Monday, May 15, 2017

Booknotes: Joseph Brown and His Civil War Ironclads

New Arrival:
Joseph Brown and His Civil War Ironclads: The USS Chillicothe, Indianola and Tuscumbia by Myron J. Smith, Jr. (McFarland, 2017).

From the description: "A Scottish immigrant to Illinois, Joseph Brown made his pre-Civil War fortune as a miller and steamboat captain who dabbled in riverboat design and the politics of small towns. When war erupted, he used his connections (including a friendship with Abraham Lincoln) to obtain contracts to build three ironclad gunboats for the U.S. War Department--the Chillicothe, Indianola and Tuscumbia.

Brown's ironclads were distinctive-looking river craft (much different in appearance from the famous Pook Turtles) and weren't too highly regarded, but they usefully served the U.S. Navy throughout the conflict (except the Indianola, which was rammed and sunk by the Confederates in 1862). Smith's books on the men and vessels of the Union and Confederate river navies in the west are numerous, and you can find reviews of all of them on this site. Some readers might find the level of detail contained in Smith's narratives crushing, but those with a special interest in the topic will revel in their depth. Smith's interests in man and machine have always gone hand in hand in his work, and "(t)his book covers [Brown's] life and career, as well as the construction and operational histories of his controversial trio of warships."

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