Friday, November 29, 2019

Book News: Anaconda's Tail

As regular readers know, I don't have a globally dismissive attitude toward self-publishing and often bring attention to new releases that might prove worthwhile. It does help when the author has an established reputation. One like this that popped up earlier this month is Donald Shomette's Anaconda's Tail: The Civil War on the Potomac Frontier, 1861-1865. It claims to be the "the untold history of the desperate struggle for control of that strategic waterway and the conflagration that ensued. The story is not only of Union and Confederate naval and military episodes in the contest for command of the river, but of blockade runners, espionage and contraband operations. It reveals the never before published accounts of Jefferson Davis's planned invasion of Southern Maryland, the Union military occupation of the state's lower counties, and the devastating depredations of seaborne rebel guerrillas."

More from the description: "In a region where slavery was dominant, it is also a vivid account of societal upheaval and economic collapse, refugee management, emancipation, and the advent of the United States Colored Troops. It is a tale of the "Andersonville of the North," at Point Lookout, Maryland, the desperate effort to free thousands of rebel prisoners of war by combined land-sea assault, and the Confederate attack on Washington itself. Finally, it is an account of that chaos in the words of Everyman, and both the participants and leaders of both sides, played out against the backdrop of the greater war being fought across the entirety of the American landscape."

Shomette is the author of a multitude of maritime history books on a variety of topics (including 1973's Shipwrecks of the Civil War: The Encyclopedia of Union and Confederate Naval Losses, a title unknown to me). Anaconda's Tail appears to be his first foray into self-publishing. Who knows why, but perhaps the difficulty of finding a publisher for an almost 800-page book of this kind without having to endure massive cuts had something to do with it. Unfortunately, and this is also often the case with self-published endeavors, there's no easy way for me to contact the author about getting a review copy.

1 comment:

  1. In regard to Don Shomette's 'Anaconda's Tail', it is true he published the book himself for the reasons you indicated. Several publishers wanted the manuscript but thought it was too long. The value of the immense research that went into the book and the relevance of newly uncovered information on some aspects of John Wilkes Booth and his escape attempt, he would not submit to be eliminated. Don's first attempt as an author was his first self published book, 'Shipwrecks of the Civil War', Donic Ltd. Like many authors, the first attempts are not always stellar. However, his style and readability have moved far, far away from that first book to encompass more than a dozen wonderfully researched and finely written books. As his brother, I've participated in many of the adventures, stories and history that these books represent.
    Personally, I found 'Anaconda's Tail' a great read, particularly because I live on the Potomac river in the Northern Neck of Virginia, where much of what is in this book took place. I have given a copy of the book, in my possession, to the Northern Neck Historical Society in Montross, Virginia. Thank You
    Dale Shomette
    Montross, Va.


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