“Damn the torpedoes!"
Followers of this blog will know that I have an interest in the American Civil War, particularly the naval bits.
I was delighted to learn today that one of my favourite ACW historians, James McPherson, recently published a book on the naval side of ACW, War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (UNC Press, 2012). That was news to me. If you are super-interested in this topic, Prof. McPherson has some comments on the book and on the period on YouTube here. One of his main points is that the US Navy was far better prepared for the war than the US Army was in 1861, and because of its greater professionalism, was more efficient than the army. It’s also interesting that the majority of the USN were from the North or were recent immigrants, and so the Navy didn’t split along north/south lines to the same extent than the army did. Southerners in the Navy, like Virginia’s Farragut, remained in US service and didn’t experience the same prejudice that southern US soldiers like Thomas did.
McPherson is a big fan of Farragut, who he says showed the same degree of “moral courage” in leadership at sea that Grant did on land. “Citing Farragut’s decision to press forward at Mobile Bay after his lead ship Tecumseh struck a mine and sank, while Brooklyn, second in formation, veered off course and stopped. It was at this point that Farragut could have said “Damn the torpedoes!”. He added that Mobile Bay was the first unequivocal Union victory of 1864, followed by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s takeover of Atlanta and Brig. Gen. Philip Sheridan’s burning of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. McPherson stated that these three victories secured Lincoln’s re-election and the Union’s determination to win the war."
There’s a brief summary of a talk on this subject given by McPherson to the Society for Military History here. Fans of the naval side of the ACW should also want to know about this blog, The Civil War Naval Sesquicentennial - lots of good stuff there.