Dudley loses - until he doesn't. And then he finally breaks Bulloch over the rams issue. And that's the end of the Confederate shipbuilding effort. 

Andrew Hammond: It's quite interesting as well because, with the Dudley-Bulloch contest, they're developing sources - what we would call agents. There's a lot of secrecy and espionage and so forth going on. In London, there's Victor Buckley. Can you tell us a little bit more about him? He is quite an interesting figure. And it's quite a nice segue because I see in the background, Alexander, you've got the charge of the Scots Greys from the Battle of Waterloo. So I know that's Buckley's grandfather - or was it father? - was a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo. But tell us a little bit more about him. He's quite a colorful and interesting figure. 

Alexander Rose: Oh, I quite like that picture just because it's - you know, it's a great cinematic version. It's almost like - if Lady Butler had, you know, shot a movie, that shot would be in it. It's quite an - it's an interesting sort of 19th-century movie shot. But the - it's also a great picture. I mean, just the - just that setup. Anyway... 

Andrew Hammond: And based on a true story. I mean, it's incredible their - we'll edit this out, but, yeah, that charge is - like, it's pretty incredible. And the - Charles Ewart, the guy that gets the French tricolor flag - there's a big statue of him in Edinburgh and stuff. But anyway, we digress. 

Alexander Rose: Well, it's great - so she got - no, so her husband was, like, the regimental colonel of some army, so he managed to just get his guys to, like, all right, charge at her. And she goes, do it over and over again. So they all had a great time - you know? - charging at her. But - sorry, what was the question again? 


Andrew Hammond: Yeah. 

Alexander Rose: Just very briefly... 

Andrew Hammond: Victor Buckley. 

Alexander Rose: Oh, Victor Buckley. 

Andrew Hammond: Tell us a little bit more about Victor Buckley. 

Alexander Rose: Another - well, one of the reasons why Dudley couldn't understand how Bulloch always seemed to know what he was about to do just when he - you know, he was about to snap shut that mousetrap. Bulloch would always escape. He'd always wriggle out, - get away at the last second. And it would turn out - and I - it's sort of - I investigated this in the book - that Bulloch had an inside man. He had an - he had his own mole - to use a silly, anachronistic expression - in the foreign office. And this mole - you know, he wasn't southern. He was kind of a - he was a romantic, young man who needed the money and had a romantic attachment to the South. You know, he wasn't a traitor. He would just tip off Bulloch when the Foreign Office was about to act - you see? - a couple of times during the war, at key moments. So just - trying to work out who the mole was was - you know, was an interesting part of the research here. And, you know, I found one of Buckley's descendants, who had written - actually written a sort of a biography of him. You know, it's a - like a family little personal thing - who sent it to me. So it was very interesting finding about the background of Victor Buckley. 

Alexander Rose: Dudley only found out about this after the war, you see? And it was hushed up during the war itself about what exactly Buckley had done. And, you know, after the war, Union diplomats were trying to work out who had leaked all of this information to Bulloch. Bulloch himself said there was - he had never heard of such a thing. He had - he wouldn't stoop so low as to have anyone within the British government working for him - you know, an outrageous slur. But, you know, it turned out that they found out who it was. But he couldn't be touched. He was kind of a middle-level diplomat at that time, and it was just kind of pushed under the rug a little bit. 

Andrew Hammond: And he was Queen Victoria's grandson, right? Is that right? 

Alexander Rose: Godson. 

Andrew Hammond: Godson, sorry. 

Alexander Rose: So that was one of the reasons... 

Andrew Hammond: Godson, sorry. 

Alexander Rose: ...Why it was slightly - it would have been an embarrassing moment. And the Union didn't push it. You know, they still needed to be friends. So it was - it's an interesting fact, though. 

Andrew Hammond: So, I mean, there's so much stuff that I would like to get into, but we don't have time to go into them all. But could you tell us a little bit more about Henry Sanford, the de facto chief of Union intelligence, and Great Britain? 

