Coastal Operations in the American Civil War, Kevin Dougherty

Coastal Operations in the American Civil War, Kevin Dougherty

Strangling the Confederacy

During the American Civil War the United States slowly but steadily occupied just about every significant port on the Confederate coast, mainly after successful joint operations between the navy and the army. In most books on the Civil War these expeditions are seen as something of a sideshow compared to the activities of the main armies, and are normally discussed in isolation from each other.

Dougherty brings together all of these coastal operations in a single study. He starts with a look at the work of the Navy Board, a short-lived organisation that was created at the start of the war and asked to produce a coherent naval strategy for the United States. The Board effectively designed the blockade and identified key points on the Confederate coast, before being disbanded. The army and navy were then left to implement their plan. Dougherty splits the coastal war into five segments - four that match particular campaigns and a fifth that contains three of the tougher challengers - Charleston (captured from the land), Mobile Bay (a daring success) and Fort Fisher (a dismal failure followed by a successful second attack).

Dougherty picks out fifteen specific attacks on ports and the Peninsula campaign for study. This provides him with a wide range of scenarios to study, with different Confederate responses and contrasting relationships between Army and Navy leaders. The Navy comes off better from this part of the study, lacking the 'political' generals that sometimes blighted the US Army during the Civil War (although plenty of the naval leaders were clearly rather difficult to get along with).

This is very much a study of Federal coastal operations, and in particular operations designed to capture and hold forts or ports on the Confederate coast. Wider Confederate operations are only considered when they affect the Federal efforts - the threat of ironclads being built at New Orleans or the evolving nature of Confederate coastal defences for example. The Confederate side in each of the operations being examined is studied in some depth, so each of the battle narratives and the associated discussion is well balanced.

This is an interesting examination of one of the key battle grounds of the American Civil War, and a useful look at an early example of combined operations.

The Atlantic Campaign
The Burnside Expedition
The Peninsula Campaign
The Gulf Campaign
Tougher Challenges
The Coastal War and the Elements of Operational Design

Author: Kevin Dougherty
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 233
Publisher: Casemate
Year: 2012 edition of 2009 original

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