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Military History Carnival – May 2010

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Welcome to the May 2010 edition of the Military History Carnival featuring some of the best recent military history from around the web. This is the first time that Wig-Wags has hosted and it’s been a pleasure to do. I’ve picked up some great information and hope you will as well.

Today’s edition covers a broad range of topics including: camouflaged RAF biplanes (brink of WWII), the state of strategy,  examination of the war college model, the role of the Navy in the recapture of Attu (Aleutian Islands) in 1943 (WWII), the Battle of Waxhaws (American Revolution), the Chicamauga Campaign (American Civil War), The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 (American Civil War), the digitization of Grant’s Papers (American Civil War),  the engagement at Wilson’s Wharf at Fort Pocahontas (American Civil War), vexillology and the “real Confederate flag” (American Civil War), the lure of the Civil War, and horse-on-horse impact of cavalry charges.

furys 1939

Military History – Air Power

Site: Airminded
Post: Aeroretronautics
Author: Brett Holman
Date: 22 MAY 2010
Highlights: Brett provides a fascinating post about a photograph taken in 1939 showing Hawker Fury RAF biplanes (43 Squadron) and faux anachronisms.

Military History – Naval

Site: Naval History Blog
Post: May 30, 1943 Attu Recaptured
Author: HistoryGuy
Date: 30 MAY 2010
Highlights: Excerpts from the narrative of the campaign preserved by the crew of the Zeilin describing the hardships endured during the amphibious operations required to land American troops on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

American Revolution

Site: Kennedy’s Military History Blog
Post: American Revolution: Battle of Waxhaws
Author: Kennedy Hickman
Date: 29 MAY 2010
Highlights: Good summary of the battle along with the role played by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton.

American Civil War

Site: Bull Runnings
Post: “The” Confederate Flag
Author: Harry Smeltzer / Tom Clemens
Date: 13 MAY 2010
Highlights: Tom Clemens provides a history of the Confederate Flag. Learn why the “wind” played such an important role in the development of several versions of the flag of the Confederate government and the difference between those flags and the Confederate “military” flag. New word for me… Vexillology, the scholarly study of flags. Speaking of which, Tom has started a new blog highlighting his recently published book. See next site for details.

Site: ELEKTRATIG.
Post: Chicamauga, Stereos and Boris Godunov
Author: ELEKTRATIG
Date: 30 MAY 2010
Highlights: Reflections on Steven E. Woodworth’s (ed.)  The Chickamauga Campaign.

Site: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862
Post: Book Released
Author: Tom Clemens
Date: 13 MAY 2010
Highlights: Tom announces availability of his new book, The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Volume 1: South Mountain. Clemens has edited the writing of Ezra A. Carman. This from his site:

“One of the campaign’s par­tic­i­pants was Ezra A. Car­man, the colonel of the 13th New Jer­sey Infantry. After the hor­rific fight­ing of Sep­tem­ber 17, 1862, he recorded in his diary that he was prepar­ing “a good map of the Anti­etam bat­tle and a full account of the action.” The project became the most sig­nif­i­cant work of his life.”

Site: Battlefield Wandering
Post: Grant’s Papers
Author: Nick Kurtz
Date: 20 MAY 2010
Highlights: Nick reports that the Papers of Ulysses S. Grant are now online courtesy of Mississippi State University. They can be viewed here.  Nick demonstrates why having this important resource available to researchers is immediately beneficial. All 31 volumes of Ulysses S. Grant’s collected papers were digitized. Beware the digital library site has been offline for the past several days or is experiencing so much traffic that it appears so.

Site: The American Legion’s Burn Pit
Post: Battle of New Market: “Died on the Field of Honor, Sir”
Author: Siggurdsson
Date: 14 MAY 2010
Highlights:

  • Participation of the Corps of Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) of Lexington, Virginia including a listing of cadets killed in action during the battle
  • Background of the battle
  • Quick bios of the “Antagonists,” commanders on both sides
  • Orders of Battle

Site: The Edge of the American West
Post: When and (to an extent) why did the parties switch places?
Author: Eric
Date:20 May 2010
Highlights:

  • Reviews the opposing political views of the Republican and Democratic parties that contributed to the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1860
  • Particular focus on Republican support of the expansion of federal powers and the passing of the law set known as “the Second American System” which kicked in federal funding for expansion projects including the transcontinental railroad and homesteading west.

