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Civil War Naval History Thesis Topic and New Book Acquisition: Union Jacks

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I’m narrowing down my thesis topic. I plan to examine the Civil War experience of those who enlisted in the navy under the rank of “Boy” including 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class who were under the age of eighteen. From what I’ve seen to date, this is an area not extensively researched. As is always true with the beginning of a research project, I’m gathering a list of sources. If you have any recommendations, PLEASE don’t hesitate to let me know

Union Jacks

I’ve acquired several books in support of the topic above, some directly related, some peripherally so. I’ll be highlighting these in individual posts. First up, Union Jacks: Yankee sailors in the Civil War by Michael J. Bennett. This book is extremely good. Bennett’s bibliography is excellent as is his use of primary resources including several diaries of “Boy” ranked sailors. It is clear that Bennett did a superb job of researching this topic which resulted in a doctoral dissertation from Saint Louis University.

The book won several awards including the 2004 John Lyman Book Award in United States Naval History, North American Society for Oceanic History and the 2004 Fletcher Pratt Literary Award, Civil War Round Table of New York.  The latter puts him in the company of historians like Bruce Catton (1956 for This Hallowed Ground: The Story of the Union Side of the Civil War and 1969 for Grant Takes Command, Shelby Foote (1963 for The Civil War: A Narrative – Vol. 2 and 1974 for The Civil War: A Narrative – Vol. 3) and Steven E. Woodworth (1995 for Davis and Lee at War). Good company.

Union Jacks

I am quite confident that a trip to the National Archives will become a necessity so that I can examine the muster roles and rendezvous (naval recruiting station) reports.

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 U.S. Navy Admiral David Farragut 3 – First Command

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Battle of the <em>Essex</em> and the HMS <em>Phoebe</em>

Duel of the USS Essex and HMS Pheobe

Civil War hero and admiral David Farragut literally grew up at sea. In the U.S. Navy since the age of ten, he served under David Porter as a midshipman beginning in 1811 on the USS Essex. A surrogate father, “Porter supervised his education and training while seizing every opportunity to throw responsibility on the boy.”[1] His first command, at the age of twelve, was of a prize ship, the recaptured American whaler Barclay. [2] Success in this command required that the young Farragut deal with the Barclay’s disgruntled captain, and he accomplished this by threatening to throw the man overboard if he came up on deck. The tactic worked and earned him early respect. [3]

David Farragut saw action against the H.M.S. Phoebe while serving on the USS Essex in 1813. [4] During the USS Essex’s losing battle with the HMS Phoebe, “Farragut served as captain’s aide, quarter gunner, and powder boy. He witnessed the evisceration of a boatswain’s mate by one shot, the amputation of a quartermaster’s leg by another, and the killing of four men by a third shot that splattered him with the last man’s brains. He narrowly escaped death himself when a shot struck a man beside him full in the face. The man fell back on him, and the two tumbled down an open hatch, with the man landing on top of him” sans head. [5] So Farragut was intimately familiar with both the fog of war and its horrors.

See an excellent summary of the sea battle between USS Essex and the HMS Phoebe here.

[1] The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, Peter Kemp, ed., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 296.
[2] Schneller, Jr., Robert J. Farragut: America’s First Admiral. (Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, Inc., 2002), 12.
[3] Ibid.
[4] The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, Peter Kemp, ed., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 296.
[5] Schneller, Jr., Robert J. Farragut: America’s First Admiral, 13-14.

