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  • November 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Passage to the World: The Emigrant Experience 1807-1940

    Kevin Brown

    Man’s history is one of travel and exploration. In Passage to the World: The Emigrant Experience 1807-1940, author Kevin Brown emphasizes that everyone is a migrant. This book focuses on emigration via ocean liners. Brown presents an informative account that successfully demonstrates that the journey was not without peril by reflecting on the firsthand experiences of emigrants. The trip across the ocean was more than just a planned voyage; it was instead, a rite of passage that emigrants first needed to survive.

    The history depicted is collective; it acts as an amalgamation of emigrant experiences by inspecting a broad spectrum of anecdotes from various travelers. This history draws on emigrants from Eastern and Western Europe and Asia; it tells of them venturing predominately to America and Australia. The book’s time span is meant to show the highest influx of emigrants in the modern world. Emigration boomed when the slave trade ceased and continued until travel by sky became predominate in post war years. Brown’s broad interpretation may leave some readers desiring more specifics about an experience, yet readers are not neglected as the author offers comprehensive endnotes. Brown efficiently relies on primary sources, such as parliamentary and congressional papers, to support firsthand experiences on the perilous ocean voyage.

    To develop the argument that crossing the ocean was a rite of passage for emigrants, Brown organized his book with themes; they are the facets of the journey, which include: parting the homeland, becoming human freight, the life of convicts on a voyage, the risks at sea, which occasionally met with death, and feeling like a stranger in the emigrants’ new home. Brown interweaves colorful descriptions of many of Charles Dickens’ popular contemporary fictions when describing conditions in steerage, utilizing literary and cinematic references to illustrate emigrants’ ocean journeys.

    The author takes his readers from port of departure through port of entry. This includes the significant reasons for leaving a homeland where one is comfortable with the language and customs; it also encompasses the towns where booming emigration ports first appeared. Development is seen on vessels as conditions improve. Passage to the World touches his audiences’ empathy to convey the humility emigrants faced relegated to the status of human freight. Food preparation and hygiene are not taken lightly, and Brown smartly draws on his specialty in medicine to outline that while ocean liners fully stratified social classes, viruses and infections indiscriminately struck all people.

    This history successfully molds the conglomeration of emigrant histories into a streamlined explanation that highlights the perils and livelihoods of steerage to first- class cabin passengers on ocean liners. Passage to the World cleverly shines as a welcomed addition to the general public for the collective experiences and trials faced on ocean liners. Brown’s interpretation represents the current stance on emigration; it offers a well-researched look into the risks at sea while offering a comprehensive biography for those looking to delve deeper in the studies of ocean travel.

    • Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2013
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xii + 243 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $45.95
    • ISBN: 9781848321366
    • Distributed in the United States by Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland

    Reviewed by Sara C. Kerfoot, East Carolina University

  • November 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Britain and Colonial Maritime War in the Early Eighteenth Century: Silver, Seapower and the Atlantic

    Shinsuke Satsuma

    Britain and Colonial Maritime War in the Early Eighteenth Century is adapted from the author's PhD research at the University of Exeter. Satsuma identifies an argument used in Britain to promote the idea of war at sea (particularly in the new world) during the War of Spanish Succession and traces its origin, its deployment, and its evolution. Satsuma claims that this argument affected policy and helps explain some of the decisions made by various political factions, but that it is distinct from actual or ideal government policy as explored by other historians, such as Daniel Baugh's 'blue water policy'. The text relies on early eighteenth-century political writing, including letters, pamphlets and government documents, to trace the argument and understand the political attitudes towards colonial maritime war in the early eighteenth century.

    The pro-maritime war argument that Satsuma identifies was historical grounded in the English experience of conflict, especially privateering, in the West Indies in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It promoted war with Spain as economically advantageous: profits from the capture of Spanish prizes, especially the Flota ships, could pay for other operations, limiting the financial burden on the nation. Additionally, war could provide an opportunity to create new trading opportunities with Spanish colonies, either through treaty or by establishing new British colonies in Spanish territory. Proponents of the argument were not unified in their approach or in their broader political ideologies, but only in their support of the idea.