Alexander Rose: Well, Sanford's one of these great Victorian characters - you know, one of these great adventurers. And he - you know, who - he was there in the first year of the war. This - before Dudley got there. And he was - yeah, he was sort of de facto head of Union intelligence in Britain and Europe, but especially in Britain. And Sanford's an interesting guy who - you know, I'm very fond of him. But he was one of these people who just loved dirty tricks and covert operations and sabotage and all this kind of stuff. And, you know, he just loved that kind of underworld aspect. And his appearance sort of belied that. He just looks like this mild-mannered fellow with a pair of, you know, spectacles. 

Andrew Hammond: And he called himself the Black Crow. Is that correct? 

Alexander Rose: Yes, I think he - yes, he - 'cause he always wore black. He was a very wealthy fellow. His - you know, his heart was in the right place. He was very pro-union. You know, he's very patriotic, manages to sort of squeeze himself into this job because he just loves doing it. He loves being secretive. I mean, the weird thing was is that he had fingers in many pies. He wasn't just working in Britain. He was also sending ops - on his own account, sending weapons and ammunitions to Garibaldi, the Italian - great Italian liberator, whose war was going on at the same time. So he was doing a lot of things at the same time. 

Alexander Rose: The problem with Sanford is that he was very, very good at what he did. But he just - he wasn't brilliant, and too many things went wrong. And he was too ambitious and saying things like, you know, hey, you know what we should do? We should just kidnap all of these confederates in Britain and send them back home for a hard interrogation. And saying that to the American minister, Charles Francis Adams, the American ambassador in London, whose job it was to keep things very cool with Britain. You know, that sort of thing is - you know, would have just blown everything up, the whole diplomatic effort, and could - was calculated to drive London into Richmond's hands. You know, Sanford would do things like, you know what we should do? You know, any time we hear about these Confederate ships carrying weapons, we should just sink them in the Thames, really make an example of them. You know, it was all this kind of crazy stuff. And he had all these, you know, strange comrades, you know, sort of rackety adventurers and mercenaries. He had a lot of, you know, friends like that. 

Alexander Rose: And it all goes disastrously wrong. And so he gets sent back home, you know, tail between his legs, basically fired by Charles Francis Adams. He just says, I'm not going to deal with this guy anymore. He's too crazy. And that's when - and so when Dudley comes over shortly after - you know, I think a week or two after Sanford gets sent home, you know, he's instructed by Adams, whatever you do, don't rock the boat - no covert missions, nothing untoward. Just keep an eye on the Confederates, which is what Dudley tries to do until he gets dragged in by Bulloch, who's - as we said, who comes back soon afterwards. And then the spy war really begins. So he has to run his own, you know, spy - he has to invent his own intelligence - you know, intelligence effort against Bulloch. 

Andrew Hammond: I have to say, I feel like Henry Sanford would be a good person to go to the pub to for a few hours, you know? Anybody that calls themselves the Black Crow has got to have a personality. And you mentioned... 

Alexander Rose: I think that was, like, one of those nicknames that he obviously tried to popularize to make himself sound (inaudible). 

Andrew Hammond: You mentioned briefly there Charles Adams. And we don't have time to go into him, but he's interesting as well. He's in London as the main representative of the United States, and he's the son of John Quincy Adams and the grandson of John Adams. So that's - I think that's quite interesting. And just moving on to the overall result of all of this. So how consequential do you think this struggle between Dudley and Bulloch was? How much did they shape the course of the war? Is it an interesting story that's a constituent part of the overall outcome, or can we detect, you know, well, it actually pushed the scale this way or the other way? Like, what's your take on how consequential this was? And this is always a difficult question, especially for espionage history. But, yeah, what's your take on that? 

Alexander Rose: Yeah, the problem with some intelligence history is that sometimes it's a bit - I think of that Aesop's fable where the fly alights on a chariot wheel and declaims upon how much dust he's raising. It's a little - it's something - but in this case, that's - you know, the Bulloch vs. Dudley story is really - it's not the fly. It is actually the chariot wheel in the sense that this was extremely consequential. And by that I mean, by stopping Bulloch, if - put it this way, if Dudley hadn't stopped Bulloch, if Dudley hadn't existed and Bulloch had created this massive fleet of blockade runners and had built more and more commerce raiders, like the Alabama and the Florida, and had then sent his iron clad rams to sea, what you're looking at there is that there would have been a huge amount of pressure on Lincoln to prevent a collapse of U.S. naval power. Many more sinkings of American merchant vessels - you would have had, you know, much larger inflows of arms and weapons and so on, at key times, into the South. And the biggest change of all would have been that it would've - having the sea lanes open like that would have - you would have allowed the fight - the South to fight on much longer than it actually did. And more to the point, remember, the South doesn't have to win the war in order to win. It just has to not lose. It has to - again, this is Southern strategy. It has to persuade the North that this war is going to go on forever, that there will - this is a slow, attritional struggle. More and more of your boys aren't going to come home, and for what? You're losing - you know, we're sinking your ships. Britain is kind of on our side. Eventually, Britain might come in once it gets annoyed that it can't trade freely with us. And then you're going to be dealing with the Royal Navy. 