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Civil War U.S. Navy Admiral David Farragut 1

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I’m wrapping up my paper on Civil War Admiral David Farragut’s command of the Battle of Mobile Bay. This guy was impressive. To begin with, he came from good stock. This quote is his son Loyall’s 1879 work, The life of David Glasgow Farragut: first admiral of the United States Navy

“George Farragut was descended from the renowned Don Pedro Ferragut, who served under James I., King of Aragon, styled in history El Conquistador, in the campaigns which resulted in the expulsion of the Moors from Majorca in 1229, and from Valencia in 1238. In Majorca Don Pedro was Sergeant before the King—an office of high honor and importance, held only by those of noble blood. James bestowed estates upon the knights who accompanied him in these enterprises, and directed the troubadour Mossen Jaime Febrer to celebrate them in verse. The following is the stanza devoted to Pedro Ferragut:

Sobre camp bermell una ferradura
De finisim or, ab nn elau daurat,
Pere Ferragut pinta, e en tal figura
Esplica lo agnom. La historia asegnra
Ser aragones, de Jaca baixat.
Apres que en Mallorca servi de sargent,
Venint a Valencia, hon gran renotn guanya
De expert capita per lo dilitgent;
Los anys, e sucesos lo feren prudent.
Te en lo pelear gran cordura e inanya,
Pergue a totes armes facilment se apanya.
Henry Howard Brownell, extemporized the following translation, which is sufficiently literal:
A charger’s shoe is borne on his shield,
Of purest gold, on a blood-red field,
Set thereon with a nail of the same:
Thus we know him, device and name.
From Jaca, in Aragon, he came.
At Mallorca and Valencia both,
Well he quitted his knightly troth,
Serving as Sergeant before his liege,
Through the conquest, in field and siege:

Strong in battle, by plain or hold,
Great his fame as a warrior bold,
And a prudent captain to shun surprise;
For -years and victories made him wise.
At every manner of arms expert,
He did on the foe great spoil and hurt.”

New History Blog – Boatswains and Bacteremia

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I’m always pleased to see a new voice enter the “history” blogosphere. Jared Wasser has opened up shop over at Boatswains and Bacteremia and as a maritime history geek myself, I couldn’t be more thrilled. What Jared brings that is unique is a combination of maritime history with the history of medicine. He’s a medical student so obviously brings some credibility to representation of medical concepts. I’ve enjoyed reding Jared’s first few posts and am adding him to my blogroll. Check it out!

Jared, welcome!

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John Woo’s Epic Film…Red Cliff. Civil War in Ancient China

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Red Clilff Trailer

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that takes the visual depiction of battle to a new level (Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan).  John Woo’s epic film, Red Cliff, does just that. Based on the actual Battle of Red Cliffs (see the Red Cliff Wiki here) that took place in the winter 208 CE, the film depicts the conflict between northern Chinese Prime Minister Cao Cao, and a coalition of southern forces led by Liu Bei and Sun Quan. While fact and fiction undoubtedly blur, the film is based on Records of Three Kingdoms, which provides a more historical view of the epic battle than that depicted in the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Its American distributor is Magnolia Pictures who kindly sent me a review copy last week.

This film demands your full attention. It depicts both land-based and naval warfare in an age when weapons included sword and shield, bow and arrow, spear, and fire bombs. Woo went BIG in imagery and battle size. Cao Cao was reported to have brought 800,000 soldiers to invade the south on twently thousand ships so Woo used Army soldiers to supplement extras. Animators did the rest. Those interested in the animation techniques used in creation of the film will find interesting Bill Desowitz‘s article “The Battle of Red Cliff — John Woo Style!,” on the Animation World Network here. Pay particular attention to the Tortoise Shell Formation battle (below), one of the highlights of the film.

Turtle Formation Battle Scene

Animator’s also created the immense fleet of ships on which Cao Cao transported his army south. The climatic naval battle is beyond anything I’ve seen on film. Your attention is also required because the film, made in Mandarin, uses English subtitles that are occasionally difficult to see.

Red Cliff Trailer from Magnolia Pictures

Wildly popular in China since its 2008 release, Red Cliff is now available to American audiences in select theaters and through video on demand (VOD) in a abridged format (the original film is in two parts and runs over four hours).

The cast, while perhaps less familiar to American audiences, includes some of the most popular actors on the planet.

