rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 1: p. 72
Sources: The Civil War Naval Encyclopedia
Rachael Elrod

Rachael Elrod, Reference/Instruction Librarian & Archivist, The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, Charleston

On this sesquicentennial of the Civil War, The Civil War Naval Encyclopedia provides a summary of Civil War naval subject matter that appears to be the first encyclopedia to be published on this specific topic. The editor, Spencer C. Tucker, is a noted scholar on this topic having previously published works relating to the Civil War and/or the Navy such as: Handbook of 19th Century Naval Warfare (Naval Institute Press, 2000), Naval Warfare: An International Encyclopedia (ABC-Clio, 2002), A Short History of the Civil War at Sea (SR Books, 2001), and Blue & Gray Navies, The Civil War Afloat (US Naval Institute Press, 2006).

There have been several books written about the Navy and the Civil War, most notably, Tony Gibbons’s Warships and Naval Battles of the Civil War (Popular Culture Ink, 1990), Ivan Musicant’s Divided Waters: The Naval History of the Civil War (Book Sales, 2000), and Jayne E. Blair’s The Essential Civil War: A Handbook to the Battles, Armies, Navies and Commanders (McFarland, 2006). What sets Tucker’s, The Civil War Naval Encyclopedia, apart is that it combines many of the issues that are covered in these other publications into an easy to navigate, two-volume set.

Included in these volumes are entries on important battles, campaigns, conflicts, strategies of the North and South, ships (including “individual ship engagements”), submarines, torpedoes, significant people (including naval officers, constructors, and government officials), weapons systems, and maps.

The arrangement of the encyclopedia is characteristic of most. There is an alphabetical list of entries at the front of the book which includes all categories. A categorical index in the back of the book is useful for looking up entries on specific categories. The categories listed are: “Individuals,” “Events,” “Groups & Organizations,” “Places,” “Ideas & Movements,” “Technologies, Objects & Artifacts,” “Agreements, Reports and Other Documents,” and “Miscellaneous.” A brief 6-page overview by Tucker introduces the user to the work. Some of the more interesting entries of the book include: “African American Sailors,” “Food and Drink aboard Ship,” “Balloons,” “Shipboard Life,” “Confederate Naval Strategy,” and “Union Naval Strategy.” Black and white photographs, maps and illustrations accompany several entries.

Colleges or Universities with programs related to the military and/or American history/politics will find this work useful as a starting point toward more in-depth research on a specific topic or for a broad understanding of naval issues as they pertain to the American Civil War. The fact that the entries are listed alphabetically as a whole and not by their categories can be seen as a drawback, however, the categorical index does a good job of providing the user with a listing by topic. Overall, The Civil War Encyclopedia provides an inclusive history of Civil War naval affairs. Public libraries may also consider purchasing, especially if the price of the e-book is more affordable than the print version.

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