Friday, May 29, 2009
OHP BOOK REVIEW: ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CIVIL WAR SHIPWRECKS BY W. CRAIG GAINES
Non-fiction, illustrated, maps, bibliography, index, 231 pp., 2008. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA, $35.99 plus shipping.
The thoughts of shipwrecks bring feelings of mystery, intrigue and adventure to individuals no matter what age you are. During the War Between the States, the Southern ports were blockaded by the Union forces. Daring business men choose to try to run these blockades, some were successful and others were not. In addition to private boats, the navy for both sides commanded different vessels to help protect strategic points of military location. During the course of the war, many crafts were “sunk, scuttled, burned, grounded, lost, capsized, missing, blown up, collided with another vessel or object and sank, or was made generally unusable,” or more romantically referred to as shipwrecked.
Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks looks at more than two thousand shipwrecks during 1861 to 1865. Although the author W. Craig Gaines states that this may not be a complete listing, he feels confident that within the pages of his book he has the vast majority. Many of the vessels’ names are familiar, like the CSS Alabama; while others are so obscure the official name is lost to time.
The book is divided into geographic location by state, country, or body of water. Then the vessel is listed by its last known name, with any additional names the craft might have been known by following. The author also lets the reader know to which government the ship was connected. Some entries have an abundance of information, while others are limited; however, each is concise and supported by many sources.
While this is not a publication to read from cover to cover, the amount of information within its pages is invaluable to research. Maps help the reader to better visualize where the vessel was shipwrecked. The only facet this book was lacking was the need for more illustrations and images. Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks is superb, and addresses a topic that is rarely discussed or studied.
Written by Cassie A. Barrow