Alexander Rose: So why don't you - and so what would have happened, perhaps, is that the North - well, this is the hope anyway - the North would have tried to arrange an armistice, a kind of a cease-fire with the South. Neither surrenders to the other. But what happens is is that the South is confirmed in many of its rights. It can retain slavery and all this - and, you know, all that kind of stuff while, you know, sort of negotiating with the North. And that would have been the end result. You wouldn't have had the - you wouldn't - the United States would have been permanently split. So I think that's what the great consequence of this would have been had Dudley not stopped or not harassed and hindered Bulloch's navy - great navy effort. 

Andrew Hammond: Help us just understand. One thing that I wanted to pick up on and I'd like to circle back to - British public opinion. So you mentioned there that Liverpool was a pro-Confederate town, generally speaking. What was it like across the rest of the country? Did it depend by region or social status? Or did the elites have a different opinion from the ordinary folk? Because I know that during this period - so the British Empire abolishes slavery in 1807. So I'm assuming by this point it's really normalized - or slavery is really seen as something that's not - you know, not something that we want to be involved with. And there's also, like, really strong religious impulses during this era, as well. So I'm just wondering where does the - you know, not that there's any Gallup Polls for this or anything, but what's your sense of - did it depend by region or class or outlook or - yeah, what's your reading of the British public during the American Civil War? 

Alexander Rose: British public opinion during this war is a malleable, very interesting phenomenon. It used to be that - it used to be said, especially during the - sort of the - when - you know, the Marxist interpretation of history was much more popular, that the great British working class was always in favor of freedom and the North. And it was only the - you know, the effete aristocrats who you know, and the corrupt businessmen who liked the South. And so that's a kind of a - that's a rather dated view. It doesn't really work like that. 

Alexander Rose: What is more interesting is how public opinion shifts over the course of the war, not only from the bottom, but from the top as well. At the beginning of the war, the vast majority of the population, you know, were - didn't really care that much. I mean, it was nobody who liked slavery. I mean, it was - there's nobody in Britain who goes, yeah, slavery is great. We got to do - we got to reintroduce it here. There was nobody who said that. But they just - it was more, well, you know, it'll go away. It'll erode. Over time, it will erode. You know, just as we did it. We did - we abolished it, but it took, you know, decades for it to actually go away. You know, landowners had to be - slave owners had to be compensated, all this kind of stuff. It's a slow process. And the default, therefore, is that we'll just keep on doing business with the South, one reason being is that all these great working-class jobs in these factories that we've industrialized all depend on cotton, and they'll get restless, as they say, if we start, you know, cutting off that cotton. You know, they're going to - they need food, too. They need to put bread on the table. 

Alexander Rose: So you have - but you have a small population of usually religious dissenters - you know, Quakers, as we mentioned before, you know, Presbyterians, all this kind of stuff, Methodists - who were quite abolitionist - you know, very abolitionist and didn't want to argue against Southern slavery and said it wouldn't just go away. It would always stay. But then at the beginning of the war, they're just not listened to. I mean, the vast majority of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, you know, they were all pro-Southern. I mean, it was a pretty - quite a marvel that the actual government managed to get through a neutrality proclamation, to tell you the truth. It would have been a lot easier to declare for the South, which is what most of the politicians wanted. 

