Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"The Bombardment of Charleston: 1863-1865"

If you're interested in a general study of the Union shelling of Charleston, SC, The Bombardment of Charleston: 1863-1865 by W. Chris Phelps is a somewhat useful, albeit brief, summary. Although not exhaustively researched and written in a popular narrative style, the book is actually very narrowly focused on the long range artillery bombardment and its physical effects on the city of Charleston. While, the controversial use of POWs as human shields was discussed, the civilian experience is only lightly touched upon. Technological discussions and coverage of sea/land operations concurrent with the time period covered in the book are cursory as well.

Although more photographs might have been in order along with a period street map, maps showing the areas targeted by the shelling at different periods are included. Additionally, while the monograph is otherwise well written and edited, a disturbing question remains as to how a work focusing solely on rifled artillery bombardments could misspell in every instance the name of each side's most prominent gun designer, Robert Parrott (not Parrot) for the US and the CSA's John Mercer Brooke (not Brookes), and their namesake weapons.

Overall, although there's nothing particularly wrong with it, I am guessing that The Bombardment of Charleston has a rather limited utility and reader appeal beyond local interest. Participant accounts of the siege of Charleston by Edward Manigault and Samuel Jones exist, along with the more recent standard history written by E. Milby Burton, but it has been a while since I read Burton and I haven't had the pleasure (or pain?) of reading Jones or Manigault so I'm not sure sure if Phelps' book provides a great deal of new information.


  1. Phelps has filled an empty void in Charleston's history. While several works briefly touch on the bombardment and its effects on the civilian population, Mr. Phelps expands on their experience as much as is required. There are umerous street maps that outline the bombarded areas during the seasons of the Union bombardment. Accompanied by many photographs this work does what it as intended to do: expand on the Union Bombardment of Charleston. An excellent read.

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