Friday, June 4, 2010

U.S.S. Saginaw

In the Civil War naval literature, the amount of attention paid to the ships and men of the Pacific Squadron is dwarfed by the scholarship devoted to the Gulf and especially the Atlantic blockading squadrons. The disparity is far greater than that found in the land war writings, where the Trans-Mississippi nevertheless takes a definite backseat to its western and eastern theater cousins. Typical is the recent and otherwise fine study by Stephen Taaffe Commanding Lincoln's Navy: Union Naval Leadership During the Civil War, which barely mentions the Pacific.

In November, the University Press of Florida will publish as part of their excellent New Perspectives on Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology series A Civil War Gunboat in Pacific Waters: Life on Board the USS Saginaw by NOAA archaeologist Hans Konrad Van Tilburg. A new ship, commissioned in 1859, the sidewheel steamer USS Saginaw cruised the Far East before being refitted for Civil War duties that included patrolling the west coast of North America from the Canadian border to Central America. In 1870, the ship was wrecked near Kure Atoll, an isolated reef located approximately 50 miles from Midway Atoll. Tilburg led the team that discovered the wreck, and his book's narrative promises a look at the ship, its crew, and its mission from both historical and archaeological perspectives.

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