Site: of Battlefields and Bibliophiles
Post: Making the Civil War Strange Again
Author: David Woodbury
Date:12 MAY 2010
Highlights: David muses on the fact that even those of us obsessed with the American Civil War will always be drawn to the discovery of something new.

“Some passing thought, or dawning realization, or new-found perspective gives you pause and fills you with awe, causing you to fleetingly grasp—in a moment of clarity—that it’s not just a familiar narrative to dissect and critique or challenge or substantiate, but something that actually happened, a strange and amazing story about who we are and where we came from.”

Site: The Sable Arm
Post: Fort Pocahontas
Author: Jimmy Price
Date: 17 MAY 2010
Highlights: Discussion of the re-enactment of the engagement at Wilson’s Wharf at Fort Pocahontas in Charles City County.

Military History – Cavalry

Site: Investigations of a Dog
Post: The Crash of Horseflesh
Author:Gavin Robinson
Date:10 MAY 2010
Highlights: Gavin provides rather gruesome evidence of the effects of horse-on-horse impact like the kind that would have occurred in cavalry charges.

Military Strategy

Site: Blog Them Out of the Stone Age
Post: Mark Grimsley on Senior Service College Reform
Author: Mark Grimsley
Date: 28 MAY 2010
Highlights:

  • Professor Grimsley provides a response to the question “Is the senior Service College Approach in Need of Radical Reform in Order to Serve Effectively in the Post-9/11 Environment?” as a part of the workshop on teaching strategy in a professional military education environment conducted at the U.S. Army War College on April 9. His comments are made richer by his personal observations of serving as visiting professor at the U.S. Army War College. Both You Tube video and text versions are provided.

Site: Kings of War
Post: The State of Strategy
Author: Thomas Rid
Date: 23 MAY 2010
Highlights:

  • Rid tees up this question…”Who produced the greatest strategist of all time, dead and alive? America or Europe?
  • Conclusions:
    • America is surprisingly thin in strategic heavyweights whereas  Europe has done quite well.
    • There is a “dearth of strategic writing in recent years.” Mere description of events in historic or journalistic terms doesn’t count nor does number crunching.
  • The 105 comments the post generated are worth a read.

Featured Military History Museums

Just for fun, I’ve listed several Military History Museum sites you may not have been aware of.
Kodiak Alaska Military History: The official web site of the Kodiak Military History Museum. The focus is on World War II.

Civil War High Tech: Excavating the Hunley and Monitor from MIT World

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Always on the hunt for opportunities to inform my understanding of history, I’ve hit a gold mine. In addition to my fascination with the Civil War, I am equally passionate about maritime history and am a degreed engineer. Those three fields of study converge in a fascinating symposium hosted by the DeepArch Research Group in Technology, Archaeology and the Deep Sea at MIT in April 2003 which they have made available for viewing on MIT Earth (TM).

The symposium, Civil War High Tech: Excavating the Hunley and Monitor gives us an opportunity to hear from the senior archaeologist on the recovery of the C.S.S. Hunley, Maria Jacobsen. For those of you familiar with Civil War Naval history, the CSS Hunley will not be a new name. For those not, its story is nothing less than remarkable. A Confederate submarine, it was lost after driving a mine into the hull of USS Housatonic, detonating it, and sending the ship to the silty bottom of Charleston Bay in five minutes. But the Hunley was lost as well, only to be found, recovered, and excavated in the last decade or so.

I have made it through the first presentation on the Hunley (wow) and hope to watch the second half of the symposium on the Monitor. But for now, this from the MIT site:

Civil War High Tech: Excavating the Hunley and Monitor

Moderator: Merritt Roe Smith
Maria Jacobsen
David A. Mindell PhD ’96
Brendan Foley PhD ’03

About the Lecture
In the last few years, archaeologists have recovered two of the Civil War’s most ingenious inventions: the Union ironclad warship Monitor and the Confederate submarine Hunley. In this symposium panelists discuss the newest technology projects that have brought these inventions to light from the sea depths, and what they can teach about technology and the Civil War.

cwhightech

"Civil War High Tech: Excavating the Hunley and the Monitor" from MIT World

Submarine CSS H. L. Hunley [1863-1864]

