Thursday, April 12, 2007

Turner: "Navy Gray: A Story of the Confederate Navy on the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers"

Maxine Turner's Navy Gray: A Story of the Confederate Navy on the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers (University of Alabama Press, 1988) is a fascinating economic-military study of the Civil War in the west Florida coastal region and inland areas of Georgia and Alabama located along the rivers mentioned in the subtitle (the Flint River should also be included). Told from the viewpoint of both the U.S. Navy blockaders and the Confederate soldiers and civilians, it is readily apparent how even a weak blockade can have devastating effects on a local economy based on exports. The economic ill-effects and social disruption were felt far inland, taxing even further an already overburdened southern railway transportation system.

Much of Navy Gray's focus is on the expanded industrial complex situated at Columbus, GA (managed skillfully by CSA naval Lt. Augustus McLaughlin and assisted by Chief Engineer James H. Warner). The engineering and construction of the wooden gunboat Chattahoochie and ironclad Jackson at Columbus showcase many of the negatives (material and labor shortages, deep draft, lack of design uniformity, poor strategy, etc.) of Confederate naval construction during the war. The book is very well written and researched, providing real insight into Confederate industry in a region rarely explored in the literature. For more specialized readers and researchers, Turner also included correspondence, finance, and employment records in the appendices. This intriguing multi-faceted study is an underappreciated gem.

[Navy Gray was reprinted without change in 1999 in paperback from another press. It was also retitled Navy Gray: Engineering the Confederate Navy on the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers]

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