Civil War Book Review: STRANGLING THE CONFEDERACY: Coastal Operations in the American Civil War

by James Durney on April 25, 2011 · 2 comments

STRANGLING THE CONFEDERACY: Coastal Operations in the American Civil War
by Kevin Dougherty

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Casemate (April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935149245
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935149248

An important area of the war

War like anything else has a main ring and sideshows.  The main ring is what people watch and what historians write about afterward.  For the American Civil War, the main ring is the Washington-Richmond Theater.  The battles between the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia consumed the nation.  The personalities, the battles and the politics filled the papers and fill the history books.  Only the Union Army of the Tennessee comes close to the coverage these two armies receive.

One of the most important but least reported or studied campaigns of the war involves the coastal operations conducted by the Union against the Confederacy.   These operations were in support of the Naval Blockade and designed to secure facilities for the navy, restricting access to open water and capturing ports.  The history of warfare was little help as steam altered the requirements of supply.  Many established theories had to be tested and the magnificent forts, that took years to construct, were found wanting.  A ship’s ability to steam independent of wind and tide, rifled guns, heaver shells and better optics rendered these forts obsolete.  The coastal campaigns are an important area for some army officers.  Burnside develops a reputation that will give him an army but Butler’s failure removes him from command.  While mostly a Navy operation, landings are common although opposed landings are rare.  Success required Army-Navy cooperation that was not always possible and the clash of personalities could be very childish and petty.

This is a very well written overview of the major coastal campaigns conducted during the war.  The author has excellent knowledge of the subject coupled with an in-depth knowledge of military history and procedures.  In addition, he can communicate this in an understandable and readable manner.  Considered an introduction, this book looks at the planning, problems of equipment, military thought, interservice rivalry and the personalities that made things work or made them fail.  This is a tall order for a small book but the author does an excellent job.  Strangling the Confederacy is an important addition to your library and your understanding of these campaigns.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen Keating April 29, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Kevin
Have you read Rowena Reed’s “Combined Operations In the Civil War”, and how does this book compare to Reed’s?

Reply

James W. Durney April 29, 2011 at 6:09 pm

I have not read the Reed book and cannot answer your question.

Reply

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