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Friday, October 26, 2012

War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (audiobook) by James M. McPherson

Published by Blackstone Audio in 2012.
Read by Joe Barrett
Duration: 8 hours, 55 minutes.

James McPherson is undoubtedly the most popular living Civil War historian. He writes in a common, easy-to-understand style that flows nicely and does not dumb down the facts. His latest book, War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 continues that tradition.

Union Admiral David D. Porter -
Leader of the Naval forces in the
Vicksburg campaign.
If you read a typical Civil War history you get a just a little bit of the information, usually in passing, about the war on the open sea, in the bays, harbors, up and down the rivers and even in the swamps. McPherson reverses that arrangement in this book and focuses on the strategies, personalities and challenges that faced both navies and mentions the land campaigns in passing. If you are a frequent reader of Civil War books, little of this material will be new. But, the special focus does make the story of the naval forces more cohesive than is usually found in histories.

Starting with Fort Sumter and the formation of the Anaconda Plan, McPherson hits all of the typical highlights, including the Mason and Slidell Affair, privateers, the taking of New Orleans, the repeated tries to take Charleston, the Merrimack (Virginia) vs . the Monitor fight, the river campaigns in the West, including the long struggle for Vicksburg, the taking of Mobile ("Damn the Torpedoes! Full speed ahead!") and more. Typical of McPherson, he includes smaller stories that make the war more real and interesting, such as the time a Union gunboat captured a Confederate train and the cattle rustling gunboats.

Joe Barrett narrated the audiobook. He has sort of a "folksy" reading voice which is pleasant enough. His real strength, however, was the way he gave individual voices to direct quotes, including a soft southern accent for Union Admiral Farragut who was born in and lived in the south but went for the Union and a high-pitched accent for Lincoln. Movie directors love to give Lincoln a baritone voice but all accounts talk about his high-pitched Midwestern accent.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5. A must-read for all serious students of the Civil War and/or the Navy.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (The Littlefield History of the Civil War Era) 

 Reviewed on October 25, 2012.

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