Synopses & Reviews
Historians have given a great deal of attention to the lives and experiences of Civil War soldiers, but surprisingly little is known about navy sailors who participated in the conflict. Michael J. Bennett remedies the longstanding neglect of Civil War seamen in this comprehensive assessment of the experience of common Union sailors from 1861 to 1865.
To resurrect the voices of the "Union Jacks," Bennett combed sailors' diaries, letters, and journals. He finds that the sailors differed from their counterparts in the army in many ways. They tended to be a rougher bunch of men than the regular soldiers, drinking and fighting excessively. Those who were not foreign-born, escaped slaves, or unemployed at the time they enlisted often hailed from the urban working class rather than from rural farms and towns. In addition, most sailors enlisted for pragmatic rather than ideological reasons.
Bennett's examination provides a look into the everyday lives of sailors and illuminates where they came from, why they enlisted, and how their origins shaped their service. By showing how these Union sailors lived and fought on the sea, Bennett brings an important new perspective to our understanding of the Civil War.
"A remarkably effective job of capturing the voices of ordinary sailors. . . . A gem, joining social history methodology with the vivid storytelling loved by Civil War buffs."
-- Military History of the West
"An innovative and thoughtful approach to a unique group of Americans. . . . Outstanding. . . . A thought-provoking bridge between antebellum and Civil War social history."
-- Journal of African American History
"An outstanding contribution to the fields of the American Civil War, U.S. Military History, naval history, as well as the history of race, ethnicity, and class in nineteenth-century America. . . . Recommended for classroom use as well as general readers."
-- Florida Historical Quarterly
"Will prove very useful to anyone interested in the naval side of the Civil War, and in the life of the ordinary man in the service."
-- The NYMAS Review
"A significant contribution to the historiography of the Civil War. . . . Bennett's marvelous book rides the wave of maritime social history that has surged in recent years. . . . [Bennett] convincingly demonstrates that the Civil War was not just a soldier's war and that sailors had a unique wartime experience. Union Jacks
is a terrific book."
-- Journal of Social History
About the Author
Michael J. Bennett is an attorney and independent scholar living in University Heights, Ohio.