Eagle over the Mersey: American Civil War Union spies in 1860s Liverpool campaign

I have long been intrigued by using the espionage exploits of Thomas Haines Dudley, United States Consul. and his spy, Matthew Maguire who busted and monitored Confederate arms buying efforts in the UK from their base in Liverpool.

1860s Liverpool

Players could be from a variety of backgrounds. It would be important to have a variety of motivations, social classes and skills for a spy network working on the Mersey.


Why are characters spying on the Confederates or for the Union?

  • Patriotism – American, Irish ( looking to incite anti English sentiment in the Union) or more.
  • Religious idealism – such as anti slavery Quakers (who would also be pacifists.)
  • The thrill of adventure (but can such swashbucklers be trusted ?)
  • Money (pure mercenaries)
  • Racial Justice ( either a member of an ethnic minority or an ideological liberal (like Garibaldi) or even (shock) a socialist
  • Personal hatred of The South (or southern agents)
  • Professionalism (as a Union military or policeman or a professional crook on the payroll of the North)
  • Commercial opportunity (ie a cotton dealer who’s invested in Indian cotton or arms dealer wants his south supporting rivals fail.)
  • Impress a paramour or fallen into a union honey trap


Liverpool Cotton Exchange
  • Ally scum – street arabs, urchins, beggars – the invisibles of the urban poor
  • Working Poor – dockers, factory workers etc ears on the warehouse floor
  • Lower Middle class – chandlers, shop keepers etc handy sources of gossip
  • The Professionals – brokers, lawyers and the like. Monied but aspiring.
  • Upper Class – grandees brokering political behind closed doors
  • Foreigners – any class but a cut apart but able to manoeuvre in their own migrant communities easier than English folk.


  • Cracksman – burglar and lock pick
  • Pocket Dipper – pick pocket
  • Legalise – ability to peruse contracts and negotiations and make sense of it
  • Ledgerman – able to follow the money
  • Nautical – to know the ways of ships, docks and the sea
  • Armourer – understand arms and ammunition
  • Gossip monger – a ready ear, kind heart and good memory
  • Interrogator – wields words like a switchblade
Lancashire Cotton Famine

I’ve no idea of a system yet but i can have a think for further listening / reading around this topic.









6 comments on “Eagle over the Mersey: American Civil War Union spies in 1860s Liverpool campaign

  1. There’s potentially some political motivation, too – working class radicalism in sympathy with the North, influenced by the mentioned anti-slavery. See James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom on how British mill workers supported the North even during South’s cotton embargo.

  2. So much I don’t know about the history of Liverpool, really interesting stuff. I reckon it’d work really well with Everywhen (the generic BoL system), careers would cover skills and could have social classes as boons and flaws.

  3. […] I will however be definitely trying to fit a snoozer (burglar who stays in a hotel as a servant and burgles guests rooms) character in a Victorian game – perhaps eagles over the Mersey. […]

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