On Saturday, September 5, 1863 troops entered the Laird Shipyards in England and seized two ironclads nearing completion which rumors had destined for sale to the Confederate States of America. For months both the American minister to England Charles Francis Adams and Washington had expressed concerns over the construction of these vessels.
Adams had even warned Lord Russell of the British Foreign Office that release of the rams to the Confederacy would precipitate war between the United States and England. But even before Adams’ threat, on September 3 Lord Russell decided to detain the two rams. The ships were not turned over to the Confederacy, and a major stumbling block in U.S.-English relations was narrowly avoided, keeping England neutral and out of the American Civil War.