  • Submarine built by Horace L HunleyCSS Hunley
  • First submarine to destroy an enemy ship
  • All three crews died aboard although several from the first crew were able to escape.
  • Lost off of Charleston after sinking the USS Housatonic with a spar torpedo
  • Remains discovered in 1995 by NUMA
  • Recovered August 8, 2000

Photo credit: Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley (1863-1864) U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph [#NH999]

You may be interested in previous posts I’ve made on the Hunley. My first was the following:

On Dog Tags, Sunken Confederate Subs, and Graves Registration

Class Starting on Monday – Civil War Strategy and Tactics

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Jomini

After a delay of several weeks due to work obligations (reorganization), I’m starting up on Monday the course CIvil War Strategy and Tactics with great enthusiasm. Having seen the syllabus, I know that we begin with a discussion/debate of Jomini’s (pictured right) influence on the strategies employed by both sides during the Civil War. We read, (or in my case read again, as  this was assigned in the course Great Military Philosophers), John Shy’s masterful essay on Jomini that appears in Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Do a search on my blog on the word Jomini (or click here as I’ve done it for you) and you may be as amazed as I was on the number of posts I’ve made about him.

makers

See previous posts about the class below outlining the texts we’ll be using.

Next Course: Civil War Strategy and Tactics

New Class Starts with Jomini

Next Term’s Books are In! Mostly…

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Lincoln and His Admirals

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I’m very pleased to have received a review copy yesterday of Lincoln and His Admirals by Craig L. Symonds from the terrific folks over at Oxford University Press. You can view the book’s listing at OUP here. Being a student of both the American Civil War AND maritime history, I can’t think of a better read. I’m reserving this one for the Christmas holiday. This will also be my first introduction to the work of Craig L. Symonds. More to come on my review.

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Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (October 17, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0195310225
ISBN-13: 978-0195310221
Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches

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On Slavery – 2

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Continuing from On Slavery – 1 here.

slave-childrenMarie Jenkins Schwartz in her OAH Magazine of History article, “Family Life in the Slave Quarters: Survival Strategies,” points out that slave masters attempted to control slave children by disrupting the normal authority they might feel towards their parents.

“Masters and mistresses considered the slave’s most important relationship to be that maintained with an owner. They worried that children reared to respect other authority figures, such as parents, might question the legitimacy of the southern social order, which granted slaveholders sweeping power over the people they held in bondage. Consequently, owners planned activities and established rules intended to minimize the importance of a slave’s family life and to emphasize the owner’s place as the head of the plantation.”

Schwartz further suggests that a number of slave owners referred to their slaves a family members and though not treated as such, this helped in their self–justification of exercising full power and control over every aspect of a slave’s life.

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Civil War Blog Addition and British History Online

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I’ve made some additional adds to my blogroll and links. First a belated welcome to Jim Beeghley whose blog, “Teaching the Civil War with Technology” has not only a strong premise but some terrific posts.

Welcome Jim! http://blog.teachthecivilwar.com

And thanks to Alex Rose over at The History Man blog for a lead to British History Online. This is an impressive site with some great information including primary sources. I’ve added it under a new category titled History Sites of Merit.

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New Arrival – Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief

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This week I received a review copy of James M. McPherson’s new work, Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief from the good folks at Penguin Press. Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to diving in as Dr. McPherson’s books on Lincoln remain among my favorites.

He opens the book with the following.

“The insurgent leader…does not attempt to deceive us. He affords us no excuse to deceive ourselves. He can not voluntarily reaccept the Union; we can not voluntarily yield it. Between him and us the issue is distinct, simple, and inflexible. It is an issue which can only be tried by war and decided by victory.”

—Lincoln’s annual message to Congress,
December 6, 1864

Tried by War
Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief

James M. McPherson – Author
Hardcover | 6.14 x 9.25in | 384 pages | ISBN 9781594201912 | 07 Oct 2008 | The Penguin Press

Next Class: Antebellum America: Prelude to Civil War

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After a short break, I’ll be diving into my next class which starts November 3rd. As is my custom, I’ve added this to “The Courses” page.

“Antebellum America: Prelude to Civil War” (starts November 3rd)

This course is an analysis of the conditions existing in the United States in the first half of the 19th century. The course focuses on the political, cultural/social, economic, security, leadership, and other issues that played roles in starting and shaping the Civil War. We will analyze the issues in the context of war and peace to determine whether or not such conflicts as civil wars can be avoided prior to their inception.

