Vividly written and well researched by a noted historian of the period, this succinct history credits the Union Navy as an essential element in the northern victory. Neither ponderous nor hagiographic, the work presents characters and events that have been previously neglected and offers candid assessments of officers, men, and material. Originally published in 1990, when it was a Military History Book Club selection, the work is considered a must for Civil War buffs. It is an authoritative and gripping story of the battles waged.
The author provides a rare look at the war fought by primitive northern gunboats drifting through Louisiana's muddy bayous, Yankee merchantmen captured by rebel privateers at sea, and Union ironclads subduing hotly defended Southern forts. Nor does William Fowler neglect the subtler sparrings behind the scenes: War Secretary Stanton and Navy Secretary Welles competing for Lincoln's favor and Welles's fierce duel of strategies with his Confederate counterpart, Stephen Mallory. Finally, the author describes the astonishing transformation of the Navy itself from a ragtag fleet of aging steamers and paddleboats to one of the most powerful waterborne forces in the world.