Civil War Biographies from the Western Waters:  956 Confederate and Union Naval and Military Personnel, Contractors, Politicians, Officials, Steamboat Pilots and Others

by Myron J. Smith, Jr.

CivilWarBiographiesWesternWatersSmith2015McFarlandPrint ISBN: 978-0-7864-6967-3
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4766-1698-8
149 photos, appendices, bibliography, index
340pp. softcover (8.5 x 11) 2015
Price: $75.00

TOCWOC’s Take: Myron J. Smith’s name is well-known to enthusiasts of the Civil War on western waters, with previous books on the Union tinclads and Union timberclads, the USS Carondelet and the CSS Arkansas, among others.  This book is less of a “read through cover to cover” as it is massive reference work.  As the lengthy subtitle (anyone else actually like the return of these like me?) indicates, fully 956 people receive short biographies due to their connection to the Civil War navies in the west.  The famous (Farragut, Porter) to the not so famous (Icabod Lewis) get their due.

A typical entry includes:

LAST NAME, FIRST NAME MIDDLE NAME: (BIRTH DATE, BIRTH PLACE – DEATH DATE, DEATH PLACE, AFFILIATION)

TEXTUAL BIOGRAPHY (typically half a column or so of one page)

PHOTOS/LIKENESSES (periodically where available)

SOURCES: indicated by book and specific pages

Three appendices round out the book.  Appendix A lists out individuals in alphabetical order by organization.  Examples include the US and CS armies and navies, as well as various civilian and government categories.  Appendix B lists the “campaigns, battles and engagements” fought in the Civil War west which involved the Union and Confederate navies in some way.  Appendix C lists out individuals in alphabetical order by the ships they served on, an interesting and useful way to group them.

After glancing through several entries and taking note of the bibliography, it looks like Smith has produced a very valuable reference work for those interested in this specific aspect of the Civil War.  The $75 price tag might be a steep barrier for all but the most interested.

From the Publisher’s Site:

From 1861 to 1865, the Civil War raged along the great rivers of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. While various Civil War biographies exist, none have been devoted exclusively to participants in the Western river war as waged down the Mississippi to the mouth of the Red River, and up the Ohio, the Tennessee and the Cumberland. Based on the Official Records, county histories, newspapers and internet sources, this is the first work to profile personnel involved in the fighting on these great streams.

Included in this biographical encyclopedia are Union and Confederate naval officers down to the rank of mate; enlisted sailors who won the Medal of Honor, or otherwise distinguished themselves or who wrote accounts of life on the gunboats; army officers and leaders who played a direct role in combat along Western waters; political officials who influenced river operations; civilian steamboat captains and pilots who participated in wartime logistics; and civilian contractors directly involved, including shipbuilders, dam builders, naval constructors and munitions experts.

Each of the biographies includes (where known) birth, death and residence data; unit organization or ship; involvement in the river war; pre- and post-war careers; and source documentation. Hundreds of individuals are given their first historic recognition.

To order directly from McFarland (www.mcfarlandpub.com), click on this link or call 1-800-253-2187.

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Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.

Jefferson Davis’s Flight from Richmond: The Calm Morning, Lee’s Telegrams, the Evacuation, the Train, the Passengers, the Trip, the Arrival in Danville and the Historians’ Frauds

by John Stewart

JeffersonDavisFlightRichmondStewart2015McFarlandTOCWOC’s Take: Despite the somewhat odd ending to the subtitle, this book appears to do what the author says it does, “examin[ing] all relevant source material—much of it newly discovered by the author—as well as the writers, diarists and eyewitnesses themselves, and construct[ing] a minutely detailed new account…”  Author John Stewart writes that Davis’s flight from Richmond was badly reported on by the newspapers of the time, with falsehoods and innuendo coloring much of the story.  In addition, Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen A. Mallory’s account, among others, has been uncritically accepted as fact by historians.  Stewart goes back to the archives, finding and dusting off “new” material on the Davis flight from the Confederate capital.  This material changes the story from what we all thought we knew.  An important note is that Stewart focuses only on the days of April 2-3, 1865, noting that it took a book’s length to simply correct the errors from those two days alone.  Another note of interest is that Stewart’s bibliography contains covering notes for some of the books which are central to his thesis.