     During the War of Spanish Succession, successful deployment of the pro- maritime war argument resulted in some expeditions, including to Quebec in 1710, and plans for expeditions to the West Indies and the South Seas (particularly the Pacific American coast) that were ultimately mired in political and bureaucratic issues and never carried out. Satsuma argues that the political negotiations at the end of the war appeared to offer alternative routes to securing goals similar to those advanced by supported of the pro-maritime war argument, such as the government's control of the Spanish Asiento trade, and that war began to appear less attractive. During the War of the Quadruple Alliance and Anglo Spanish Conflict of 1726-1729 the pro-maritime war argument resurfaced in a slightly different form, and by the end of the period of conflict it had changed from a tool of the government to a tool of the opposition.

     Satsuma uses the discourse surrounding war at sea to explain the decisions and actions of the government and people in power. The pro-maritime war argument examined is defined very broadly, and as such it is not surprising to find that it persists. Satsuma's more interesting contribution is revealing how the promotion of this argument persistently affected actual policy, legislation, and, in some cases, practice in terms of Britain's maritime warfare and international relations in the period.

    •  Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press
    • 2013 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xii + 284 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $115.00
    • ISBN: 9781843838623

    Reviewed by Heather Hatch, Texas A&M University

  • November 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Ireland and the War at Sea 1641-1653

    Elaine Murphy

    Elaine Murphy’s book examines maritime conflicts that occurred in the waters surrounding Ireland from 1641 to 1653. Throughout much of the seventeenth century, privateering and piracy off of the Irish coast were obstacles for the English navy.

     Ireland’s maritime activities changed significantly in the 1640s and 1650s because naval activities and privateering operations in the area escalated and became more complicated with the eruption of rebellion in Ireland and then England’s civil war.

    England subsequently not only faced somewhat isolated cases of piracy, but also an expanding and organized privateering organization operating out of some of Ireland’s main port towns.

    Murphy’s book is aesthetically well produced, and it has a convenient and generally easy-to-follow layout that is divided into two main parts and a series of appendices. The first part includes four chapters that progress chronologically from the beginning of the rebellion; they provide a history of the wars. She discusses the manner in which the rebellion changed naval concerns as the events at sea gained importance. Murphy then addresses the resilience of the parliamentary navy and the maritime benefits that the Cessation of 1643 provided the royalists and confederates in Ireland.

    Irish privateers managed to economically destabilize the parliamentary navy as they gained prizes between 1646 and 1649, but they did not succeed in threatening parliament’s financial foundation. She also claims that the navy proved to be invaluable to Oliver Cromwell in his conquest of Ireland as it facilitated parliamentary armies in combating the royalist coalition. Details such as these emphasize the importance of sea power in warfare and provide an interesting historic perspective.

    Within the three chapters of the second part of the book, Murphy analyzes aspects concerning both the parliamentary and confederate naval efforts. She discusses the various ships that were utilized during the time and the significance of maritime activity and prize taking to those involved. The author also examines the war off of the coast of Ireland using archival sources to investigate the conduct of   the   opposing forces. For example, she notes that the captain of a confederate privateer, Joseph Content, claimed to have taken around thirty-six ships, but there is no clear account of the method he used to succeed. Her use of archival material to address questions such as these in the absence of readily available narratives is extremely intriguing, and she provides information that otherwise could have been lost to antiquity.

    The book has a few weaknesses despite its many strengths. Although not essential to the primary objective of the work, it would have been interesting if Murphy had provided additional details concerning the manner in which warfare involving privateers and armed merchantmen fit into a more extensive economic context of Europe around that time. Also, even though the author displays three maps in the beginning of the book, she does not integrate them into the relevant chapters or clearly illustrate the locations of naval conflicts. Nevertheless, several figures, maps, and tables included serve to visually convey information. Murphy also provides six helpful appendices that contain various details, and she incorporates her works cited in the form of endnotes along with a bibliography. The included general index, glossary, abbreviations page, and index of ships are all very useful.

