The Civil War at Sea by Craig L. Symonds

Read: October 12 - October 19
Format: Hardback 170 pages
Source: Public library ILL
Subject: Civil War, naval operations
Category: Civil War and its Leaders
Genre: History
Challenges: 101020, 75 Book, SYLL, TIOLI,
Stars: 3

When people think of the Civil War, rarely do naval campaigns come to mind, I know I never put the tow together until I began researching the books that dealt with this conflict and I was surprised to find that there were many from which to choose. This book details the contributions and shortcomings of both the Union and Confederate navies to the outcome of the War between the States.

Knowing that the Civil War was not exactly anticipated, one would think that the combatants would not have been prepared for naval operations at the beginning of the war, but the Union had actually been adding and improving its naval forces since the Mexican American War. With the advent of steam powered propulsion, Americans needed additional vessels for the protection of their coastline as well as the trade vessels that moved goods from port to port, so between 1854 and 1859, 24 new steam powered naval vessels were ordered built in three different classes with the latest armaments including larger guns, explosive shells, and ironclading. Even with these improvements, they were still more maneuverable than the old sailing vessels.

The South however, had difficulties with their naval forces because of lack of materials to produce new vessels or convert older vessels with ironclading and more accurate and powerful guns. The Confederacy did manage to commission several vessels to built in England, however, because of the neutrality, delivery was not possible in several instances. Many members of the US Navy from Southern states at the start of war resigned their commissions and headed home to enlist in the Confederate navy only to find the shortage of ships on which to serve.

Lincoln's first policy change in 1861 concerning the navy was to order a blockade of all the major harbors of the South to prevent the Confederacy from receiving goods needed to build and enhance their naval vessels. The blockades were not totally successful in prevent the blockade runners from reaching the Southern ports but the blockades were effective enough to demoralize the citizens of the Confederacy as the war progressed.

The Union Navy also combined with the army on several occasions to assist in major victories - Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, Charleston - though normally there was a rivalry between the two factions. While the Union Navy did not end the war and the Southern navy didn't win the war, each managed to triumph in battle against the other during the 4 years of conflict. Eventually, however, it was the ability of the Union navy to prevent delivery of goods and additional vessels as well as aiding with troop movements and supply lines, which shortened the war.
This was a very well written book detailing the naval vessels that were developed for both the North and South and how they were used in different battle situations. The drawings and paintings there were included were extremely helpful in allowing the reader to see how the old fortifications and forts were no longer able to stop the newer and better equipped vessels. Not a large book by size but large on detail.

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