Required Texts:

TBD once the syllabus is available. For now, the list is as follows which is very light in comparison with my last class:

Half Slave and Half Free : The Roots of Civil War by Bruce Levine

Publisher: Hill and Wang

Road to Disunion : Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854, Volume 1 by William W. Freehling

Since I read 14 books in Studies in U.S. Military History (a challenge but I loved IT!), this may be a light reading term.
Because William Freehling’s book, Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836, received such high acclaim, I’ve purchased it as well.
Finally, it would not surprise me at all if Daniel Walker Howe’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, What Hath God Wrought, was added to the reading list as well.
All of these texts can be found on the “Antebellum America” shelf of my virtual library here.

New Addition – Sweetsmoke by David Fuller

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I received a review copy of David Fuller’s Sweetsmoke today from the good folks at Hyperion and very much look forward to reading it and passing along my impressions. Mr. Fuller is a screenwriter by profession. He has an interesting lineage of combatants in the American Civil War, which you can read more about on his website here.

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Hyperion
ISBN-10: 1401323316
ISBN-13: 978-140132331

Sweetsmoke

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The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare

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Edward Hagerman. The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare: Ideas, Organization, and Field Command. Reprint. Indiana University Press, 1992.

In this important work on tactical and strategic military history, Edward Hagerman posits that the American Civil War marshaled in a new era in land warfare colored by the impacts of the Industrial Revolution. He argues that the complete command and control systems of armies was impacted by factors both occurring across the globe (i.e. technological developments in weaponry and transportation) and unique to America: its culture, geography, and history.

Hagerman is clear in setting two broad aims for the book. The first is to provide a new analysis of the “theory, doctrine, and practice of field fortification in the tactical evolution of trench warfare.” The second is to analyze the development of field transportation and supply and its impact of the movement and maneuvering of Civil War armies

Petersburg, Virginia. Dead Confederate soldiers in trenches of Fort Mahone

Hagerman organizes his study around several themes. The first addresses the ideas and education that informed the American military including the influence of theorists such as Jomini, Clausewitz, and at West Point, Dennis Hart Mahan. Secondly he looks at the organizational change, or lack thereof, in the Army of the Potomac including an explanation of the educational orientation of its leaders. Thirdly he explores the Army of Northern Virginia and the culture and traditions which informed men of the south who entered the military. Next he dives into the emergence of trench warfare and the strategic and tactical evolution that resulted from it. And importantly, he finishes with the evolution of total war and the strategy of exhaustion. 

Dennis Mahan

Dennis H. Mahan

This work should be of particular interest to military historians and even more so to those interested in the American Civil War and its impact on military logistics, the use of technology, weaponology, military tactical and strategic thought, and the concepts of modern warfare and its history.

There is an extensive notes section valuable to the serious student of military history. This is augmented by a “Works Cited” section including listings of primary sources. The introduction to the book provides an exceptional summary of many of the key factors that impacted the war.

Edward Hagerman brings to this study the credentials of academician. He was Associate Professor of History at York University in Toronto, Canada at the time of the book’s publication. He is also the recipient of the Moncado Prize of the Society of Military History.

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Southern Storm: Sherman's March to the Sea

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Belatedly, I want to mention that I’ve received a pre-publication copy of Noah Andre Trudeau’s Southern Storm: Sherman’s March to the Sea, which I’ll hope to provide a full review of before too long. At first blush, it appears to be an excellent read.

Since this book falls into the category of Civil War Campaigns, I’ve added a shelf in my virtual bookstore to accommodate it which you can find here.

As a student of military history, one of the many things that I find so fascinating about Sherman’s march is that its destructive power encourages its consideration as “total war” a la Clausewitz. Can’t wait to dig in to this one.

For those of you in the Chicago area, Mr. Trudeau’s publisher Harper Collins, indicates that he will be publicizing his book at the following on Thursdays.

