Synopses & Reviews
Continuing in the vein of his Lincoln Prize-winning book Lincoln and His Admirals
, acclaimed naval historian Craig L. Symonds presents a masterful history of the Civil War navies--both Union and Confederate--and places them within the broader context of the emerging industrial age.
Symonds begins with an account of the dramatic pre-war revolution in naval technology--the advent of steam propulsion, the screw propeller, and larger and more powerful rifled guns that could fire explosive shells as well as solid shot. These extraordinary changes were epitomized in the famous "Battle of the Ironclads"--one of the great stories of the Civil War--pitting USS Monitor against the larger and more heavily armed CSS Virginia (also known as Merrimack). Symonds also offers an overview of Lincoln's blockade of the South, a vast campaign involving as many as 500 ships and 100,000 men; discusses the fierce naval war for control of the rivers in the West; and looks at the important siege of Charleston, which would last three years and involve 40,000 men and sixty warships. Symonds concludes with three key episodes from the end of the war--the dramatic Battle of Mobile Bay, where Farragut delivered his famous cry: "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"; the battle of Wilmington, where combined naval and army forces successfully overran Fort Fisher, a giant earthwork fort called by one historian "the mightiest fortress in America"; and the remarkable cruise of the CSS Shenandoah, a round-the-world voyage of 58,000 miles, during which she captured thirty-eight prizes--mostly after Lee had surrendered, alas.
The Civil War at Sea illuminates a little-discussed and greatly undervalued aspect of America's national conflict. Concise yet comprehensive, this volume is a lively addition to the field of naval history.
"Symonds, professor emeritus of history at the U.S. Naval Academy, combines his expertise as a scholar of both sea power and the Civil War in this study of an aspect of the conflict largely neglected until now (James McPherson's War on the Waters comes out in September). Symonds covers the operational history of navies that on both sides were products of improvisation. Synergizing chronology and themes, the text begins by discussing the effect of the mid-century technological revolution. Steam engines, armor plate, and rifled cannon shaped both the war on the high seas and a riverine/littoral dimension unique in naval history. The Confederacy, Symonds says, was initially more creative, introducing ironclads, torpedoes, and a submarine. Southern commerce raiders devastated Union shipping, The Union's repeated failures before the first battle of Charleston showed a ship could still be a fool to fight a fort. But the new technology of naval war eventually enabled the Union to overwhelm or bypass even complex, well-sited defenses. The Union blockade, though never complete, contributed heavily to the South's ' growing sense of isolation and eventually depression, both economic and psychological.' Sea power, itself not decisive, significantly influenced the Civil War 's duration and trajectory, concludes Symonds in this substantive analysis. 24 b&w illus., 4 maps. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Symonds writes briskly and with great competence, and The Civil War at Sea (and on the rivers) is a masterful overview of a most meaningful topic."--Naval History
"Excellent.... Crisp writing, incisive assessments of leading personalities, and attention to details often overlooked enhance Symonds's book." --Choice
"Symond's account of the campaigns, strategies, tactics, and personalities that characterized the naval conflict is both detailed and comprehensible for laypersons. He effectively places the naval war within the broader context of an emerging industrial age, as steam and steel led to great changes in the construction and use of warships. The author uses a topical approach, with his descriptions of the Union blockade and Confederate efforts to thwart it are particularly interesting. A good addition to Civil War collections." --Booklist
Continuing in the vein of the Lincoln-prize winning Lincoln and His Admirals
, acclaimed naval historian Craig L. Symonds presents an operational history of the Civil War navies -- both Union and Confederate -- in this concise volume. Illuminating how various aspects of the naval engagement influenced the trajectory of the war as a whole, The Civil War at Sea
adds to our understanding of America's great national conflict.
Both the North and the South developed and deployed hundreds of warships between 1861 and 1865. Because the Civil War coincided with a revolution in naval techonology, the development and character of warfare at sea from 1861-1865 was dramatic and unprecedented. Rather than a simple chronology of the war at sea, Symonds addresses the story of the naval war topically, from the dramatic transformation wrought by changes in technology to the establishment, management, and impact of blockade. He also offers critical assessments of principal figures in the naval war, from the opposing secretaries of the navy to leading operational commanders such as David Glasgow Farragut and Raphael Semmes.
Symonds brings his expertise and knowledge of military and technological history to bear in this essential exploration of American naval engagement throughout the Civil War.
About the Author
Craig L. Symonds
is Professor of History Emeritus at the United States Naval Academy. He is the author of many books on American naval history, including Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles That Shaped American History
; The Battle of Midway
; and Lincoln and His Admirals,
co-winner of the Lincoln Prize in 2009
Table of Contents
1. The Ships and the Guns: Civil War Navies and the Technological Revolution
2. The Blockade and Blockade Runners
3. The War on Commerce: The Hunters and the Hunted
4. "Unvexed to the Sea": The River War
5. Civil War Navies and the Siege of Charleston
6. The End Game: Mobile, Wilmington, and the Cruise of the Shenandoah