A unique collection of wartime letters from naval officer Roswell H. Lamson, US Naval Academy class of 1862, ably edited and annotated by Pulitzer Prize—winning historian James McPherson and independent researcher Patricia McPherson. Lamson grew up in the Oregon Territory, where he fought Indians as a boy, got his first glimpse of the sea, and learned his devotion to the Union from his father, whose westward itch had brought the family from Massachusetts. He matriculated at Annapolis in 1858 and excelled there, finishing second in a class decimated by resignations due either to wartime allegiance to the South or to failure to make the grade. As the war loomed, Lamson, in letters home to his cousins Kate (whom he later married) and Flora, noted that he intended to defend the Union "as long as there's a star in the flag." Lamson's final year as a student was hardly an academic exercise: He served in the blockade of Southern ports, participated in the victorious bombardment of Port Royal and Hatteras Inlet, and was the officer who took charge of the CSS Planter, which was hijacked by slaves in May 1862 in the middle of the battle for Charleston and surrendered to the Union fleet. Lamson played a significant role in the war, as his letters show: In 1863, he commanded a gunboat fleet that captured Fort Huger, a Confederate battery; stopped Gen. Longstreet's attach on Suffolk, Va.; and later was instrumental in the North's long campaign to reduce Fort Fisher, a key Confederate stronghold. Throughout the war, the editors observe, Lamson "had an uncanny knack for being where the action was." His life after the war did not match these early brilliant prospects: His wife and five of seven children died, and success in civilian life eluded him. He died in 1903. A rare correspondence from one who was part of the great blockade, and an absorbing contribution to Civil War literature.
Read full book review >