Although previously undervalued for their strategic impact because
they represented only a small percentage of total forces, the Union
and Confederate navies were crucial to the outcome of the Civil
War. In War on the Waters
, James M. McPherson has crafted an
enlightening, at times harrowing, and ultimately thrilling account
of the war's naval campaigns and their military leaders.
McPherson recounts how the Union navy's blockade of the Confederate
coast, leaky as a sieve in the war's early months, became
increasingly effective as it choked off vital imports and exports.
Meanwhile, the Confederate navy, dwarfed by its giant adversary,
demonstrated daring and military innovation. Commerce raiders sank
Union ships and drove the American merchant marine from the high
seas. Southern ironclads sent several Union warships to the bottom,
naval mines sank many more, and the Confederates deployed the
world's first submarine to sink an enemy vessel. But in the end, it
was the Union navy that won some of the war's most important
strategic victories--as an essential partner to the army on the
ground at Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, Port Hudson, Mobile Bay, and
Fort Fisher, and all by itself at Port Royal, Fort Henry, New
Orleans, and Memphis.