Civil War Book Preview: Civil War Biographies from the Western Waters by Myron J. Smith, Jr.

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:


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 (, click on this link or call 1-800-253-2187.


One response to “Civil War Book Preview: Civil War Biographies from the Western Waters by Myron J. Smith, Jr.”

  1. John Foskett Avatar
    John Foskett

    Brett: Thanks for the review. For once, based on content and the author, I can stomach the usual steep McFarland price tag for a softcover. Much of the time, I feel that paying their freight is akin to trying to buy hamburger on the black market.

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