Historians have given a great deal of attention to the lives and
experiences of Civil War soldiers, but surprisingly little is known
about navy sailors who participated in the conflict. Michael J.
Bennett remedies the longstanding neglect of Civil War seamen in
this comprehensive assessment of the experience of common Union
sailors from 1861 to 1865.
To resurrect the voices of the "Union Jacks," Bennett combed
sailors' diaries, letters, and journals. He finds that the sailors
differed from their counterparts in the army in many ways. They
tended to be a rougher bunch of men than the regular soldiers,
drinking and fighting excessively. Those who were not foreign-born,
escaped slaves, or unemployed at the time they enlisted often
hailed from the urban working class rather than from rural farms
and towns. In addition, most sailors enlisted for pragmatic rather
than ideological reasons.
Bennett's examination provides a look into the everyday lives of
sailors and illuminates where they came from, why they enlisted,
and how their origins shaped their service. By showing how these
Union sailors lived and fought on the sea, Bennett brings an
important new perspective to our understanding of the Civil