    Although Murphy is of the opinion that military campaigns on land often receive more attention than those at sea, she successfully utilizes her work to emphasize the importance of maritime operations around Ireland during the mid-seventeenth century. This book would be particularly useful to those interested in the politics, economics, and logistics of maritime conflict in mid-seventeenth century Ireland. Murphy’s scholarly contribution, though, can be appreciated by anyone with an interest in maritime history.

    •  Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press
    • 2012 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xii + 253 pages
    • Maps, glossary, tables, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. $90.00

    Reviewed by Alyssa Reisner, East Carolina University

  • November 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Naval Leadership and Management 1650-1950: Essays in Honour of Michael Duffy

    Edited by Helen Doe and Richard Harding Woodbridge

    Until recently, studies of naval leadership and management have focused on the contributions of strident individuals, such as Nelson and Drake, but studies of individuals and sweeping war narratives offer a limited view of “…how naval leadership worked in the context of a large, complex, globally capable institution,” like the Royal Navy. Helen Doe and Richard Harding’s Naval Leadership and Management, 1650- 1950 is an excellent overview of the points of entry scholars may take in order to develop a wider view of the evolution of leadership and management in the Royal Navy in the 300 years leading up to World War II. The book is a collection of papers presented at a conference held in honor of Michael Duffy, a scholar who has contributed much to developing this wider view of British naval leadership.

    The papers included in this anthology explore various aspects of four main themes. The first section deals with the place of the hero in the navy. The main assertion of this section is that the Royal Navy was not effective simply because of one or two heroic individuals. Instead, the navy’s efficient organization, paired with strong leaders who were able to deal not only with battle strategy, but with mundane logistical matters, were the lifeblood of an effective navy. The second section explores organizational friction in command matters, such as the confusion over the chain of command with Marine officers between 1755 and 1797. The third section is concerned with the role of management capability in the exercise of naval power. One example of this is the licensing and incentivisation of privateering vessels between 1702 and 1815. The final section deals with the evolution of management and training in the Royal Navy, especially for officers.

    Papers in each of these four strains offer analysis on a variety of topics, mining source material from the British National Maritime Museum, British National Archives, the British Library, and a variety of other naval document collections. Despite the variety of topics presented in the papers, Richard Harding ably presents the overarching themes and intent of the work in the introduction. This helps to tie all the contributions together and helps the reader discern the common thread that runs through each.

    Ample footnotes throughout offer clarification and expansion of ideas, and identify sources for further research.

    There are a few small aspects of this work that are unfortunate. Overall, the editing of the work is weak and grammatical and style errors are common throughout. Perhaps the most disappointing facet of this work is that the subjects discussed focus heavily on the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, leaving the twentieth century somewhat neglected. It would have been nice to see more works that focus on the years around the two World Wars, as this was a transitional time in which the Royal Navy had to overhaul its leadership and management approaches. That said, however, Naval Leadership and Management is an excellent starting point for expanding understandings of leadership and organization in the Royal Navy, and offers an exciting glimpse of what is to come.

    •  Suffolk: The Boydell Press
    • 2012 6-1/4” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xiv + 206 pages
    • Tables, notes, bibliography, index. $99.00

    Reviewed by Stephanie S. Croatt, East Carolina University

  • November 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    The Battle of the Denmark Strait: A Critical Analysis of the Bismarck’s Singular Triumph

    Robert J. Winklareth

    The Battle of the Denmark Strait is considered one of the most famous and defining naval battles of World War II. Fought in May of 1941 in the waters between Greenland and Iceland and between the forces of the British navy, with the battlecruiser HMS Hood and battleship HMS Prince of Wales, against the German battleship Bismarck and cruiser Prinz Eugen, the battle of Bismark Strait pitched the mighty vessels of the German raiding operations against the pride of allied shipping in the North Atlantic.

    Despite being one of the most documented events in world naval history through photographs, war diaries, and official reports, controversy abounds as to the actual mechanisms of the battle and the details of how the battle was fought are confused due to conflicting photographs and battle diagrams. In an attempt to remedy the lasting historical confusion, Robert Winklareth, in The Battle of the Denmark Strait: A Critical Analysis of the Bismarck’s Singular Triumph, provides an extremely detailed look at not only the specific maneuvers of the battle itself, but also the definitive events leading up to the battle--contributing to its outcome, as well as the aftermath and the battle's lasting effects on the remainder of the War.

