Monday, April 18, 2011

Building a Civil War Navy Bibliography

Many readers will over the course of the sesquicentennial will expand, or in some cases start, a Civil War library. Perhaps historians may not have placed as much emphasis on the naval aspects of the war compared to the land campaigns, but the naval history of the war has a share of good, solid scholarship for readers.

One of my personal projects over the next few months is to fill out my Civil War Navy bibliography. I approach this first by defining the "shelves" or categories to file the volumes. For a start, let's go with the categories defined within the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies (which by the way, is a mandatory inclusion in ANY Civil War library, no excuses since it is available electronically):
  • Operations of the Cruisers - or as I like to call it, the "Blue Water Navy."
  • Blockading Operations - which separate neatly into three sub-sections based on the command infrastructure: North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Gulf Coast (the Official Records further break out East and West Gulf Squadrons).
  • Eastern Theater Support Operations - mostly operations in direct support of the Army's activities in Virginia.
  • Western River Operations - centered, but certainly not exclusive to, the Mississippi River. I personally separate these out into two sub-categories: Upper Mississippi Valley and Lower Mississippi Valley.
  • Supply and Logistic support.
  • Administrative, departmental and diplomatic activities.
  • Biographies of key leaders and personnel.
  • Ship histories - considering technical and service aspects.
  • Ordnance and munitions - Yes, my personal favorite.
Of course on the "top shelf" I'd place a category for works looking at the Navy's role in the war from a broad overview perspective.

So what other "shelves" would you add? (or take away?)

What books would you like to see on those shelves? Any suggested reading?


  1. I would also include any Naval operations against land installations like forts.

  2. Here are my initial suggestions in no certain order, rhyme, or reason.

    David Sullivan's four volume series on the US Marine Corps in the Civil War and Ralph Donnelly's "The Rebel Leathernecks" must be included.

    Robert M. Browning's books on the North and South Atlantic blockading squadrons, and "Lifeline of the Confederacy" by Stephen Wise all merit inclusion.

    Rowena Reed's and Craig Symonds' works on combined operations would both be on my list.

    "Lincoln's Navy" by Donald Canney and "The Confederate Navy" by William Still are excellent reference works. For a general history of the Confederate Navy I would recommend both Luraghi's and Scharf's books.

    William Still's books "Iron Afloat" and Confederate Shipbuilding" are both worthwhile selections.

    For operational studies (not my forte) I would recommend "Capital Navy" by Coski and Joiner's "Mr. Lincoln's Brown Water Navy," as well as "Battle on the Bay" by Cotham.

    I'm sure there will be a ton of suggestions for books about the cruisers, but for my money I would go with "Wolf of the Deep" by Fox and "The Officers of the CSS Shenandoah" by Curry.

    Symonds' "Lincoln and his Admirals," Taaffes' "Commanding Lincoln's Navy," and Bennett's "Union Jacks" must be included.

    I'm sure there are many biographies that can be suggested. Hoogenboom's recent bio of Gustavas Vasa Fox is excellent. I would also include Hearn's bio of David Dixon Porter, Shingleton's bio of John Taylor Wood, and Durkin's book on Stephen Mallory.

    And last, but certainly not least, the recently published two-volume "Civil War Naval Encyclopedia" is definitely a must!

    That's my two cents (or possibly a bit more).

  3. John Milligan's Gunboats Down the Mississippi is the best Civil War naval book around. Changed me from digging the Civil War from land to water in one read.

  4. Lots of good suggestions, above. Being a guy intensely interested in Florida actions, I would add a category (one of Craig's "shelves")to reflect something like "Regional Accounts"; mainly focusing on individual states or maybe more restricted regions. How about you folks from Georgia, S. and N. Carolina, Alabama, etc. posting some suggestions from your states?? For Florida, I like the following:

    Schafer, Daniel L. Thunder on the River. The Civil War in Northeast Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010.

    Buker, George E. Blockaders, Refugees & Contrabands. Civil War on Florida's Gulf Coast, 1861-1865. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993.

    Taylor, Robert A. Rebel Storehouse. Florida's Contribution to the Confederacy. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003.

    Nulty, William H. Confederate Florida. The Road to Olustee. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990.

    With these four, you pretty-much get a good overview of both Navy and Army actions in Florida during the war. Because of the critical roles the Navy played here in Florida, all of the above feature a lot of Navy information, as will as Army actions.