Thunder Along the Mississippi: The River Battles That Split the Confederacy

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9780553379679: Thunder Along the Mississippi: The River Battles That Split the Confederacy
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A new kind of war

In 1861 the Confederacy was protected on its flank by the Mississippi River. And the Mississippi was protected by a devil's gauntlet of Rebel fortresses and shore batteries, preventing the Union from sending troops and supplies up and down the river. With Grant determined to strike a land blow through Vicksburg, the Mississippi had to be won. To achieve its goal, the Union forces unleashed a deadly new breed of fighting ships, and a desperate Confederacy answered back.

For a year and a half the Mississippi and its tributaries and bayous ran with blood, as ironclads and wooden-hulled vessels clashed in a maelstrom shot through with cannon, mortar, and gunfire from the shore. A meeting of raw human courage with advancing naval technology, the battles of the Mississippi, from the Gulf of Mexico to Vicksburg, were some of the fiercest--and least known--in American naval history, yet some of the most crucial of the Civil War. Now Jack D. Coombe tells the thrilling story of the men, the vessels, and the battles that would help decide the fate of a nation.

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Review:

The squat river gunboats of the Civil War may have lacked the sleek majesty of oceangoing frigates, but undoubtedly they helped hammer home the North's victory as they successfully blasted their way up and down the Mississippi River. Jack D. Coombe presents the definitive account of these ironclad and wood-hulled warriors in the young country's western waterways, including the campaigns against Fort Donelson, New Orleans, and Vicksburg. The Union essentially built an inland navy, which pounded the Confederacy's heavily fortified towns and tried to dodge its mines. (Interesting piece of trivia: the Star of the West, the merchant ship attacked by Confederate batteries as it tried to reinforce Fort Sumter in January 1861 [the first hostile shots of the war], was later captured by Texans and converted into a rebel river steamboat.) Coombe argues that Federal control of the Mississippi made the South's defeat inevitable. His case is convincing, and his book is attractive--it includes dozens of black-and-white photos, plus several maps. It's one of the best naval histories of the Civil War available. --John J. Miller

Book Description:

To this day, there has never been a story quite like this. In telling the history of the river battles that split the Confederacy, the Civil War ironclads wrote a stunning new page in naval history.

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