    Based on a technical analysis of documentary and photographic evidence including salvo-by-salvo descriptions and first-hand accounts, Winklareth examines the scenarios of the Battle of Denmark Strait with an eye for clarification and consolidation into a cohesive account. To provide new evidence for the account, Winklareth reconstructs the factors of naval gunnery including shell to target flight time, reactions and correction time, and recycle times affecting the course if the battle and the ultimate victory of the German force.

    Although the expansive detail provided in the account through salvo descriptions, minute by minute maneuvers and photographic changes add increased evidence for the clarification of the battle, the real highlight of Winklareth's account is that is goes beyond the minute details of the battle, and attempts to understand how the battle fit into the larger picture of global relations, extending years into the past to the resurrection of HMS Hood and the eventual sinking of the notorious Bismarck, and the uncertain future of both German and British warships.

    Whether inadvertently or intentionally, Winklareth provides an excellent account of naval development, expansion, and decline from the era before World War I to after World War II, and pf the fates of vessels Prinz Eugen and Rodney, and lasting interest in Bismarck and the battle, as underwater explorers uncover the remnants of the battle thousands of meters below the surface, showing how Battle of Denmark strait affected world events and continues to affect historical memory.

     Philadelphia: Casemate Publishing

    2012 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, 336 pages

    Photographs, maps, appendices, bibliography, index. $32.95

    Reviewed by Jennifer E. Jones, East Carolina University

  • November 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Voices of the Confederate Navy: Articles, Letters, Reports and Reminiscences

    Edited by R. Thomas Campbell

    Since 1996, R. Thomas Campbell has authored or edited more than fifteen books on Confederate naval history. His books have always been written to appeal to a general, rather than an academic audience. While his earlier works were compilations of the most sensational stories from the Civil War, later works focused on particular topics, individuals, or theaters of the war. Voices of the Confederate Navy, his most recent  book returns to the compilation format, but in a much more comprehensive way than in earlier works. Campbell aims to use sources written by the participants themselves in order to allow their voices to be heard.

    The breadth of this book is impressive. Campbell includes a chapter on every theater of the war, as well as chapters on special topics such as the Confederate States Marine Corps, the Naval School, blockade runners, cruisers, and the Torpedo Bureau. Most theaters receive equal treatment, but Campbell gives the most space to the chapters on Eastern North Carolina (32 pages), the Mississippi River (37 pages) and the Confederate cruisers (53 pages). The chapter on the Confederate Marine Corps is not surprisingly the shortest, at only 5 pages. Within each chapter the expected, familiar material is covered, but Campbell also includes information on little-known ships, battles, and people, which keeps things interesting.

     Within each chapter, Campbell includes selected documents. These documents come from various sources such as the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Southern Historical Society Papers, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Confederate Veteran magazine, and memoirs written by Confederate naval officers after the war. Thomas J. Scharf’s History of the Confederate States Navy (1887) is also used quite extensively. Preceding each document is a brief overview, sometimes written by Campbell himself and sometimes lifted from another source. These introductory statements place the documents within context and familiarize the reader with the topic. For seasoned Civil War naval historians, much of this is common knowledge, but to the general reader the introductory statements are very helpful.

    In the Preface, Campbell acknowledges that his sources are not perfect. Much of this material was written after the war, sometimes decades afterwards, and therefore might not be completely accurate. Memories fade or men consciously try to influence their own legacy when writing memoirs or reminiscences. Many of the Confederate Navy’s records, including all those pertaining to the Confederate States Marine Corps were destroyed during the evacuation of Richmond in April 1865. Therefore, researchers are left with what is available and must use their best judgment. Campbell is not trying to break new interpretive ground with this book, nor does he claim to do so. This is a compilation of documents with some brief explanation, no more and no less. It is a useful reference for general readers who want an overall history of the Confederate Navy, as well as more serious historians who want to easily lay their hands on the documents contained therein. As with all books published by MacFarland, the price of this book is rather steep. However, Campbell sells discounted copies through his personal website; type his name into any search engine to find his site.

