I have added two books from Osprey Publishing to my ever growing collection of books concerning the American Civil War. They are quite different from each other in style, content, and format, but both offer interesting perspectives on elements of the Civil War / War Between the States / Rebellion / War of Northern Aggression / War for Southern Rights / The Late Unpleasantness (did I cover all my political correctness bases???).
The Struggle for a Vast Future was published in 2006, but I just got around to reviewing it. The book is a dramatic departure from the typical Osprey book, in that this ia full-length overview of the entire Civil War, and proportionately contained far more text to illustrations than the typical Osprey work. At 272 pages, the book is an anthology of essays about the war from leading historians from the UK and United States, with a forward by noted University of Virginia educator and prize-winning author James McPherson. Thirteen eminent historians discuss the origins of and legacy of a landmark conflict. Each chapter offers a fresh perspective on the key themes of the Civil War. Innovation in military and naval warfare, espionage, emancipation, personalities of the leaders both on and off the battlefield, and the home front are explored, painting a fascinating and comprehensive picture of America at war with itself.
Foreword by James McPherson · Smart Chronology · Origins of the war · The nature of civil war · Leadership and personalities · Opposing armies · The naval campaign · Modern warfare? · The war in the West · Spies and secrets · Women in warfare · Ethnicity · The European perspective · Desertion · PoW camps · The reconstruction years · The legacy of the war
Confederate Ironclad vs. Union Ironclad (I hate the title, but it fits with the rest of the series) is veteran writer Ron Field’s latest contribution to Osprey’s vast array of military books. More typical of Osprey’s offerings, this thin book is profusely illustrated with period photographs, original artwork, and two very, very interesting (and detailed) cut-away views of the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimac). The book focused heavily on the design and construction of the two ironclads, as well as their storied duel in the waters of Hampton Roads off the coast of Virginia.
The publisher’s synopsis is as follows: “The Ironclad was a revolutionary weapon of war, the first modern, armoured, self-propelled warships. During the American Civil War the South used ironclads to protect their ports from the Northern blockade. Impressed with their superior resistance to fire and, the North developed its own rival fleet of ironclads. Eventually the two products of this modern arms race duelled at the battle of Hampton Roads in a clash that would change the face of naval warfare. Fully illustrated with cutting-edge digital artwork, rare photographs and first-person perspective gunsight views, this book allows the reader to discover the revolutionary and radically different designs of the two rival Ironclads – the Merrimac and USS Monitor – through an analysis of each ship’s weaponry, ammunition and steerage. ”
While this new book does not break any significant new ground (and the fight has been covered in other publications), it is worth a look simply because of the outstanding illustrations and pictures – many of which I had never viewed before. It’s a great introduction to the Battle of Hampton Roads for anyone who is looking for a general overview that is highly readable and concise, and Field, in his usual style, writes with a fluidity that makes the book flow well. It’s easy to read in one or two sittings, and is a perfect book to tuck into your briefcase or computer bag for a trip (I read my copy on Southwest Airlines flying back and forth from Baltimore to Columbus). Light weight, yet entertaining!