Alexander Rose: But what's interesting is that in about 1863, with the Emancipation Proclamation, it is - there is a moral turnabout. When Lincoln first announced his intentions to emancipate the slaves, quite a few people - 'cause it was going to take place several months hence. Most people didn't quite believe it. They thought, oh, he's just - you know, of course, he's just saying; he's just a politician. They really didn't have any idea that Lincoln actually did mean it. So when he actually does it, there's this - it's almost like this lightning touches the British population. And Dudley mentions this. He says, you know - when he's in Liverpool, I mean, he had a couple of friends there, sort of dissenters like himself, sort of thing. They probably had their little tea parties in a deserted and windy church hall somewhere, you know, talking about slavery. There were very few anti-slavery pamphlets put about. You know, there was, you know, very few meetings per year, nationally, in any class, anywhere, on the slavery issue. 

Alexander Rose: But once emancipation actually happens, the - you know, the working class actually does realize that - you know, that - and many of the - you know, the middle and upper classes, it becomes this great - it becomes a crusade. And there's this huge jump in the number of anti-slavery rallies and gatherings and attendances. And Dudley notices that even in Liverpool, which is the heart of Confederate feeling, that after early 1863, he goes to meetings there, and there's thousands of people in the local sort of meeting halls, and they're cheering the name of Lincoln. It becomes a - and it's at that point that the tide of opinion is beginning to shift against Bulloch. See; Bulloch's had it easy all this time. You see? It's easy. I mean, he's got the - he's got Britain on his side, and he's very popular. After that, he's struggling uphill. And Dudley exploits this. You see? Because he's got - the tide of public opinion is turning inexorably against the South, which makes the British government more likely to start clamping down on, you know, Confederate undercover business with these ships. 

Alexander Rose: So it's an interesting point about the British public opinion. It changes over the course of the war. It can go up and down depending on who's winning at the time and depending on what the - you know, the government needs to do diplomatically, depending on, you know, what Lincoln is doing. And there's a few times during the war, like during the Trent episode where, you know, Britain and the Union come kind of this close to going to war. But Lincoln is smart enough to avoid that pitfall by sort of kind of apologizing for it. So it's a difficult relationship Britain had with both Washington and Richmond. It had to be managed very carefully, keeping an eye on their own public opinion. So it's an interesting subject. 

Andrew Hammond: Wow. And the Alabama - we don't have time to go into depth. But the Alabama is quite interesting, the commerce raider. In the book, you point out that in one six-month period, it burns 10 ships to - not to the ground, to the sea. It basically just obliterates them. And the captain, Captain Semmes, he's a particularly odious fellow. He throws - any African Americans that are found in any of the ships, he just throws them into the sea to drown and so forth. So that is very effective in its own terms. But ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, these are not any more than a nuisance, really. Is that fair to say? 

Alexander Rose: They're a large nuisance. They're essentially - we're going back to a point you mentioned before. They're essentially, you know, like the U-boats of the Second World War, especially when, you know, the submarines attacked the Eastern Seaboard of the United States in early 1942 for several months. And they kind of wreaked havoc. They sunk a lot of tankers, a lot of freighters. And in the Southern case, they - you know, they devastated a lot of American merchant vessels in the - merchant vessels. The problem is, is that that stuff, unless it shocks the enemy immediately into submission, which was the intent 'cause they, you know - they - like the Germans and the - they always assumed that if you just sink a lot of freighters and tankers and so on, you know, it will collapse the enemy's public opinion. What it actually does is it just reinforces it after the initial shock of, oh, goodness, what's happening here? 

Alexander Rose: And so what happens is - and more to the point, it's - so these are sort of decisive weapons, U-boats and commerce raiders. And if they fail in that initial lightning strike, they are - you know, they're not good with a long, attritional warfare. And in the Civil War case, you know, you can sink a lot of merchant ships, but you're mostly sinking stuff like, you know, coffee imports or exports or, you know, supplies of lumber and tea and all this kind of stuff. That's great, and it probably causes a lot of Northern merchants a bit of annoyance, and - but at the same time, you can't win a war like that. It's just - you're simply not sinking war material. You're sinking everyday pantry goods that they can afford to replace, while at the same time, you're burning through your armies on the battlefield and you're rapidly - you have a very relatively small industrial base. You can't manufacture, you know, useful stuff like railway engines and, you know, battleships and things like that or even that many guns. And you're running out of men at the same time. So it's - these things are, you know, they're - you know, they just simply can't win wars unless Bulloch had managed to build dozens of these things and, you know, Lincoln hadn't been able to fend off a lot of - sort of peace talk and just wanted to keep on fighting. So I think that's the key difference. 

