Friday, August 3, 2018

Life in Jefferson Davis's Navy

I'm happy to find that naval historian Barbara Brooks Tomblin has another Civil War book on the horizon. Her Bluejackets and Contrabands: African Americans and the Union Navy (2009) offers, among other fine features, one of the most in-depth treatments of the mutually beneficial relationship forged between Union blockading vessels and escaped slaves that flocked to their incursions along the Confederacy's Atlantic seaboard. Likewise, my current recommendation for the best overview of Union naval operations on the Mississippi is her 2016 book The Civil War on the Mississippi: Union Sailors, Gunboat Captains, and the Campaign to Control the River.

Scheduled for release early next spring, her next book switches attention over to the other side and sounds pretty impressive in scope. Published by Naval Institute Press, Life In Jefferson Davis's Navy (March, 2019) "addresses every aspect of a Confederate sailor's life: shipboard routine, the Sabbath, liberty, entertainment, diet, health, medical care, discipline, imprisonment, desertion, and combat experience."

More from the description: "Drawing on diaries letters newspaper accounts and published works Tomblin offers a fresh look at the wartime experience of officers and men in the Confederate Navy who served on gunboats on western rivers ironclads and ships along the coast and at Mobile bay as well as on the high seas aboard the Confederate raiders Sumter Alabama Florida and Shenandoah. 

This narrative describes as well the work of Confederate Navy surgeons and surgeon's stewards who provided medical care for naval personnel who suffered from a variety of illnesses such malaria, dysentery, smallpox, and yellow fever as well as injuries caused by accidents or during combat. 

The author also explores the daily life deprivations and suffering of those who were captured and spent time in Union prisoner of war camps at Point Lookout, Elmira, Johnson's Island, and Fort Delaware. Confederate prisoners’ journals and letters give an intimate account of their struggle to survive the boredom poor rations and living conditions of imprisonment with little opportunity to escape or be granted prisoner exchange. 

Tomblin does not overlook the important contribution of the Torpedo Service and various experimental craft such as Squib and the Hunley all designed to destroy Union blockaders. Life in Jefferson Davis’ Navy concludes with the final months of the war afloat on the James River and with navy men manning gun batteries at Fort Fisher and Drewry's Bluff or fighting the Yankees as naval infantry with the "Aye Ayes" of the Semmes brigade."

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