WAR ON THE WATERS by James M. McPherson


The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865
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Pulitzer and Lincoln Prize winner McPherson (Abraham Lincoln, 2009, etc.) displays his massive knowledge of the Civil War, this time specifically concerning the naval battles.

The Union Navy far outnumbered the Confederate, but it was still much too small to effectively blockade the coastline from Chesapeake Bay to Texas. In addition, the forces were required to patrol in the rivers, which were so vital to transportation. Union Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles was lucky in that Congress quickly eliminated the requirement to promote according to seniority of service before older leaders did too much damage. Cooperation with the Army was another hurdle, as traditional rivalry between forces made teamwork difficult. Samuel Francis Du Pont managed to take Port Royal in South Carolina without help from the Army, and other actions at Hatteras Inlet, New Orleans and Memphis proved the Navy’s value. Actions in North Carolina in 1862 and on the Southern coast, especially Mobile Bay, were examples of the most successful combined operations. David Farragut’s success in taking New Orleans enabled his push up the Mississippi in order to connect with Andrew Foote’s Western Flotilla. These two navies opened the Mississippi and aided Grant’s attack on Vicksburg. The use of ironclads, timberclads and even tinclads proved to be of more use in defending the Union ships and ramming the Confederates. However, when they met up with each other, it was usually a draw.

While the navies may not be on the top of the list for most Civil War enthusiasts, this is a solid contribution to Civil War scholarship.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8078-3588-3
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2012


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