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From the Publisher"The role of ships during the Civil War is, for most people, confined to the blockade of the cotton exports in the Carolinas and the battle between the ironclads Monitor and Merrimac. Symonds (American History, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis MD, emeritus) covers both these subjects and much more. Steam engines and iron-plated hulls were new technologies
at the time, changing the context of sea battles. The encounters are chronicled, with maps and diagrams and the strategic side of the war at sea is explained. However, Symonds also recreates the personalities of the seamen from admirals to deckhands. One lesser known tactic that he discusses is the Confederate response to the blockade, which was the
honored tradition of privateering. Union merchant ships were attacked off the coast of France and England. The Shenandoah sailed literally around the world, hampering trade as far as China and Japan. Symonds presents a side of Civil War history rarely, if ever, included in Civil War accounts."
Reference & Research Book News
"There was a time only several decades past when new histories of the blue-and-brown water US Civil War were hard
to come by. Students and others seeking details of the naval or riverine operations of the great conflict were forced to
rely on old standbys published at the end of the 19th century, some memoirs, several rather popular chronicles, and the
Navy official records. Now, within a span of three years, two excellent operational histories have appeared, both demonstrating the impact of the sea services upon the outcome of the struggle. The first was Spencer C. Tucker's
Blue & Gray Navies: The Civil War Afloat (2006) and the other is this work, from the prize-winning author of last
year's Lincoln and His Admirals (2008). Crisp writing, incisive assessments of leading personalities, and attention to details often overlooked enhance Symonds's book. The author footnotes each of the six chapters, includes good maps, and provides the obligatory photos needed for a Civil War title. A bibliographical essay completes the concise survey. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduates and Civil War buffs."
"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."
"Symonds' 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 particularly interesting. A good addition to Civil War collections."