Thursday, September 11, 2008
05:00 PM – 07:30 PM
PRITZKER MILITARY LIBRARY
2nd FL 610 N Fairbanks Court Chicago, IL 60611

Sherman's March to the Sea

  • Published on: 2008-08-01
  • Released on: 2008-08-05
  • Original language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060598670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060598679
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.8 inches
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 688 pages
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    Manet and the American Civil War – 5: The Sea Battle Between The Kearsarge and the Alabama

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    Continuing my series on “Manet and the American Civil War,” (see posts 1 here, 2 here, 3 here, and 4 here. In posts 3 and 4, I introduced the captains and vessels of one of the most famous naval engagements of the American Civil War, the sea battle between the C.S.S. Alabama and the U.S.S. Kearsarge. And now to the battle…

    Juliet Wilson-Bareau with David C. Degener, in their fascinating book Manet and the American Civil War, do an excellent job of sifting through sources for a non-partisan view of the events of Sunday, June 19, 1864, a view without the “spin” of media. [2]

    "The Fight Between the Alabama and the Kearsarge" [NH59354]
    The Fight Between the Alabama and the Kearsarge. Contemporary line engraving, depicting an early stage in the battle. Alabama is on the right, with Kearsarge in the left distance. Courtesy of F.S. Hicks. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

    The C.S.S. Alabama anchored in the Cherbourg roads, “a huge sheet of calm water sheltered from Channel currents by a breakwater,” on June 11, 1864. It had stopped to disembark 40 captives taken during raids on U.S. merchant ships and to refuel. Captain Semmes asked permission of “Vice Admiral Adolphe-Augustin Dupouy, head of the naval district headquartered in Cherbourg,” to have the Alabama undergo repairs in the naval doc. [3] The offer was denied and the request withdrawn. Semmes was now well aware that Captain Winslow and his U.S.S. Kearsarge had come after the Confederate raider and was hovering offshore in wait. While the French attempted diplomatic maneuvers, Captain Semmes informed Samuel Barron, “his senior officer in Paris,” that he intended to fight Winslow. [4]

    “On the morning of Sunday, June 19, Alabama left the Cherbourg roads followed by the French navy flagship, Couronne, and accompanied by a steam yacht flying the Union Jack and a British yach club flag. Alabama fired the first shot. Having elected to fight starboard to starboard, Alabama and Kearsarge then steamed in interlocking circles five to seven times as the current pushed them west. Alabama sank, and Kearsarge returned to anchor on the land side of Cherbourg’s breakwater.” [5]

    This from George Terry Sinclair, a native of Virginia sent to Europe in 1862 to buy ships for the Confederate Navy, in a letter to his immediate superior, Samuel Barron.

    “After some exchanges at long range, they passed each other, using their starboard batteries. They then passed & repassed, always using the same battery (which Semmes had told me was his intention) after passing the seventh eighth time, I observed Semmes make sail forward, and stand in, and I thought I saw smoke issuing from the ship.” [6]

    He was told by another observer that “Alabama ‘went down with her colors flying…the Flag… was the last thing to disappear.’ Sinclair’s own view of the climactic moment had been obscured by a house.” [7]
     

    Charles Longueville. Combat naval (L’Alabama coulant sous le feu de Kearsage [sic]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    In the next post, Edouard Manet’s painting, The Battle of the “Kearsarge” and the “Alabama,” 1864.

    —-
    [1] Juliet Wilson-Bareau with David C. Degener, Manet and the American Civil War, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 31.
    [2] Ibid.
    [3] Ibid., 28-29.
    [4] Ibid., 31.
    [5] Ibid., 28, 31.
    [6] Ibid., 31-32.
    [7] Ibid., 32.

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    Manet and the ACW – 4: Captain John A. Winslow and the U.S.S. Kearsarge

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    Gideon Welles

    Continuing my series on “Manet and the American Civil War,” (see posts 1 here, 2 here), in post 3 here, I introduced Captain Semmes of the C.S.S. Alabama, the target of U.S.S. Kearsarge in the waters off of Cherbourg France in 1864. This post provides background on the Kearsarge and her captain, John A. Winslow.

    According to authors Juliet Wilson-Bareau and David C. Degener in their book Manet and the American Civil War, the U.S.S. Kearsarge was ordered built by U.S. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles (click here for bio) in 1861 as a part of the Civil War emergency shipbuilding program intended to augment the number of vessels available for blockade duty. [1]

    As of March 4, 1961, the U.S. Navy possessed ninety vessels, twenty-one of which were being overhauled of those remaining only twenty-four were in commission. U.S. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles needed many more than that to blockade a coastline 3,500 miles long. Welles therefore launched an ambitious program of acquisition and construction. U.S.S. Kearsarge was one of the steam sloops that he ordered to be built. It was roughly 198 feet long, 34 feet across, and displaced 1,550 tons, third-rate in the navy’s classification system. Construction began on June 17, 1861. [2]

    U.S.S. Kearsarge off Portsmouth, New Hampshire, shortly after her return from European waters in 1864.

