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

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

by James M. McPherson


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War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 by James M. McPherson

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469622842
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 02/01/2015
Series: Littlefield History of the Civil War Era
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 492,040
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.80(d)

About 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.


Princeton, New Jersey

Date of Birth:

October 11, 1936

Place of Birth:

Valley City, North Dakota


B.A., Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, MN) 1958; Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1963

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Mobilizing for War 15

2 Establishing the Blockade 47

3 We've Got New Orleans 79

4 The River War in 1861-1862 111

5 The Confederacy Strikes Back 153

6 Nothing but Disaster 189

7 A Most Signal Defeat 218

8 Unvexed to the Sea 249

9 Ironclads, Torpedoes, and Salt, 1863-1864 276

10 From the Red River to Cherbourg 304

11 Damn the Torpedoes 337

Conclusion 365

Acknowledgments 369

Notes 373

Bibliography 415

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

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War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
civiwarlibrarian More than 1 year ago
War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865, James M. McPherson, University of North Carolina Press, 23 illustrations, 19 maps, notes, bibliography, index $35.00. War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 is a clear and concise description and analysis of the Civil War's naval mobilizations, battles and diplomatic impacts. Within 250 pages, McPherson offers a primary source centered narrative that is enjoyable to read. Offering a chronological story, he places the navies' developments, successes and shortcomings within the context of the land campaigns and political conflicts. Within eleven chapters, McPherson describes the brown water and blue water fleets and the significant engagements of both navies. Much of McPherson's story may be new to Civil War enthusiast who regularly reads army and land battle narratives. Admiral Farragut's cannon, recently employed in the Mississippi Delta in late April 1862 challenged Vicksburg on July 1 of the same year; Farragut asks for Vicksburg's surrender and is refused. International law and diplomacy are set within the context of Europe's approach and avoidance policies toward the Confederacy. The earth's oceans the scene of commerce raiding, near piracy, and chases. The destruction of a segment are of the North's merchant marine by Confederate commerce raiders cause repercussions that lasted beyond the end of the war and settled by international courts. McPherson offers thorough evidence that the U.S. Navy was a major factor in the success of the Union's war effort and that the C.S. navy was, without a doubt, innovative and a considerable impact on the length of the war. With a meager 5% claim on the Union's military budget and assets, the U.S. Navy produced results disproportionate the expenditure. With even less funds available the C.S. challenged in a dramatic fashion the North's blockade and commerce. His narrative frequently is moved forward by the personalities of the inventors, sailors, and politicians. War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies is a pleasure to read and accessible to general readers including high school student working in advance placement courses. The 19 maps are uncluttered and offer details relevant to the narrative.
James_Durney More than 1 year ago
Civil War history tends to mention the Navy only at Hampton Roads and Vicksburg. The blockade, usually noted in passing, gets credit for cutting the Confederacy from Europe. A person could forget that both sides spent considerable resources on their navy. This is a good introduction to naval operations during the war. As expected, an introduction will not contain details and nuances. Rather an introduction will cover the major considerations, personalities, operations and events. The author provides everything that we could reasonably expect in an introduction to Civil War Naval history. He manages to convey this in an interesting, intelligent prose that is as easy to read as it is enjoyable. Organization is a combination of theater, operations or years, which sounds confusing, but it works well. Depending on the subject, the reader can expect a history that is stand-alone or integrated into the war. This is not all "Damn the torpedoes". There is a good deal of technological, political and social considerations. We see the movement from wooded ships to ironclads, the racially mixed crews and how politics influences operations. With all of this, we still find time for the battles. Readers will not be disappointed with the military coverage. The author captures all major and many smaller actions and firmly places them in the overall structure of the war. We see how the result of past operations affects planning. The University of North Carolina Press always presents a professional book. This is no exception with a full set of maps, illustrations, endnotes, bibliography and index.