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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces part of
The Rebel Shore

James M. Merrill

published by
Little, Brown and Company
Boston • Toronto

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 1
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p. v  Preface

In the past few decades there has been a resurgence of interest in the Civil War reflected in an avalanche of Civil War novels, biographies, and monographs. The writers responsible for this torrent have for the most part focused attention on the battlefields, the halls of Congress, the economics of war, and the actors, big and small. The role of sea power has been minimized. The best work on Civil War naval operations is still Boynton's two‑volume work published in 1867. No author to date has sifted the countless number of official naval dispatches or unearthed personal correspondence of Yankee bluejackets and attempted to evaluate the importance of Lincoln's forces afloat. The reason is not difficult to find. The Civil War generation — a generation weaned on the marching armies of the Mexican War and the American West — read column after column in its newspapers and listened to politicians in and out of Congress raving about the military achievements or defeats. Misunderstood by the Lincoln Administration, the war correspondents, and the public at large, the operations of the Union sea arm were given scant publicity.

To the Southerner, however, the terrible swift  p.vi sword of the Navy was a grim reality and he, unlike the Northern reporters and public, felt the impact of amphibious assaults. He knew well that the Yankees controlled the seas and could strike swiftly, mercilessly, and without warning against Confederate shores. Entire neighborhoods, terrified and panicky, packed belongings and high-tailed it for the interior. The theory that states' rights were responsible for the ultimate collapse of the Confederacy began when Southern governors balked at dispatching men, arms, and ammunition to the Virginia firing line in order to protect their own seacoasts. Some of the best military minds that the South produced, including Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lee and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Beauregard, were ordered at one time or another into the coastal regions to direct Rebel defenses.

Union amphibious attacks spearheaded the offensive. They were, perhaps, more significant than the blockade itself. Old Abe's Armada carried the flag first into the South, secured needed bases for the blockading squadrons, wiped out Confederate coastal commerce, scotched privateering activities, precipitated the ruckus between the secessionist states and the Confederate Government, and, throughout the first year of the conflict, while the Union Army licked its wounds after Bull Run, buoyed up a sagging Northern spirit and strengthened the belief that the Union could crush the rebellion.

Although footnotes have been omitted, all the direct and indirect quotations are based on materials cited in the bibliography and all the events described have the authority of contemporary sources.

 p. vii  This book could not have been written without my wife, Ann. I am also deeply indebted to Dr. John Kemble of Pomona College, who put my nose to the grindstone, and to Dr. Brainerd Dyer of the University of California, Los Angeles, who kept it there.

James M. Merrill

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Page updated: 1 Jan 18