War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 by James M. McPherson, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865

War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865

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by James M. McPherson
     
 

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Although previously undervalued for their strategic impact because they 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

Overview

Although previously undervalued for their strategic impact because they 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.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
The aim of this compact book is to prove to modern students of the war that naval superiority throughout the conflict—on the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the Southern river systems—was an indispensable ingredient of Union military victory. Like his Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom, War on the Waters displays the technique that has become something of a trademark for the Princeton historian. He uses impeccable scholarship in the service of narratives that have appeal for the general reader…McPherson has spiced his book with lots of true but largely unexploited facts and vignettes.
—Howell Raines
Publishers Weekly
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.)
From the Publisher
Well-researched. . . . This important addition to scholarship on the naval aspects of the Civil War is recommended for academic audiences. With maps of several key battle sites clearly depicting ship and fort locations.—Library Journal

In yet another elegant turn, historian James M. McPherson demonstrates his research and writing skills in this concise review of naval operations during the American Civil War. This volume comes as proof positive that McPherson is entitled to all the prizes and accolades he has won in the past.—Journal of America's Military Past

McPherson's gift is to place this naval scholarship in the larger context of the war. . . . He follows a chronological narrative which enables him to show the ebb and flow of success and failure that characterized the fortunes of both the Union and Confederate navies.—Canadian Journal of History

A welcome addition to the literature. Those new to this aspect of the Civil War will benefit from McPherson's masterful synthesis, while specialists will find his insights equally intriguing.—The Historian

An outstanding survey by someone who brings to bear a grand knowledge of the complex social/political/military tapestry against which this tale unfolds. . . . An effective, eminently readable introduction to the subject, with good maps to boot.—United States Naval Institute

A concise, fact-filled and exciting work in the Civil War's naval aspects. . . . Shows that the Civil War—a war of intense technological innovation on both seagoing sides—was won in large part by the Union Navy.—Tampa Bay Times

McPherson's accounts of set-piece battles—Farragut's assault on Mobile Bay, the duel between the Monitor and the Merrimack—are vivid. Much of this briny story is provided through the words of the participants, and the maps are excellent throughout.—Wall Street Journal Gift Guide 2012

[McPherson] successfully demonstrates the navy's importance to the Union victory in 1865." H-Net Reviews

Both the general reader and the experienced historian can equally enjoy. . . . This one should definitely be on your reading list.—Speedreaders.info

A comprehensive and compelling portrait of an oft-overlooked aspect.—Tennessee Libraries

[James McPherson is] the dean of Civil War historians.—Publishers Weekly

McPherson's erudite prose and intimate knowledge of his subject makes War on the Waters an invaluable reference for Civil War scholars and laymen alike.—Charleson Post and Courier

A superb exploration of the role of the navy on both sides.—Sun News Miami

Should be read by anyone who enjoys lucid prose and should be in the library of any Civil War scholar, student, or enthusiast." Louisiana History

[McPherson] uses impeccable scholarship in the service of narratives that have appeal for the general reader.—Howell Raines, Washington Post

A sound collection-development investment.—Booklist

McPherson displays his massive knowledge of the Civil War. . . . A solid contribution to Civil War scholarship.—Kirkus Reviews

McPherson writes extremely well and is able to interweave political and diplomatic events into his tale. . . . An excellent one volume overview of the naval side of the Civil War, particularly valuable to those unfamiliar with this aspect of the conflict, and also useful for the more seasoned student of the war.—The NYMAS Review

As definitive as it is economical, [War on the Waters] establishes beyond question the decisive contributions of maritime power to Union victory.—Publishers Weekly starred review

Well-written. . . . A nice summary of the role that both navies played in the Civil War.—Arkansas Historical Quarterly

An interesting, intelligent prose that is as easy to read as it is enjoyable.—TOCWOC: A Civil War Blog

[A] well-researched, dramatic story. . . . An exciting introductory read.—North Carolina Historical Review

Library Journal
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian McPherson (history, emeritus, Princeton Univ.; Battle Cry of Freedom), who has written extensively on various aspects of the American Civil War, now turns his authoritative attention to the naval campaigns that played a crucial but underappreciated role in the war's outcome. He provides thorough analyses of Union and Confederate strategies and detailed descriptions of pivotal battles in Memphis, New Orleans, Charleston, and elsewhere. His concise but comprehensive account includes explanations of how the Union navy and army cooperated, sometimes reluctantly and clumsily, to win the war's most critical sea battles, while the undermanned Confederates used torpedoes and tenacity to try to thwart their opponent's mostly successful attempts at blockading Southern ports. VERDICT McPherson's well-researched book is too dense and detailed for general readers, who would benefit from William Fowler's more accessible Under Two Flags: The American Navy in the Civil War, but this important addition to scholarship on the naval aspects of the Civil War is recommended for academic audiences. With maps of several key battle sites clearly depicting ship and fort locations.—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia
Kirkus Reviews
Pulitzer and Lincoln Prize winner McPherson (Abraham Lincoln, 2009, etc.) displays his massive knowledge of the Civil War, this time specifically concerning the naval battles. The Union Navy far outnumbered the Confederate, but it was still much too small to effectively blockade the coastline from Chesapeake Bay to Texas. In addition, the forces were required to patrol in the rivers, which were so vital to transportation. Union Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles was lucky in that Congress quickly eliminated the requirement to promote according to seniority of service before older leaders did too much damage. Cooperation with the Army was another hurdle, as traditional rivalry between forces made teamwork difficult. Samuel Francis Du Pont managed to take Port Royal in South Carolina without help from the Army, and other actions at Hatteras Inlet, New Orleans and Memphis proved the Navy's value. Actions in North Carolina in 1862 and on the Southern coast, especially Mobile Bay, were examples of the most successful combined operations. David Farragut's success in taking New Orleans enabled his push up the Mississippi in order to connect with Andrew Foote's Western Flotilla. These two navies opened the Mississippi and aided Grant's attack on Vicksburg. The use of ironclads, timberclads and even tinclads proved to be of more use in defending the Union ships and ramming the Confederates. However, when they met up with each other, it was usually a draw. While the navies may not be on the top of the list for most Civil War enthusiasts, this is a solid contribution to Civil War scholarship.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807835883
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
09/17/2012
Series:
Littlefield History of the Civil War Era Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
James McPherson's many admirers in the Civil War community will be thrilled that he has turned his keen eye and eloquent pen to the naval war. In this new, concise history of the war at sea, McPherson not only tells an important story well, he shows how the Union Navy, with only five percent of Union military assets, had a disproportionate impact on the war.—Craig L. Symonds, author of Lincoln and His Admirals

Meet 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.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Princeton, New Jersey
Date of Birth:
October 11, 1936
Place of Birth:
Valley City, North Dakota
Education:
B.A., Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, MN) 1958; Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1963

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