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War Plan Crimson

Canada and the United States were once part of the same empire. The Continental Congress had, on the first of June 1775, disclaimed the purpose of invading Canada; and a French version of their resolution was distributed among its inhabitants. But on the ninth of that month the governor of the province proclaimed the American borderers to be rebellious traitors, established martial law, summoned the French peasantry to serve under the old colonial nobility, and instigated alike the converted Indian tribes and the savages of the Northwest to take up the hatchet against New York and New England. These movements made the occupation of Canada by America an act of self-defence. Continental troops took Montreal, and Montgomery fell before Quebec.

The old articles of Confederation provision was made for the admission of Canada into the Union.

Following the American Revolution, the United States of America became a significant force in naval commerce. This brought the young nation into conflict with England and other maritime nations concerning maritime trade. These problems led to the War of 1812. While the new administration under President James Madison emphasized the maritime issues with England, the war was largely a result of the desire for national expansion. The southern and western slaveholding states, led by War Hawks such as John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay, wanted war with Britain in order to push the annexation of Canada, expand the western and southern frontiers, remove the threat of alliance between Britain and the Indians of the Great Lakes region, and help prevent slaves from escaping beyond American borders.

During the War of 1812, the Americans tried to annex Canada, while the British attacked major US seaports. Although the Americans lost most of the battles, they were able to secure an equitable peace. Nine months after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, before this treaty could take effect, American forces under Andrew Jackson defeated a numerically superior British force at New Orleans. This battle made Jackson a national hero and helped him to eventually win the US presidency.

The Treaty of Ghent in 1814, or rather an agreement that grew out of it, established on the Lakes the principle of non-armament. A Government patrol to prevent smuggling and illegal fishing is all that was required either of the United States or Canada and is all that suggested armed service on these waters.

In the century that passed since that Treaty was signed, there were many issues which might have driven the United States and the United Kingdom to arms. For many years there were boundary disputes. On Lake Erie, in 1837 and 1838, with the escapades of William Lyon Mackenzie, the burning of the steamer Caroline, and other incidents of the Upper Canada Rebellion, the so-called Patriot War, there were causes enough for international strife.

In late 1845 the question of the annexation of Texas became less a party and more a sectional issue, when Southern Whigs began to favor and Northern Democrats to resist annexing Texas. The annexation of Canada was advocated in turn. The addition of Texas to the South, it was said, demanded a like addition to the North to preserve the just balance of the Union.

The year 1849 witnessed the somewhat celebrated movement for the annexation of Canada to the United States. In 1849 a large number of leading Canadians signed a manifesto in favor of annexation. It is certain the matter of annexation was brought up at Washington the following year. It was hastily considered then only because the more vital question of slavery was also under discussion.

The question of Annexation connected itself most closely with that of "dissolution of the Union." "If Canada were annexed," said the free soilers of New England and New York State, during the dissatisfactions in Canada, "we should be able to master the slave States, and form, if we liked, a powerful free republic." On the other hand, "If Cuba were annexed, we should be able to retain our first preponderance," said the slavery defenders of the south; "and, if that were contested, to form a separate Confederation in spite of the free States, and equal to them in strength." The storms and compromises which attended the admission of California, showed the amount of opposition which the south would raise against the annexation of Canada.

During the American Civil War, Canada, then officially known as British North America, was against slavery, but not fully supportive of the North. As a British possession, Canada reflected Britain's brand of neutrality, which tipped toward the South and King Cotton. Many Canadians worried about the possibility that the breakup of the Union might tempt the United States to add territory by attempting to annex Canada. As the war wore on and Canadians' sympathy for the South grew, so did toleration for harboring Confederate agents. On the Great Lakes the Civil War period was marked with numerous episodes, notably the Johnson's Island plot, the exploits of certain Confederate raiders and the abortive Peace Convention at Niagara Falls.

After the Civil War, Britain agreed to pay for damage to the US fleet inflicted by each British-built Confederate ship CSS Alabama. Home rule in Canada also lessened tension. While not fully independent of Great Britain, Canada proved to be a peaceful neighbor.

Annexation was much discussed in one form or another during the 1880s. As late as 1891 the Liberal party of Canada made an open issue of annexation. But the discussion of 1889-1892 of the annexation of Canada largely subsided, as it had in 1849.

Some Americans still dreamed of war with Britain. Just six years before his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt wrote that "the greatest boon I could confer upon this nation" would be "an immediate war with Great Britain for the conquest of Canada... I will do my very best to bring about the day..." [Theodore Roosevelt, letter to General James Harrison Wilson, November 5, 1895. Quoted in The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris, pp. 530-531.] Ironically, it was Roosevelt's own uncle, James Bulloch, who obtained the Alabama for the Confederacy - the same warship that threatened New York City, where young Theodore was born and raised.

