Saturday, August 2, 2014

War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865

War on the Waters:

By James M. McPherson

Literature on the American Civil War frequently overlooks and/or undervalues the contributions and importance of both the United States’ and the Confederacy’s Navies.  Though the Confederacy’s naval efforts pale to that of the Union’s, both navies contributed to their respective war efforts and changed the course of naval warfare forever.

James M. McPherson, the George Henry Davis '86 Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University, and the author of Pulitzer Prize-winning “Battle Cry of Freedom,” has resurrected the 150 year old wreckage of the Union and Confederate navies from their murky depths, and brings to the surface the history of Civil War naval warfare in his book “War on the Waters: the Union and Confederate Navies 1861-1865.”

Tracing from the meager beginnings of a nearly nonexistent United States Navy and the complete nonexistence of a Confederate navy Professor McPherson builds his narrative chronologically through the mobilization the opposing naval forces to the victory of the Union and the defeat of the Confederacy, and covers both river and sea operations.  Discussed in detail is the Union Blockade, the capture of New Orleans, the battle between the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor at Hampton Roads, as well as the joint operations between the Union Army and the “Brown Water” Navy, at Forts Henry and Donelson and operations during the Vicksburg Campaign as well as many other lesser known naval actions.

“War on the Waters, is well researched.  A search through Dr. McPherson’s end notes and bibliography reveals a nice balance between his use of primary and secondary sources leaning more toward primary source documents.  The book’s narrative is necessarily tilted to the victor’s side, not because of any perceived bias but rather from the sheer size of the United States Navy as compared to its Confederate counterpart.  It is book well written and easily read, and would appeal to academics and the casual reader alike. 

ISBN 978-0807835883, The University of North Carolina Press, © 2012, Hardcover, 304 pages, Maps, Photographs, Illustrations, End Notes, Bibliography & Index. $35.00.  To purchase this book click HERE.

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