LincolnTakesCommandNorder2020SavasNorder, Steve. Lincoln Takes Command: The Campaign to Seize Norfolk and the Destruction of the CSS Virginia. (Savas Beatie: December 2019). 336 pages, 36 illustrations, 2 maps.  ISBN: 978-1-61121-457-4. $32.95 (Hardcover)

What if I told you Abraham Lincoln, barely over a year into his first term and while McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign was raging, decided to take over a joint operation to capture Norfolk, Virginia and ultimately shared the credit for the destruction of the famous CSS Virginia?  Have you ever heard of that one?  Honestly, I hadn’t either, until now.  Steve Norder closely studies one week in May 1862 at Hampton Roads which, the author argues, gave Lincoln the confidence he needed to successfully prosecute the war.

After giving a brief introduction prior to May 1862, the author covers the time period of May 5-12, 1862, generally one day per chapter.  Norfolk and neighboring Portsmouth across the Elizabeth River were important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the Gosport Navy Yard.  By capturing these places, the North could wipe out a key Confederate ship building location and gain another base at the mouth of the James River, fully cutting off Richmond and Petersburg from the sea.

President Lincoln arrived at Fort Monroe on May 6, 1862.  He personally believed Norfolk and Portsmouth were vulnerable, but Major General McClellan was busy waging his Peninsula Campaign, the Battle of Williamsburg having ended just the day before. Lincoln decided to take matters into his own hands over the next few days. Despite the ever present threat of the CSS Virginia, Lincoln ordered offensive action including bombardment of Confederate shore batteries.  Personally scouting landing beaches, Lincoln took a direct role in what ultimately became a bloodless occupation.

An ”Aftermath” chapter covers the “blockade” of Portsmouth and Norfolk, one with many twists and turns and also one which lasted an astonishingly long time.  It wasn’t officially ended until half way through the Siege of Petersburg! Norder’s “Dramatis Personae” appendix gives a concise summary of the players in this week long affair, and a ship list does the same for the wooden and iron vessels which participated.

For such a small time frame, the author was diligent in collecting sources.  I counted no less than 33 newspapers cited, as well as a solid array of archival sources.  Letters written by Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase to his daughter provided detail not mined before.  The maps in this one were surprisingly sparse, given that this is a Savas Beatie book.  That said, in this particular case, general overview maps were enough to understand the action, given what ultimately happened.

I would recommend this book to those interested in combined arms operations during the Civil War, fans of lesser known actions occurring at the same time as “main events,” and those looking to fill gaps in their knowledge.  Although the author’s claim that this week’s actions sustained Lincoln’s belief in his ability to wage war might be overstated and overemphasized, this does not detract from the story.

A copy of this book was provided gratis for the purposes of this review.

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Civil War Records Free on Fold3

by Fred Ray on April 4, 2019 · 0 comments

For a limited time (until April 15th) Fold3 is making its Civil War records available for free. So if you need to research an ancestor’s military record, now’s the time. It does require you to register, however.

 

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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.

Civil War Book Review: The Real Horse Soldiers: Benjamin Grierson’s Epic 1863 Civil War Raid Through Mississippi by Timothy B. Smith

by Brett Schulte March 8, 2019

Smith, Timothy B. The Real Horse Soldiers: Benjamin Grierson’s Epic 1863 Civil War Raid Through Mississippi. (Savas Beatie: October 2018). 336 pages, 36 illustrations, 12 maps, notes, bibliography, index.  ISBN: 978-1-61121-428-4. $32.95 (Cloth) Timothy B. Smith’s latest work on the Civil War in the Western Theater, The Real Horse Soldiers: Benjamin Grierson’s Epic 1863 Civil […]

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Civil War Book Review: Fighting for Atlanta: Tactics, Terrain, and Trenches in the Civil War by Earl Hess

by Brett Schulte February 25, 2019

Hess, Earl J. Fighting for Atlanta: Tactics, Terrain, and Trenches in the Civil War. (University of North Carolina Press: October 2018). 408 pages, 19 halftones, 19 maps, 3 tables, notes, bibliography, index.  ISBN: 978-1-4696-4342-7. $45.00 (Hardcover) In Fighting for Atlanta: Tactics, Terrain, and Trenches in the Civil War, Earl Hess continues both his prolific writing […]

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Tagging the Official Records and More: A Siege of Petersburg Update

by Brett Schulte February 21, 2019

For those of you who follow TOCWOC but are not regular readers of my Siege of Petersburg Online site, I thought I’d provide a little update here, the first in quite awhile. I’ve been VERY, VERY busy, so much so that my blogging here has dropped off more than I’d like.  That said, here’s where […]

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Civil War Book Review: The Great Battle Never Fought: The Mine Run Campaign, November 26 – December 2, 1863 by Chris Mackowski

by Brett Schulte February 4, 2019

Mackowski, Chris. The Great Battle Never Fought: The Mine Run Campaign, November 26-December 2, 1863. (Savas Beatie: November 2018). 192 pages, 175 illustrations, 8 maps, notes, bibliography, index.  ISBN: 978-1-61121-407-9. $14.95 (Paperback) Chris Mackowski’s new book The Great Battle Never Fought: The Mine Run Campaign, November 26-December 2, 1863 is another in the now lengthy […]

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Civil War Book Review: The Army of the Cumberland: Organization, Strength, Casualties, 1862-1865 by Darrell Collins

by Brett Schulte January 28, 2019

Collins, Darrell L. The Army of the Cumberland: Organization, Strength, Casualties, 1862-1865. (McFarland (www.McFarlandBooks.com), January 2019). 199 pages, orders of battle, notes, index. ISBN: 978-1-4766-7507-7 $49.95 (Paperback). With The Army of the Cumberland: Organization, Strength, Casualties, 1862-1865, Darrell Collins has produced the fourth in a series of “Army” books for McFarland.  His previous three books focused on […]

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