An admirable and engrossing account of the largely overlooked contribution naval might made to the Union's victory in the Civil War, from a historian who has a genuine flair for recreating the riverine and seaboard battles that marked this conflict. Drawing on contemporary sources and eyewitness testimony from the gallant sailors who fought for both the Blue and the Gray, Musicant (The Banana Wars, 1990, etc.) offers a detailed log of how the US Navy transformed itself under fire from a military embarrassment into a world-class force. In the course of making itself a maritime power, the industrialized North strangled the agrarian South with a blockade that denied the Confederacy not only war materials but also consistent contact with foreign nations that, in different circumstances, might have supported the rebel cause. While the Confederate Navy took a fatal beating in the coastal waters, estuaries, and rivers where the Civil War's maritime campaigns were waged, it ruled the deep, where a dozen or so oceangoing raiders effectively drove US merchant shipping from global sea-lanes. The author provides rousing rundowns on the feats of the renegades who captained these privateers (at least one of which continued to wreak havoc months after Appomattox). Covered as well are the abortive efforts to relieve Fort Sumter at the start of hostilities, the Battle of Mobile Bay (when Admiral David Farragut indeed said, ""Damn the torpedoes!""), a series of prototypical amphibious operations (including the assault on South Carolina's Port Royal), the desperate mission of the CSS Hunley (arguably the first true submarine, whose sunken remains may recently have been found by deep-diving archaeologists), and the storied clash of ironclads in which the USS Monitor dueled the CSS Virginia (a.k.a. Merrimack) to a bloody standstill. Musicant gives readers a fantail seat for the Union's triumphs and setbacks during the Civil War.