Internationalizing the American Civil War: The German and Dutch Impact on Union Bond Sales, 1862-1865

David K. Thomson

The American Civil War cost the federal government $3.2 billion; much of the money was raised from the sale of Union bonds and largely done in the North. Despite the successful efforts to sell bonds domestically among the northern populace, international sales were important and indeed necessary for the success of the Union cause. While these international sales ultimately resulted in approximately fifteen percent of the overall bond sales, it was not their quantity that was of greatest importance. Rather, their sales represented a critical recognition abroad of the validity of and confidence in the Union. All told, several hundred million dollars worth of these bonds made their way across the Atlantic and were sold in Britain, France, Belgium, Switzerland, the German States, and the Netherlands. Although Britain served as the perceived primary market for sales, in reality the underappreciated continental sales in the Netherlands and German states constituted the true market for international sales—revealing the political and economic pull of the continent and a reflection of the larger integration of global capital markets by the middle nineteenth century.