Zhang Feng-Yi (Prime Minister Cao Cao)
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (Strategist and warrior Zhou Yu (Ye))
Takeshi Kaneshiro (Shu strategist Zhuge Liang)
Yong You (Liu Bei)
Chang Chen (Sun Quan)
Vicky Zhao Wei (Wu princess Sun Shang Xiang)
Lin Chi-Ling (Zhou Yu’s wife, Xiao Qiao)
Shido Nakamura (Gan Xing) [also appeared in Letters from Iwo Jima]
Hu Jun (Zao Yun)

HIGHLY RECOMMEND

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Hunting Books for Independent Study … Civil War Naval History

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"The Fight Between the Alabama and the Kearsarge" [NH59354]

I’m exploring options for topics for an independent study course. This one is floating to the top of what I’d like to study. Any other books my readers might suggest are welcome.

Naval Operations of the American Civil War
Reading Pace: 1 book or equivalent primary sources per week or two weeks depending on length (max 16)
Course Evaluation: Book Review for each book read and Final essay
Beginning Reading List (Not complete and to be agreed on with professor):

Bennett, Michael J. Union Jacks: Yankee Sailors in the Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
Brooksher, William R. War Along the Bayou: The 1864 Red River Campaign in Louisiana. Washington: Brassey’s, 1998.
Chaffin, Tom The H. L. Hunley (Hill and Wang, 2008)
Forsyth, Michael J. The Red River Campiagn of 1864 and the Loss by the Confederacy of the Civil War, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2002.
Friend, Jack. West Wind, Flood Tide: The Battle of Mobile Bay. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2004.
Joiner, Gary D. One Damn Blunder from Beginning to End: The Red River Campaign of 1864. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2003.
Lewis, Charles Lee. David Glasgow Farragut: Our First Admirial. 2 vols. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1943.
Merli, Frank J. Great Britain and the Confederate Navy, 1861 – 1865 (Indiana University Press, 2004)
—-, The Alabama, British Neutrality, and the American Civil War (Indiana University Press, 2004)
Symonds, Craig L. Confederate Admiral: The Life and Wars of Franklin Buchanan. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1999.
—-,Lincoln and His Admirals (Oxford University Press, 2008)
Tucker, Spencer C. Andrew Foote: Cvivil War Admiral on Western Waters. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000.
Valuska, David L. The African American in the Union Navy: 1861-1865. New York: Garland, 1993.
Weddle, Kevin. Lincoln’s Tragic Admiral: The Life of Samuel Francis Du Pont, Charlottesville: Universtiy of Virginia Press, 2005.

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

The H.L. Hunley: The Secret Hope of The Confederacy

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The good folks at Hill and Wang sent me a review copy of Tom Chaffin’s book, The H.L. Hunley: The Secret Hope of the Confederacy which arrived today. I’m really jazzed about this since I wrote a post on the Hunley a while back (see On Dog Tags, Sunken Confederate Subs, and Graves Registration). Fascinating stuff.

The book’s official webpage is here and includes some interesting features including interactive blueprints of the sub.

hlhunley

Hill and Wang
Published: September 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8090-9512-4
ISBN-10: 0-8090-9512-2
Trim: 5 1/2 X x 8 1/4 inches
352 pages, 16 Pages of Black-and-White Illustrations/2 Maps/Appendix/Notes/Bibliography/Index

I found Professor Chaffin’s credentials (see his page at the University of Tennessee here) impressive and will enjoy reading the text version of his dissertation as well.

Ph.D., U.S. History, May 1995; Emory University. Dissertation: “‘Buffalo Hunt’: Narciso López and the Clandestine U.S. War against Cuba, 1848-1851.”
M.A., American Civilization, 1982, New York University. Thesis: “Toward a Poetics of Technology: Hart Crane and the American Sublime.” B.A., English, “with honors,” and philosophy minor, 1977, Georgia State University.

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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.

517zblrtvyl_sl210_

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

Link Updates

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Over the weekend, I added quite a few links to the right navbar which I use to keep myself organized. Here’s a quick run down of several of the new adds. There’s a theme in here somewhere….

