Friday, May 10, 2019

Just Finished Reading - Iron Dawn

I've fallen a little behind in reporting my thoughts on a few books that I've read recently, but I'll try to get caught up over the coming weekend.

Iron Dawn: The Monitor, the Merrimack, and the Civil War Sea Battle that Changed History by Richard Snow is quite the entertaining and informative read. The story of how these ironclads came into being in the first place and then how they waged war on one another is something that every student of the Civil War needs to be familiar with. However, land actions seem to predominate enthusiasts' interests over naval actions. I know that has been the case for me. Books like Snow's though, may convert more naval fans.

One of the things that fascinates me so much about this historical incident is the different designs that each belligerent chose to construct. For example, the Confederates transformed a captured Union vessel into a two-sided floating fortress. Although it proved to be more difficult to maneuver and required deeper water, the Merrimack (aka CSS Virginia-more on that below) was a formidable weapon, especially when equipped with a specially designed ram. The Union's Monitor, a smaller ship that sat low in the water with basically only the center circular turret showing above the water was an ideal naval weapon. It navigated better than its adversary and its revolving turret allowed a faster range of motion instead of having to turn the whole ship to get in good shots.

When I first read this book's title I wondered why Snow chose to call the the Confederate ship by its former Union name. But the author's argument is quite interesting and well fashioned.

This book is a true pleasure to read, and while it is always disappointing when an author or publisher (whoever decides those things) chooses to not incorporate citations (especially for its quotes), and thus somewhat compromises the credibility of the work, I found few obvious errors, But then again, I'm a naval novice. I recommend Iron Dawn to those looking to find a gateway drug into Civil War naval studies. I know I'll be looking to learn more about the "war on the waters" in the near future.

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