    The U.S.S. Kearsarge “was a Mohican class steam sloop of war, and was built at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine. She was commissioned in January 1862 and almost immediately deployed to European waters, where she spent nearly three years searching for Confederate raiders.” [3]

    Her captain was John Ancrum Winslow (1811 – 1873), appointed in April of 1863 and given the task of patrolling European waters for Confederate raiders. He had begun his career as a midshipman in 1827 and saw action in the Mexican War and along the Mississippi during the Civil War.

    Captain John A. Winslow, USN circa 1862-63

    In the next post, the sea battle between the U.S.S. Kearsarge and the C.S.S. Alabama.

    _______

    References:

    U.S. Library of Congress for photo of Gideon Welles available at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpb.04842 , accessed August 18, 2008.
    [1,3] Naval Historical Center, http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-k/kearsarg.htm, accessed August 18, 2008.
    [2] Juliet Wilson-Bareau with David C. Degener, Manet and the American Civil War, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 25.

    Baltimore Sun's Civil War Books Discussion

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    Dave Rosenthal, the Sunday and Readership Editor for the Baltimore Sun, asked me to contribute to a discussion of Civil War Books on their book blog, Read Street. I’m up for any opportunity to talk about books. Check out my recommendations and those of fellow commentators here.

    Manet and the ACW – 3: Captain Semmes and the CSS Alabama

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    Continuing from posts 1 here and 2 here, in this post I begin to examine what authors Juliet Wilson-Bareau and David C. Degener in their book Manet and the American Civil War call “one of the most celebrated naval battles of the American Civil War.”

    Queen Victoria 1861

    The authors adeptly set the scene by providing the reasons why an American Civil War naval battle would take place in European waters and capture the imagination of artist Edouard Manet. They chronicle the debate that led to “Lincoln’s blockade” of the south contending that the very word “blockade” ultimately gave the “Confederate organization” the status of a “quasi government” which would have “a position among nations.” [i] This ultimately led to both Queen Victoria (see bio here) of Great Britain (May 13, 1861) and Emperor Napoleon III of France (June 11, 1861) declaring the neutrality of their respective countries. “The evolving rules and policies of neutrality would eventually play a large role in determining the circumstances under which, in June 1864, U.S.S. Kearsarge – a ship originally built to enforce Lincoln’s blockade – engaged and sank the Confederate raider Alabama off the coast of France…” [ii]

    CSS Alabama Captain, Raphael Semmes

    Captain Raphael Semmes on the CSS Alabama

    Captain Semmes on the deck of the CSS Alabama

    The Alabama, a six screw steamer, was built in Great Britain by John Laird Sons and Company and found its way into Confederate hands because the “British customs agents, port authorities, prosecutors, judges, and courts found ways of understanding England’s Foreign Enlistment Act and the Queen’s declaration of neutrality.” [iii] Enacted during the reign of George III, the Act “prohibited the outfitting of, or aid to, vessels that would be used to commit hostilities against a nation with which England was not currently at war.” [iv} But in a clandestine series of events surrounding the vessels shake down cruise, the ship, known initially as simply No. 290, was acquired by Confederate agent James Dunwoody Bulloch (1823 - 1901) [a fascinating fellow who deserves a post of his own] who saw it supplied and crewed sufficiently to sail to the Azores where its new captain, Southern “son” Raphael Semmes (1809 – 1877), would christen it the CSS Alabama on August 24, 1862. The “enterprising” and “abrasive” Semmes would become a celebrity for his raiding of Federal ships. His exploits would be enthusiastically covered by the London media, indicative of Great Britain’s sympathy for the “Confederate cause for almost the entire duration of the American Civil War.” [v]

    "The Pirate 'Alabama,' Alias '290,' Certified to be correct by Captain Hagar of the 'Brilliant'"

    [i - v] Juliet Wilson-Bareau with David C. Degener, Manet and the American Civil War, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003).

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