A dispute in which England must fight the United States or sacrifice Canada seemed quite possible in the late 19th Century. It is palpably not to England's interest to fight the United States for the sake of retaining Canada as a piece of red upon the map ; but the chief use of the Mother Country to Canada is as a safeguard against American expansion northward. Of course did Canada desire to unite with the States the Mother Country would offer no military objection ; but the question is : In what way does the Canadian colony benefit the Mother Country ? This is a hard question to answer, except on the grounds of sentiment. Corn comes thence, it is true ; but corn, wherever it comes from, is sent by people who wish to make money by selling it.

The Red / Crimson Plans (war with Great Britain / Canada) received a great deal of attention from American war planners in the inter-war years. As such, the un-likelyhood of an American-British war seems to have had little dampening effect on American planning.

Plan Red called for a defensive concentration of the main US fleet in New York harbor. At the same time, the American Army was to mobilize and launch raids to cut the rail lines linking Western Canada with the East. A rapid landing, in the first few weeks of war, was called for in St. Margaret's Bay in order to seize Halifax and deny its use to the Royal Navy. After the US Army was fully mobilized, operations would commence to seize the major Canadian cities within 200 miles of the US border. The plan recognized that it was unlikely that the Royal Navy could be defeated. In all of its variations, Plan Red never came up with a solution of how to ultimately defeat Great Britain in a protracted war with the United States.

The Americans were not the only ones to be toiling away at plans involving the "undefended border." In Canada, Colonel J. Sutherland Brown (who detested Americans), the Director of Military Operations and Intelligence, planned to repulse an American invasion. Defence Scheme No.1 was the basic military doctrine of the Dominion for over a decade from April 1921 onwards. The fact that no one in the civilian end of the Canadian government had much of an idea of its (Defence Scheme No.1's) existence did not alter the fact that it provided much of the basis for planning a US-Canadian war.

American strategical planning in the period immediately following World War I was largely conditioned by the postwar political system and by the wide popular reaction against war. The Versailles Treaty, the Washington Treaties of 1921-1922, and the League of Nations (to which Germany was admitted in 1925) gave promise to the war-weary peoples of the world of an international order in which war would be forever banished. That promise seemed to many to have been fulfilled in 1928 when representatives from most of the nations in the world met at Paris to sign the Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war as an instrument of national policy. During these years of disillusion with war, isolationism, and Congressional economy, military planning in the United States was largely theoretical. Germany had just been defeated and stripped of military power. Russia was preoccupied with internal problems and, though Communism was recognized as a menace, the Bolshevik regime was in no position to engage in military adventures. Neither France nor Italy had sufficient naval force to attempt any major operation the Western Hemisphere and had no reason to do so in any case Of all the powers in Europe, only Great Britain was theoretically in a position to engage the United States in war with any prospect of success. The British had extensive holdings in the Western Hemisphere from which to launch attacks on American territory and they had enough dreadnoughts and battle cruisers to obtain naval supremacy in the Atlantic. But the possibility of a contest with Britain was extremely remote, for there was no sentiment for war on either side of the Atlantic. In the early 1920s, the war plans divisions of the War Department and the Navy Department drew up contingency plans for what they envisioned to be a two-theater world war fought in the Atlantic and the Pacific theater. In PLAN ORANGE, the Pacific Strategic War Plan, U.S. strategists theorized that there would be a war with Japan over resources and territory in the Pacific.

In PLAN RED, the Atlantic Strategic War Plan, the strategists theorized that there would be a war with Great Britain. They did this because England was locked in a strategic alliance with Japan, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902, which was renewed and lasted until the Washington Conference of 1921-22. American planners thought that England's imperial reach would bring it into conflict with the US.

In the unlikely event of a conflict between Great Britain and the United States, there was a real possibility of invasion of the United States as well as attacks against the Canal and American interests in the Caribbean and Latin American. In such a war, the major threat clearly would lie in the Atlantic. Plans developed to meet the remote danger of a RED war, in contrast to ORANGE, called for the immediate dispatch of the bulk of the U.S. Fleet to the Atlantic and large-scale ground operation to deprive the enemy of bases in the Western Hemisphere. As in ORANGE, it was assumed that neither side would have Allies among the great powers of Europe and Asia, and no plans were made for an invasion of the enemy's homeland by an American expeditionary force. This was to be a limited war in which the United States would adopt a strategic defensive with the object of frustrating the enemy's assumed objective in opening hostilities.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:36:32 Zulu