Thursday, July 26, 2018

Booknotes: Engines of Rebellion

New Arrival:
Engines of Rebellion: Confederate Ironclads and Steam Engineering in the American Civil War by Saxon T. Bisbee. (Univ of Ala Press, 2018).

It seems like a long time since an interesting technology-related Civil War book arrived on the doorstep, and this one appears to be something right up my alley. Civil War ironclad designs intended for operations along the country's rivers and sounds were frequently criticized, then and now, for being underpowered, with Confederate ones particularly tagged with having inadequate and/or poor quality engines. According to Engines of Rebellion: Confederate Ironclads and Steam Engineering in the American Civil War, "(h)istorians have given little attention to the engineering of Confederate ironclads, although the Confederacy was often quite creative in building and obtaining marine power plants."

More from the description: "Beginning with a contextual naval history of the Civil War, the creation of the ironclad program, and the advent of various technologies, Saxon T. Bisbee analyzes the armored warships built by the Confederate States of America that represented a style adapted to scarce industrial resources and facilities. This unique historical and archaeological investigation consolidates and expands on the scattered existing information about Confederate ironclad steam engines, boilers, and propulsion systems." Bisbee's book also offers readers "a detailed look at marine steam-engineering practices in both northern and southern industry prior to and during the Civil War."

Twenty-seven ships are examined in the study, with chapters organized around the various Confederate ironclad classes and conversions along with a final section looking at unfinished vessels. For each ship, Bisbee assesses the steam plant "by source, type, and performance, among other factors. The wartime role of each vessel is discussed, as well as the stories of the people and establishments that contributed to its completion and operation. Rare engineering diagrams never before published or gathered in one place are included here as a complement to the text." The book looks like something serious Civil War naval students will definitely want to check out. I will certainly review it on the site.

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