Andrew Hammond: And it seems to me that the weight and value that each side would give to the maritime component is different as well because, for the North, sure, if you're a serious nuisance and you sink lots of ships with pantry goods, then, you know, that's certainly not an optimal outcome, but it's not devastating to our war effort. Most - you know, we've got an industrial base, we're creating most of our own arms, but you're relying on cotton and on exporting it to get money to bring in supplies and armaments and industrial goods and you can't do that. So it's almost like, for one side, it's much more pivotal than for the other. So that also seems, to me, part of the bigger strategy, that for the South, this is much more important than it is for the North. And the North recognizes that, so that's why they blockade them and try to, like, hem them in. 

Alexander Rose: Yeah, exactly. For the South, the smuggling routes, the trade routes, of cotton and guns and munitions and even other goods like, again, like drugs, like, you know, laudanum and things like that for, you know, for the Southern troops, even things like - I mean, the South didn't even print its own Bibles. I mean, they had to import Bibles that were then given to Confederate soldiers. They didn't even have that. So, you know, for them, it's a lifeline. They have to keep those routes open. Whereas for the North, you know, it's important, but, you know, there's only so much these commerce raiders and blockade runners can do. The North, at base, is a much more powerful state and getting increasingly powerful as it goes on a war footing. I mean, it just keeps - it just out-produced the South immensely. I think I have in the book somewhere that before the war, I think something like, you know, 95% of all ships built in the U.S. were built in the North, not in Southern borders. So the South barely had a deep-water port that could make - the kind of factories that could make marine engines. So they're, you know, they're at a grave disadvantage, and that's one of the reasons they relied so heavily on a kind of a fast lightning strikes to shock the union into submission. And when that doesn't work, then they're stuck in an attritional war, and the best they can hope for is an armistice of some kind, and that's where Bulloch came in. 

Andrew Hammond: And I know that you do a lot of meticulous research for writing your books. And I was just wondering, do you know - you mention that on the Alabama, there was a daily grog ration. Do you know what it was and what kind of liquor it was they got? 

Alexander Rose: Not offhand. I took (ph) - grog was usually rum. It's almost certainly rum. I mean, these were - most of these guys, manning it originally, were sort of Liverpool sailors. I mean, they - and some of them were old Royal Navy guys who'd come out. So I think it would've - I assume it would have been rum of some kind. And Semmes, himself, was an interesting figure in that he, you know, he was a nut in so many ways. But - you know, and a - sort of the petty flogging tyrant onboard ship. But he also ran a wet ship, unlike some of his fellows. I mean, he didn't mind if people had a drink so long as - you know, he kept to the rules on that. It's not - but you turned up drunk, you were, you know - well, he'd leave you behind and, you know, flog you mercilessly. But yeah, so that's what I assume it was, yeah. 

Andrew Hammond: OK. And I just want to move on to some of the other things that you've done previously. So for our listeners, many of them will know you as the writer of the book that the TV series "Turn" was based on, which is - which I strongly recommend. And actually, in September, we are remodeling our exhibit on Washington's spies and on the Culper Ring. So I would strongly recommend people to watch the series, to read the book and to come to the Spy Museum, obviously. But because people know you for that, I want to dig into just a couple of other things that maybe would only come up in this podcast. One of them, I know that you've done research on the politics of radar science in the 1930s and Great Britain, which, for some people, you say it and they might be like, well, that sounds very esoteric. But this is super, super important when it comes to the Battle of Britain and Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding and the whole reason why Britain managed to come through the Battle of Britain. You know, you're much more up on this than me. But tell us the role that - you know, how did you get into this and what role did radar play? Was radar - you know, the conventional wisdom used to be that if it wasn't for radar, Britain wouldn't have won the Battle of Britain. Is that something that you looked at? 