    •  Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.
    • 2008 7” x 10”, softcover, 366 pages
    • Photographs, maps, bibliography, index. $35.00

    Reviewed by Andrew Duppstadt, NC State Historic Sites

  • May 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    The British Navy, Economy and Society in the Seven Years War

    Christian Buchet

    "Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics" is an aphorism among those who fight wars for a living. In most naval history books, however, logistics is generally overlooked. This alone would make The British Navy, Economy and Society in the Seven Years War, by Christian Buchet a welcome addition to anyone’s maritime history library. The book was originally written in French and published in 1999. This edition is the first English translation of the book.

    It is a rare study on maritime logistics. It focuses on the Admiralty’s Victualling Board during the middle of the Eighteenth century. The Victualling Board provided the Royal Navy’s rations.

    The book is more than just a dry catalog of facts. It is also informative, readable, and revealing. Buchet provides a comprehensive look at the Victualling Board. He presents a look at the mission and organization of the Board, the bases it used and how they were run, the markets they created, and the men that supplied them. 

    Buchet presents a picture startlingly different from the one often-read in popular history or maritime fiction about the sailing-era Royal Navy. Rather than the corrupt and inept organization of popular imagination, Buchet shows that by 1750 the Victualling Board was efficient, effective, and economical. It provided sufficient quantities of good quality food and beverages to Royal Navy warships. It cut prices paid for most commodities over the Seven Years War without sacrificing quality.

    Buchet backs this assertion with copious statistics and thorough documentation. He even presents the likely source for modern myths about Royal Navy victualing: an individual fired by the Victualing Board in 1745 for producing spoiled and rotten provisions who wrote a muckraking pamphlet.

    Buchet’s conclusions seem obvious in retrospect. A navy whose sailors were fueled by rotten beef, musty flour, rock-hard cheese, and putrid beer could not long remain at sea, much less project power as the Royal Navy did from 1750 to 1815.

    His book is also filled with information as amusing as it is informative. The Victualling Board:

    • Avoided excise taxes on imported wine by supplying it only at Guernsey—a port exempt from import duties
    • Held surplus sales of food past their “use by” date or spoilt in storage, some of which was purchased by non-naval contractors to feed prisoners of war.
    • Not only regularly inspected the items it purchased, it seemingly took delight in publicly exposing shoddy contractors. 

    These nuggets, with others like them, add a human face to a dry academic topic.

    Readers whose interests lie only in the naval architecture of the period, wargamers, and pure model-makes may decide this book is outside their scope of interest. For hard-core maritime and naval history buffs, this is a book worth reading. If you plan to write about the era, it is must-have and must-read. Buchet’s book presents a fresh look at an often overlooked aspect of naval history.

    • Translated by Anita Higgie and Michael Duffy
    • Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2013
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xiii + 302 pages
    • Tables, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $115.00
    • ISBN: 9781843838012

    Reviewed by Mark Lardas, League City, Texas

  • May 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Captain Bulloch: The Life of James Dunworthy Bulloch, Naval Agent of the Confederacy

    Stephen Chapin Kinnaman

    Stephen Chapin Kinnaman's Captain Bulloch: The Life of James Dunwoody Bulloch, Naval Agent of the Confederacy, presents a biography of the foremost Confederate naval agent in Europe during the Civil War. Detailed descriptions and meticulous research reveal the life story of a fascinating individual, and reflect the history of the United States' most devastating conflict. While Kinnaman has successfully brought Bulloch to life, he has avoided critical analysis and presents the image of a man too flawless to be realistic.

    Kinnaman's research draws from contemporary newspapers, family papers and correspondence, and military records. He traces the Bulloch family from its roots in Scotland and follows the family's immigration and colonial American experience, before exploring the life of James Dunwoody Bulloch himself. Bulloch's service as a young officer in the United States Navy and his subsequent career in the merchant marine established his talents as an accomplished naval professional. These valuable skills enabled his work for the Confederacy, especially his dominant role in the creation of the Confederate cruisers Florida, Alabama, and Shenandoah, as well as the purchasing and commissioning of Confederate warships and blockade-runners. Kinnaman's narrative explores the decisions and strategies employed by the manager of the Confederacy’s European naval activities, highlighting Bulloch's delicate maneuverings through international law, politics, and diplomacy. 

