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War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era)by James M. Mcpherson
Synopses & Reviews
The Battle of Petersburg was the culmination of the Virginia Overland campaign, which pitted the Army of the Potomac, led by Ulysses S. Grant and George Gordon Meade, against Robert E. Leeand#8217;s Army of Northern Virginia. In spite of having outmaneuvered Lee,and#160;after three days of battle in which the Confederates at Petersburg were severely outnumbered, Union forces failed to take the city, and their final, futile attack on the fourth day only added to already staggering casualties. By holding Petersburg against great odds, the Confederacy arguably won its last great strategic victory of the Civil War.
In The Battle of Petersburg, June 15and#8211;18, 1864, Sean Michael Chick takes an in-depth look at an important battle often overlooked by historians and offers aand#160;new perspective on why the Army of the Potomacand#8217;s leadership, from Grant down to his corps commanders, could not win a battle in which they held colossal advantages. He also discusses the battleand#8217;s wider context, including politics, memory, and battlefield preservation. Highlights include the role played by African American soldiers on the first day and a detailed retelling of the famed attack of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery, which lost more men than any other Civil War regiment in a single battle. In addition, the book has a fresh and nuanced interpretation of the generalships of Grant, Meade, Lee, P. G. T. Beauregard, and William Farrar Smith during this critical battle.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
When Gen. Robert E. Lee fled from Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia, in April 1865, many observers did not realize that the Civil War had reached its nadir. A large number of Confederates, from Jefferson Davis down to the rank-and-file, were determined to continue fighting. Though Union successes had nearly extinguished the Confederacyand#8217;s hope for an outright victory, the South still believed it could force the Union to grant a negotiated peace that would salvage some of its war aims. As evidence of the Confederacyand#8217;s determination, two major Union campaigns, along with a number of smaller engagements, were required to quell the continued organized Confederate military resistance.
In Spring 1865 Perry D. Jamieson juxtaposes for the first time the major campaign against Lee that ended at Appomattox and Gen. William T. Shermanand#8217;s march north through the Carolinas, which culminated in Gen. Joseph E. Johnstonand#8217;s surrender at Bennett Place. Jamieson also addresses the efforts required to put down armed resistance in the Deep South and the Trans-Mississippi. As both sides fought for political goals following Leeand#8217;s surrender, these campaigns had significant consequences for the political-military context that shaped the end of the war as well as Reconstruction.
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 the Author
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.
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