Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Booknotes: After Vicksburg

New Arrival:
After Vicksburg: The Civil War on Western Waters, 1863-1865 by Myron J. Smith, Jr. (McFarland, 2021).

No other individual has documented the histories of the men and machines that prowled the West's inland waterways during the Civil War in more detail than Myron Smith. In eight volumes published from 2007 to 2017  (all of which, I believe, have been reviewed on this site over the years), Smith has created a frequently exhaustive record of timberclad, tinclad, and ironclad gunboat operations on western and Trans-Mississippi waters while also assembling for the reader a vast biographical compilation of key figures associated with the subject, both military and civilian. His newest installment, After Vicksburg: The Civil War on Western Waters, 1863-1865, covers the many lesser-known and appreciated actions that occurred after the Union "Brown Water Navy" finally seized control of all three major western rivers—the Tennessee, the Cumberland, and, most notably, the entire length of the Mississippi.

From the description: "This is the first published comprehensive survey of naval action on the Mississippi River and its tributaries for the years 1863-1865. Following introductory reviews of the rivers and of the U.S. Navy's Mississippi Squadron, chronological Federal naval participation in various raids and larger campaigns is highlighted, as well as counterinsurgency, economical support and control, and logistical protection."

Chapters cover military operations along with military and commercial interdiction on both sides of the Mississippi, including 1863-64 actions in the Cumberland Mountains, the Red River Campaign of 1864 in Louisiana, Nathan Bedford Forrest's attacks on river forts in Kentucky and Tennessee, White River actions subsequent to the Union capture of the Arkansas capital, and late-war activities on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. In those chapters, "(t)he book includes details on units, locations and activities that have been previously underreported or ignored." Finally, "(t)he last chapter details the coming of the peace in 1865 and the decommissioning of the U.S. river navy and the sale of its gunboats."

Though the title suggests that this could be the final volume in the informal series, a quick skim through the introduction provides no indication that this is the last of Smith's publishing plans for the topic.

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