Alexander Rose: Well, where that comes from - I haven't looked at that stuff in many, many years - but where that came from is that that was based on a doctorate I did called radar strategy, which is about British air defense policy and appeasement, you know, in the mid-30s - you know, from 1932 to 1937, 1938. I don't actually go into the war years in that doctorate at all. It's - I mean, it is very esoteric, it has to be said. But it was an interesting subject because I was always interested, like, where did, you know, radar come - how did it - you know, the fact is is that radar had been invented in the mid-30 - you know, sort of developed in the mid-30s. How did that affect British appeasement? How did that - vis-a-vis Germany. How did that affect defense plans? Why did the British start building Spitfires and Hurricanes at that time, when it was always said that - Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister once put it, as, you know, the bomber will always get through? Why did the British switch to this kind of defensive posture? 

Alexander Rose: The fact - but the interesting part of that was that radar was incredibly secret. Not - very, very few people knew about it. So it's got to be this top-secret plan. You've got to integrate it into your defense planning - you see? - while not actually talking about it at all, you see? The minute you start talking about the radar, then the Germans are instantly going to go, oh, well, those are the first things - those installations are the things we should start bombing when war breaks out. 

Alexander Rose: But, yes, so what - and what I was interested in is that - but, you know, the - also, radar was quite universal. I mean, the Germans knew what it was. The French knew what it was. The Americans knew what it was. And yet, really, the British were the only ones who made it part of their entire defense, you know, based on, we are going to link up a chain of radar stations across the - you know, the eastern and northern coasts and southern coasts. And we're going to link it to the arrow drums of Spitfires and Hurricanes. And we're going to have concentric rings of defense and we're all going to be telephonically communicated. And what we're going to do is, as soon as we spot a wave of bombers coming in from Germany - Germany's side - we're going to get our fighters up in the air and intercept. They're the only guys who did that. I mean, the French, by contrast, used radar to put on cruise liners to detect, you know, oncoming ships. And that was basically what they used it for. The Germans had sort of short-range radar and that kind of thing. 

Alexander Rose: So what was interesting to me was why, in Britain, did this really take off? And the answer is is that it stems from the first world war when there would have been Zeppelin and German bomber attacks on London. And they developed these, you know, concentric rings of circles. And so when they invented radar, it kind of just slotted into that preexisting defense. So, I mean, you probably might remember that the great movie "The Battle of Britain" from the late 60s, and, you know, we always have that image in our head of, you know, Hugh Dowding - you know, I think it's Laurence Olivier or someone - you know, you have those huge map tables, with the map and, you know, people pushing little blocks around, you know, and with little headsets on and all that kind of stuff, you know, these command centers. The fact is that stuff was invented in sort of 1916, 1917, you see? And it had been kind of put into mothballs. 

Alexander Rose: So in the late '30s, the British kind of dug it out and redeveloped the whole thing. And - you know, and radar just worked really well. It just - it extended that ability to see out - to see outwards and get the planes and the fighters into the right place. So, yeah, so in that sense, it was extremely important for the Battle of Britain. I mean, extremely. 

Alexander Rose: You couldn't - I don't think you could have - I mean, you know, intercepting bombers in a sort of 3D space like the air is extremely difficult. It's not like plotting vectors on the sea or working out where armies will or cannot march. In the air, you know, airplanes can move in - obviously, in three dimensions. They can zigzag. They can go up and down. They can slow down. They can speed up. They can do all sorts of stuff. So you have to make sure that you get the fighters to intercept at the right altitude, at the right time, at the right speed. If you miss them, you're going to be off by 30 miles, you see? And you only have - once you spot those bombers, you only have, I don't know, five, 10 minutes to react. That's why the British did it. So without all of that stuff, you know, the Battle of Britain would have been a lot harder to win. 

Andrew Hammond: And just as we bring the interview to a close, this is, maybe, even more esoteric, but your book "Kings in the North" on the Percy Family, I find that really interesting. And I'm obviously from Scotland, and the Douglas family cast quite a big shadow on Scottish history. And we don't have time to get into that, but I just find that... 

Alexander Rose: Part three (laughter). 

Andrew Hammond: Pardon? What's that? 

Alexander Rose: Part three. 

Andrew Hammond: In part three. Yeah, Yeah, yeah. So the... 

Alexander Rose: Very special interview. 