    The biography employs a fascinating blend of the personal and professional elements of Bulloch's life to illustrate the whole man, but while Kinnaman has produced valuable information on this frequently [SR1]overlooked figure of the Confederacy, his claim that Bulloch's "unique talents in the service of the Confederacy were largely responsible for its untimely demise" is both unsupported and untenable in the face of the larger body of Civil War scholarship. While Kinnaman highlights Bulloch’s considerable naval contributions by reviewing his Confederate vessels, organization of Confederate Navy finances, and role in devising naval strategies, no man's actions, no matter how pivotal, can be held responsible for the outcome of this war. The statement is thus more revelatory of the author's devotion to his subject than indicative of a considered analysis.

    Interwoven anecdotes, fascinating historical coincidences, and connections to noteworthy figures all enhance the book's readability, especially the Bulloch family's connection to the powerful Roosevelt dynasty. Discussion of Bulloch's post-war career in Liverpool as a British citizen centers on his relationship with his young nephew, future President Theodore Roosevelt. This intriguing history continues to grip the reader even after Bulloch’s exciting international naval career has passed.

    Editing errors and typos occasionally distract from Kinnaman's narrative, and prose is littered by many inferences of Bulloch's possible emotions, indicating a lack of objectivity towards the subject—but Kinnaman's obvious passion also engages his audience.

    Overall, Kinnaman's biography presents a fascinating account of an important and largely neglected historical character, presented both as crucial figure for the Confederacy and emblematic of the American experience. Though occasionally sentimental, Kinnaman’s narrative serves as a valuable guide to an extensive array of source material, significant and helpful to any researcher of the Confederate Navy. 

    • Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing, 2013
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, xv + 562 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $45.00
    • ISBN: 9781957518225

    Reviewed by Jeneva Wright, East Carolina University

  • May 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    The Fight for the Yazoo, August 1862-July 1864: Swamps, Forts and Fleets on Vicksburg’s Northern Flank

    Myron J. Smith, Jr.

    Having published six books in as many years about the western theater Civil War navies, Myron J. Smith, Jr. has established himself as one of the foremost authorities on the subject. His recent works include a biography of a Union naval officer in the western theater, two studies of unique classes of vessels (timberclads and tinclads), two histories of individual vessels (USS Carondelet and CSS Arkansas), and the work under review here, which is essentially a regional study. As with all of Smith’s work, this study is thoroughly researched and densely detailed, at times almost to its own detriment. Readers familiar with Smith’s work will know exactly what they are in for before ever opening the book.

    After an opening Introduction and Acknowledgements, a chapter detailing the landscape and environmental conditions of the Yazoo region, and a chapter about the destruction of the Confederate ironclad CSS Arkansas, Smith lays out the remainder of the book as a chronological study of the various phases of the war in and around the Yazoo River, from the earliest Union reconnaissance to the eventual Union control of the entire region by late 1864. Each chapter is thick with detail and the book is well illustrated throughout, particularly with photographs of people and ships as they appear in the text. Coming in at nearly 400 pages, this is literally a blow-by-blow account of nearly two years of warfare. The tremendous amount of detail can make the book difficult to work through at times, but the amount of information is certainly very valuable to researchers looking for a starting point for further inquiry. The bibliography is extensive, including many primary sources.

    There are some significant issues that plague this book, and they are the same issues that seem to appear in each of Smith’s works. It is enough to make one wonder whether these are faults of the author or the publisher, as all of Smith’s recent works have been published by the same company. Typographical mistakes and simple factual errors can be found throughout the book. A few examples include Helena, Arkansas being referred to as Helena, Arizona and photographs of steamboats being mislabeled on pages 34 and 36 (a side wheel steamboat is labeled as a stern wheel and vice versa). These types of mistakes are easily corrected if more careful editing is undertaken. Another issue involves citation of sources. As with all of Smith’s works, each endnote contains far too many sources cited, making the notes confusing. More frequent citations containing fewer sources per note would be more helpful. Although the book is replete with illustrations, more maps might prove useful for readers who may not be familiar with the region’s geography. Finally, though the book contains a tremendous amount of detail, it is short on analysis. There is no real conclusion; rather the story ends abruptly. Ideally, the Acknowledgements would receive a page unto itself, and the author would expand the well-written Introduction and add a Conclusion to complement it. 

    • Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2012
    • 7” x 10”, softcover, 452 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $52.25
    • ISBN: 9780786462810 

    Reviewed by Andrew Duppstadt, North Carolina State Historic Sites

  • May 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Hunting the Essex: A Journal of the Voyage of HMS Phoebe 1813-1814

    Midshipman Allen Gardiner

    Primary accounts of voyages or seagoing careers are indispensable resources for maritime historians and archaeologists, and so new publications of this type are always welcome. Hunting the Essex is a modest but worthy addition to the genre. The handy little duodecimo-sized volume, a product of Seaforth Publishing, presents the journal kept by Royal Navy Midshipman Allen Gardiner during the voyage of His Majesty’s frigate Phoebe to the Pacific Ocean in 1813-1814. Phoebe’s crushing defeat of the United States frigate Essex is one of the more famous naval encounters of the Anglo-American War of 1812, and inspired parts of the novel The Far Side of the World by the celebrated writer Patrick O’Brian.

    Gardiner’s journal serves as a breezy counterpoint to United States Navy Captain David Porter’s well-known and somewhat controversial Journal of a Cruise, the two-volume narrative of Essex’s famous voyage published shortly after the War of 1812. In the latter work Porter exhaustively relates the details of his campaign against British whaling ships in the Pacific, provides insights into his strategic and tactical decisions, and accuses Phoebe’s captain of dishonorable conduct in battle. Gardiner’s journal, on the other hand, gives us the perspective of a nineteen-year-old junior lieutenant on a long voyage far from home. He had a keen eye for geography, foreign cultures, ancient ruins, and attractive ladies, and accordingly devotes considerable ink to his adventures on land. Life at sea and the cruise of Phoebe are part of the narrative, but a relatively small part, and his eyewitness description of the battle between Phoebe and Essex at Valparaiso, Chile is disappointingly brief. Despite its limitations Gardiner’s account has a refreshing candidness that captures the spirit of its youthful writer: Phoebe may be engaged in a dramatic hunt for a marauding frigate, but Gardiner seemingly finds it just as interesting to be dancing until the wee hours of the morning with the senoritas of Lima, Peru.

    The original Gardiner journal was purchased, transcribed, and edited by Ohio State University Professor Emeritus John S. Reiske, who unfortunately died before its publication. The book’s introduction, by renowned naval historian Andrew Lambert of King’s College, London, provides readers with a useful historical context for Lieutenant Gardiner, the war, and the cruise of Phoebe. Lambert has strong opinions about the conflict, and clearly has scant patience for Captain Porter’s lamentations or American claims of victory in the War of 1812. Both the introduction and the journal narrative are thoroughly cited, and the book includes a map at the front and eight plates with contemporary portraits and prints.

    Hunting the Essex is recommended for scholars and laymen with an interest in the War of 1812 in particular and early nineteenth-century naval history in general. 

    • Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2013
    • 4-3/4” x 7”, hardcover, viii + 152 pages
    • Illustrations, map, appendix, notes,bibliography. $29.95
    • ISBN: 9781848321748 

    Reviewed by Kevin J. Crisman, Texas A&M University


The Nautical Research Guild regularly publishes reviews of books about naval/maritime history and ship modeling.  Each issue of the Nautical Research Journal includes several book reviews, but there are often more book reviews than the Journal can accommodate. 

The listing below includes book reviews for each issue of the Journal starting with Volume 58.  You may browse the reviews by the issue of the Journal, by book title, or by author.

Book reviews marked 'Journal Only' (and are not clickable) are found in the pages of the listed issue of the Nautical Research Journal.

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