Although previously undervalued for their strategic impact because the represented only a small percentage of total forces, the Union and Confederate navies were crucial to the outcome of the Civil War. In War on the Waters, James M. McPherson has crafted an enlightening, at times harrowing, and ultimately thrilling account of the war’s naval campaigns and their military leaders.
McPherson recounts how the Union navy’s blockade of the Confederate coast, leaky as a sieve in the war’s early months, became increasingly effective as it choked off vital imports and exports. Meanwhile, the Confederate navy, dwarfed by its giant adversary, demonstrated daring and military innovation. Commerce raiders sank Union ships and drove the American merchant marine from the high seas. Southern ironclads sent several Union warships to the bottom, naval mines sank many more, and the Confederates deployed the world’s first submarine to sink an enemy vessel. But in the end, it was the Union navy that won some of the war’s most important strategic victories–as an essential partner to the army on the ground at Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, Port Hudson, Mobile Bay, and Fort Fisher, and all by itself at Port Royal, Fort Henry, New Orleans, and Memphis.
About James M. McPherson
James M. McPherson taught U.S. history at Princeton University for forty-two years and is author of more than a dozen books on the era of the Civil War. His books have won a Pulitzer Prize and two Lincoln Prizes.
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. – Kirkus Reviews
“War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865” by James M. McPherson
The Washington Post Book Review – October 20, 2012 (Excerpt)
The story of the fall of the essential Confederate port of Mobile in 1864 is well known, in whole or in part, among collectors of patriotic lore. Rear Adm.David Farragut led the Federal fleet through the (relatively) treacherous pass at Mobile Bay and (may have) said: “Damn the torpedoes!Full speed ahead!”
Far less well known is the strategic importance of Farragut to the outcome of the Civil War. “That little man,” wrote a fellow U.S. Navy officer, “has done more to put down the rebellion than any general except Grant and Sherman.”
James M. McPherson agrees, but ranking generals and admirals is not his main interest. The aim of this compact book is to prove to modern students of the war that naval superiority throughout the conflict—on the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the Southern river systems — was an indispensable ingredient of Union military victory. Like his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Battle Cry of Freedom,” “War on the Waters” displays the technique that has become something of a trademark for the Princeton historian. He uses impeccable scholarship in the service of narratives that have appeal for the general reader. He gives context for what we already know from the war’s celebrated tales, including the USS Monitor’s battle with the CSS Virginia, a.k.a USS Merrimack, off Norfolk, and the defeat of the Confederacy’s best Atlantic commerce raider, the CSS Alabama, in a theatrical sea battle that drew thousands of French spectators to the shoreline at Cherbourg. [Read the full article...]
THE LONDONDERRY AIR
Testament of an Ulster Gunman A Novel by Garrad Gawler
It all changed for Charles Cunningham, a Physics teacher at the local College of Technology in the County Derry town of Maddenstown, on a June afternoon in 1973 when a bomb exploded in his neighborhood. He answers an advertisement by the UDR, the Ulster Defence Regiment, but, in the time to come, he will experience the consequences of his decisions, and how his involvement complicates matters with family and friends, Protestants and Catholics alike, to an unexpected degree.
With “The Londonderry Air – Testament of an Ulster Gunman” Garrad Gawler describes in minute detail and with an astonishing level of authenticity not only the inner workings of the Ulster Defence Regiment, but also the activities of underground paramilitary groups of regular citizens who planned and carried out the assassination of suspected Republican terrorists in their neighborhood.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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