Stewart’s approach in this book is admittedly one I enjoy reading.  Take a “well known” event, go back and look at all of the sources over time, and find the origin of each “fact.”  Then examine how these facts were seized upon by others and regurgitated down the years until they become canon.  It’s fascinating stuff.  It also makes readers appreciate just how hard it is for historians to stay disciplined and track down every source to its origin.  It’s very, very easy to lapse and just reuse material without critical inspection, and bad history abounds.  Does Stewart succeed in convincing the reader that Davis’s flight has been misrepresented until now?  Buy the book and find out!

Camp Pope Publishing

From the Publisher’s Site:

In the space of a few hours on the night of April 2, 1865, Richmond, the Confederate capital, was evacuated and burned, the government fled, slavery was finished in North America, Union forces entered the city and the outcome of the Civil War was effectively sealed.

No official documents tell the story because the Confederate government was on the run. First there were newspaper accounts—mostly confused—then history books based on those accounts. But much of what we know about the fall of Richmond comes from “eyewitnesses” like Confederate Navy Secretary Stephen Mallory, whose tale became history.

A great deal of what has been presented over the years by historians has been plagiarized, invented or misconstrued, and nearly all we have learned of Jefferson Davis’s flight from Richmond to Danville is wrong. This book closely examines all relevant source material—much of it newly discovered by the author—as well as the writers, diarists and eyewitnesses themselves, and constructs a minutely detailed new account that comes closer to what Abraham Lincoln had in mind when he said, “History is not history unless it is the truth.”

To order directly from McFarland (www.mcfarlandpub.com), click on this link or call 1-800-253-2187.

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Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!

What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.

Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.

The Other General: Cassius Clay and the politics of command

by Ned B. February 15, 2015

October 30, 1862 – General George Thomas was annoyed. Thomas believed strongly in the traditions and protocols of the regular army: seniority and service should matter. After learning that his new boss was going to be William Rosecrans, he wrote to General Halleck that “no just cause exists for overslaughing me by placing me under […]

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Civil War Book Preview: Blood on the Bayou: Vicksburg,Port Hudson,and the Trans-Mississippi by Donald S. Frazier

by Brett Schulte February 11, 2015

Frazier, Donald S. Blood on the Bayou: Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and the Trans-Mississippi. (State House Press: February 2015). 469 pages, dozens of illustrations, 35 maps, notes, bibliography, index.  ISBN: 978-1-933337-63-0. $39.99 (Cloth) Donald Frazier, author of the ongoing “Louisiana Quadrille” series published by State House Press, is on the verge of releasing volume 3, Blood […]

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Interview: Road to Atlanta Author Brad Butkovich

by Brett Schulte February 9, 2015

I recently had the good fortune to review Brad Butkovich’s new wargame scenario book The Road to Atlanta: Regimental Wargame Scenarios for the Atlanta Campaign May-June 1864, a look at the first half of the Atlanta Campaign from a miniatures war gaming perspective.  Major battles covered include Rocky Face Ridge, Resaca, Gilgal Church, and Kennesaw […]

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Author Interview: John Horn, Author of The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864

by Brett Schulte February 6, 2015

John Horn and Savas Beatie have teamed up to produce The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864, a new and improved second edition of his H. E. Howard series book The Petersburg Campaign: The Destruction of The Weldon Railroad: Deep Bottom, Globe Tavern, and Reams Station: August 14-25, 1864.  I contributed to […]

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Author Interview: Richard J. Sommers, Author of Richmond Redeemed

by Brett Schulte February 2, 2015

Publisher Savas Beatie (www.savasbeatie.com) originally published this author interview with Richmond Redeemed author Richard J. Sommers.  Savas Beatie recently published an updated Second Edition of this classic look at the Siege of Petersburg’s Fifth Offensive.  For more information on this and many other fine Civil War books, contact Savas Beatie at sales@savasbeatie.com. An Interview with Richmond […]

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