Andrew Hammond: So this is maybe one to do over a beer sometime the next time you're in D.C. or I'm in New York. But I would love to talk about the Battle of Otterburn and all that kind of good stuff. And just one parting thought, which I thought that you may find interesting. So I've been thinking about, like, soccer. I don't know if you're a soccer fan. I know that you were born in the States, grew up in Australia and then went to school partly in Great Britain. But if you picked up any love for soccer, would you just bear with me for one second? So the most successful teams in terms of winning the European Cup - so the premier trophy for a club football team - Bayern Munich in Germany, Munich, Bavaria - one of the most richest, if not the richest, part of the country and a very, very affluent city. Italy, Milan and Turin for AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, they are - AC Milan, I think they've won the European Cup, like, five times - richest city or one of the richest cities in Italy. If we go to Spain, Real Madrid, Madrid and then Barcelona - richest cities, richest parts of the country. If we - you know, we can keep doing this. 

Andrew Hammond: But then you go to England, or Britain, Liverpool - you know, that's the team that has won more European Cups than any other in Britain. I think it's now third in the all-time list. So you've got Real Madrid. You've got AC Milan. You've got Bayern Munich up there. But you've got Liverpool. I mean, with all the other ones, it's the richest city or one of the richest cities in each respective country, but then when you get to the U.K., it's Liverpool, which is, you know, just really, really interesting. I think that that almost bucks the trend of the most successful team in your country, in terms of winning the European Cup, is probably going to be the most affluent, but in the case of the U.K., it's not that; it's Liverpool, which I just think is quite - I'm not saying there's any answer there. But I just thought, given your interest in the city and the fact that you wrote a book on it, you may find that random thought that I had of interest. 

Alexander Rose: That's for the paperback edition... 

Andrew Hammond: Yeah. 

Alexander Rose: ...Coming out next year. 


Andrew Hammond: OK. OK, well, thanks ever so much for your time. This has been a blast. And yeah, there's a lot more we could speak about, but I think we've done a pretty good job. And I should say to listeners, you have a Substack newsletter that listeners can subscribe to. Can you tell our listeners the name of it? 

Alexander Rose: Oh, it's called Spionage, and it's on Substack, and it's free - always good to hear. You know, it's just - it's basically - you know, over the decades, I've collected, you know, a colossal number of PDFs and books and so on on intelligence, historical intelligence and espionage. And all it's doing is sitting in a database. And, you know, I was sort of hovering over it, like sort of Smaug and the dragon and his gold. So I thought, you know, I've got to do something with this. And so I started this Substack newsletter. It comes out every couple of weeks or - you know, more or less. And it's just - you know, I just take - you know, I look into my - into the database, and I find something interesting about historical espionage, you know, and I put together, you know, a post about it, you know, kind of a - you know, a lengthy one. And, you know, every - then I send it out to subscribers. 

Alexander Rose: So anyone who's interested in any kind of historical espionage - and I range around. You know, there's stuff going on in ancient Assyria. I've got stuff on the 15th century, 19th century. You know, there's some 20th century stuff. I'm writing one now on a First World War spy. You know, all that kind of stuff. So I range around a little bit. And I - you know, I find it interesting. It's my little hobby. But if anyone else wants to, you know, read it or they're interested, then, you know, sign up. I mean, it's free. I mean, really - I mean, you can't really complain about that. 

Andrew Hammond: Nothing to lose. Yeah (laughter). 

Alexander Rose: Yeah, you've got nothing to lose but your time. 


Andrew Hammond: OK. Well, thanks ever so much. This has been a lot of fun, and I hope to meet you in person one day, Alexander. 

Alexander Rose: Same here. All right, great. Thank you for having me. 

Andrew Hammond: Thanks for listening to this episode of "SpyCast". Go to our webpage where you can find links to further resources, detailed show notes and full transcripts. We have over 500 episodes in our back catalogue for you to explore. Please follow the show on Twitter at @IntlSpyCast and share your favorite quotes and insights or start a conversation. If you have any additional feedback, please email us at spycast@spymuseum.org. I'm your host, Dr. Andrew Hammond, and you can connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter at @SpyHistorian. This show is brought to you from the home of the world's preeminent collection of intelligence- and espionage-related artifacts, the International Spy Museum. The "SpyCast" team includes Mike Mincey and Memphis Vaughn III. See you for next week's show.