The Civil War at Sea

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Oxford University Press, 2012 - History - 248 pages
5 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.

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The Civil War at Sea

User Review  - MF - Book Verdict

Lincoln Prize-winner Symonds (Lincoln and His Admirals) examines naval strategies and tactics as illustrated by the Civil War, rather than presenting a history of the naval war itself. He tells three ... Read full review

Review: The Civil War at Sea

User Review  - Andrew - Goodreads

An excellent overview of the impact of the Federal blockade on Southern ports and its impact on the war. It emphasizes how profitable it was for blockade runners: the average ship would be captured ... Read full review


Civil War Navies and the Technological Revolution
2 The Blockade and BlockadeRunners
The Hunters and the Hunted
The River War
5 Civil War Navies and the Siege of Charleston
Mobile Wilmington and the Cruise of the Shenandoah
Bibliographical Essay

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About the author (2012)

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

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