  • Links to all state historical societies
  • The Historical Maritime Society
  • Smith’s Master Index to Maritime Museums (WOW!)
  • Portsmouth Historic Dockyards (GO if you get a chance!)
  • Five excellent new links to sites related to slavery filed under “Slavery Links”

slavery-links

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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.

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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).

Manet and the American Civil War – 2 The Artist

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Continuing from post 1 here, in this post I explore the life of Edouard Manet, the artist. Born in 1832 to upper-middle class parents, Manet’s father was a magistrate who had hopes that his oldest son would follow him in his profession. But young Edouard had no interest in law and though attracted to art, decided to go to sea. But he couldn’t pass the French Navy’s entrance exam. Authors Wilson-Bareau and Degener provide a fascinating glimpse into the system by which young men could qualify for careers in the French Navy in their book Manet and the American Civil War which provides the reference for this series. A sixteen year old Manet would spend several months aboard the vessel, Le Havre et Guadeloupe on a trip for the sons of the wealthy who had failed the exam and could qualify to retake it if they sailed across the equator. The ship was staffed with teachers tasked with drilling the boys in the topics required for the naval exam. Manet failed the test again regardless but was exposed to the sea to a greater extent than most Frenchmen. (Wilson-Bareau and Degener, 12-13)

Manet had another tie to the military. His interest in drawing and art was sparked by an uncle who was “attached to the [Army] artillery school who spent a lot of his time sketching…” (Wilson-Bareau and Degener, 13-14)

“The schoolboy soon fell under the spell of blended lines and blurred cross-hatching. [Note: For a great glimpse of crosshatching, see a post at the blog, Big Time Attic here.) From that moment on, he had only one calling. He neglected his compositions and translations and filled the blank pages of his notebooks not with schoolwork but with portraits, landscapes, and fantasies.” (Ibid)

This diversion would lead Manet to produce arguably one of the most famous paintings of the naval engagement between the U.S.S. Kearsarge and the C.S.S. Alabama, that took place in June of 1864 off France’s Normandy coast.

The Battle of U.S.S Kearsarge and C.S.S. Alabama

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).

In the next post, the ships engaged in the battle.

Manet and the American Civil War – 1

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A recently received a gift of a book that I am thrilled to add to my library. It is, Manet and the American Civil War published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York [which I had the opportunity to visit for the first time this year], and Yale University Press. It is co-authored by Juliet Wilson-Bareau, “an independent art historian based in London” and David C. Degener, an independent researcher based in San Francisco.

The Battle of U.S.S Kearsarge and C.S.S. Alabama

Click on image to be directed to my bookshelf listing.

 Manet and the American Civil War

  • Published on: 2003-06-10
  • Publisher: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Yale University Press, New Haven and London
  • ISBN: 0-300-09962-2 
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 86 pages
  • The book’s primary focus is the battle of the U.S.S. Kearsarge and C.S.S. Alabama. This from the front flap which provides an eloquent introduction to the book which I could not better….

    “On June 19, 1864, the United States warship Kearsarge sank the Confederate raider Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France, in one of the most celebrated naval engagements of the American Civil War. The battle was widely reported in the illustrated press and riveted public attention on both sides of the Channel. When Kearsarge later anchored off the French resort town of Boulonge-sur-Mer it was thronged by curious visitors, one of whom was the artist Edouard Manet.  Although he did not witness the historic battle, Manet made a painting of it partly as an attempt to regain the respect of his colleagues after being ridiculed for his works in the 1864 Salon. Manet’s picture of the naval engagement and his portrait of the victorious Kearsarge belong to a group of his seascapes of Boulonge whose unorthodox perspective and composition would profoundly influence the course of French paintings.”

    In part 2, more on Edouard Manet followed in subsequent posts about the two ships and their encounter across the Atlantic.

    Note that I have added a shelf to my online library titled “Civil War Art and Artists.” You can access that shelf here. I will shortly cross-reference this book on the Naval History shelf as well.

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