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

James M. McPherson. Univ. of North Carolina, $35 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8078-3588-3
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McPherson, professor emeritus of Princeton and dean of Civil War historians, enhances our knowledge with this history of the conflict’s naval aspects. As definitive as it is economical, the work establishes beyond question the decisive contributions of maritime power to Union victory. The Confederate Navy, though materially outnumbered tenfold, was technologically advanced in such fields as mines and ironclads. Its commerce raiders devastated Union merchant shipping. Nevertheless, on the sea, along the coasts, and on the inland river systems, the North’s warships and landing parties independently achieved politically and strategically important victories: Port Royal, S.C., and Fort Henry, Tenn., Memphis and New Orleans. The fleet synergized with the army in combined operations from North Carolina to the Mississippi River and Texas. The Union Navy established and sustained a blockade without which “the Confederacy might well have prevailed,” These achievements were above all a product of pragmatism. From Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, through admirals like David Farragut and D.D. Porter, to the seamen and rivermen who joined for the duration, the Union Navy designed ships and developed doctrines to fit circumstances. Not everything worked. But as McPherson indisputably shows, the Civil War’s outcome was in good part shaped by Northern naval power A Main Selection of the History Book Club and a selection of the Military Book Club, BOMC, and BOMC2 online, (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/04/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-4696-2284-2
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