The Trent Affair is the name given to an incident that occured November 8, 1861 during the American Civil War. In an attempt to gain support for the Confederate States of America from European nations during the war, the CSA dispatched two diplomats, James M. Mason and John Slidell to Europe via the Trent, a British naval ship. They left from Havana, Cuba, but were captured when passing through the Union naval blockade, by Captain Charles Wilkes of the USS San Jacinto. Both men were held at Fort Warren in Boston harbor.

The arrest nearly brought the United States to war with Great Britian, as Britian demanded the release of the two diplomats and sent troops to Canada to prepare for a war with America. Britain and the Southern states had close economic ties because of their mutual involvement in the cotton trade. Finally United States Secretary of State William H. Seward apologized to the British for the incident. Mason and Slidell were released in January of 1862.


Library of Congress Memory Archive for November 8