Friday, November 18, 2005

BOWM - Confederate Blockade of Washington

To be honest, I probably shouldn't include this here as it is only indirectly involved with White Mane (3rd printing only and through Burd Street Press, a division of White Mane) but I liked the book and it gives me an excuse to talk about it. It will also conclude my short 'Best of White Mane' series.

First published in 1975, Mary Alice Wills's The Confederate Blockade of Washington, D.C. 1861-1862 convincingly lays out the case for the complete physical ineffectiveness (its psychological impact was a different story altogether) of the Confederate shore batteries that supposedly "blockaded" the Potomac River during the first months of the war. It was all deeply humiliating to the Federal government and its image abroad.

If anything, the 5-month blockade was self-imposed (river traffic closed by order of the U.S.N.). There was no sustained effort early on to test or measure the actual effectiveness of the Confederate batteries, but when attempts were made the guns actually required very little effort to suppress. Sadly, many writers subsequent to the publication of Wills's work continue to uncritically credit the Confederate river batteries with imposing a blockade on the Potomac when in truth it was more of a bugaboo and psychological hurdle than anything else.

The hardback edition may be difficult to find at a reasonable price, but this latest paperback edition (cover art at top right) can be found rather easily and inexpensively.


  1. Ron here, from “All Not So Quiet Along the Potomac.” I wanted to thank you for recommending “The Confederate Blockade of Washington, D.C., 1861-1862,” by Mary Alice Wills. I thought it was a fascinating, quick read about the blockade, which, frankly, I knew little about. I also ordered a small pamphlet that Wills wrote on the subject of the Confederate batteries and published by Prince William County. (Sort of like a Cliff Notes version of her book.) I’d love to see her book updated—both from a graphics perspective, and from a perspective of what’s become of the local sites. Things surely have changed in the DC area since she authored the book.

  2. You're welcome, Ron.

    I don't know if the author is with us anymore, but I agree about the usefulness of a new edition. Nothing's superseded her work in the intervening period, and it would be great to get a guide to the battery sites as an appendix to a new edition.


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