Friday, February 12, 2010

Book Review: The Coastal War

Chaitin, Peter M. The Coastal War: Chesapeake Bay to Rio Grande. The Civil War. New York; Time-Life Books, 1984.

I learned a new word from this book: merlon. That's the part in between the crenels in a battlement. Now I'll go out and never use it again.

I knew there were more ironclads used than just the Monitor and the Merrimac (sorry, the Virgina), but I hadn't realized how many. There were entire fleets of Monitors (both single and double turreted).

But the real thing this book made me wonder, are we entirely sure that McClellan wasn't a Confederate double-agent? His entire lack of aggressiveness you can ascribe to character flaw, but his deliberate impeding of other projects that were successful, even when they would materially benefit his front, were reduced or downgraded. For example, the seaborne invasion of North Carolina, which almost severed the sole rail link supporting Lee's army, was curtailed a few miles short of its objective because McClellan demanded the troops needed. He then concocted the peninsular campaign, which tied up a huge portion of the navy's resources, and thereby inhibited further coastal campaigns. The coastal campaigns, which were hugely successful, all proceeded in spite of McClellan, using the dregs of the army to hold their positions.

You know, had someone shot McClellan before he ever led the troops into the field, he would hold a place of high honor in the American pantheon. The military would laud him as the hero who saved the army from being a disorganized rabble. As it is, he's recognized for having an uncanny knack for doing the wrong thing.

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