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

    Oceans Odyssey 3: The Deep-Sea Tortugas Shipwreck, Straits of Florida: A Merchant Vessel from Spain’s 1622 Tierra Firme Fleet

    Greg Stemm and Sean Kingsley

    The aim of the first of the two volumes on the archaeology of the Dry Tortugas shipwreck is to present the results of the artifact analysis and to propose a tentative identification for the ship. This book also expresses Odyssey Marine Exploration’s commitment to sharing the results of their work with society. However, after twenty years since the conclusion of the excavation, only a collection of six preliminary reports was produced.

    The Dry Tortugas shipwreck was partially excavated by Seahawk Deep Ocean Technology of Tampa between 1990 and 1991. This project was a commercial operation directed to identify valuable artifacts. The site is located at a depth of 450 meters off the Tortugas Islands in the Florida Keys. Due to its depth, it was excavated exclusively using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) which recorded the position of the artifacts before to be recovered. This shipwreck has been tentatively identified as the Portuguese-built and Spanish-operated 117-ton Buen Jesús y Nuestra Señora del Rosario, a small merchant ship of the ill-fated Tierra Firme fleet of 1622.

    The analysis of the site and the artifact assemblage is presented in a descriptive manner accompanied by various small-scale artifact distribution plans. The chapters are illustrated with color photographs showing the excavation work and artifacts. Unfortunately, the location of the images rarely matches what is written in the text, and there are no archaeological illustrations. The authors provide nonessential data in an attempt to support their analysis, but this information is often irrelevant to the archaeological interpretation of the shipwreck. For example, the section on the chemical composition of ballast stone samples did not include any reference to their provenance. Additionally, personal comments are frequently used to validate ideas proposed in the text that cannot be verified in the bibliography, such as Lyon’s comment to justify the presence of silver coins minted in Mexico on board the Tierra Firme fleet ships. Contradictions in the analysis also exist between different chapters of the book, like the analysis of the same pig bones assemblage in chapters Three and Five. In an effort to compensate for the inconsistencies in the book, the authors refer to forthcoming publications, which would have strengthened the quality of the book had they been included. 

    With respect to the proposed identification of the shipwreck, the historical and archaeological evidence is not conclusive apart from confirming the date of the shipwreck and its connection to the Tierra Firme fleet of 1622. The identification relies on the measurement of the ship’s keel whose accuracy is uncertain. An identification based on the dimensions of hull components would require a complete study of the hull timbers through an accurate hull plan to provide their exact dimensions. The absence of a homeward-bound manifest to be correlated with the artifact assemblage makes the historical interpretation of the shipwreck speculative. Although Kingsley suggests an interesting theory, it seems that further archaeological and archival research is needed to confirm the shipwreck identity.

    Although Odyssey Marine Exploration has made an effort to prove that for-profit excavations can be conducted and published in a scientific archaeological manner, the outcome seems to prove otherwise. It has to be noted that this excavation was aimed to recover valuable artifacts; the hull remains were not systematically recorded and 8,400 artifacts from the original assemblage were sold so they cannot be reexamined. Contrary to what the authors believe, all these factors compromise the scientific value of their archaeological interpretations rather than aid them. 

    • Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2013
    • 8-3/4” x 11-1/4”, hardcover xxv + 190 pages
    • Illustrations, tables, notes, bibliographies. $39.95
    • ISBN: 9781782971481 

    Reviewed by Jose Luis Casaban

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

    The Transformation of British Naval Strategy: Seapower and Supply in Northern Europe, 1808-1812

    James Davey

    The Napoleonic War after 1805 has traditionally been described as a conflict between the Tiger and the Shark, or the Elephant and the Whale. James Davey, Research Curator at the National Maritime Museum and Visiting Lecturer at the University of Greenwich, contends that Britain’s naval and maritime prowess reshaped the outcome of the war after 1805. In fact, lessons learned after decades of naval operations—fighting battles, blockading enemy ports and vessels, and convoying supplies, men, and trade—across the globe permitted the British navy to accomplish their national strategic goals.

    During the war against Napoleon, the Navy served as the most important arm of British strategy. Yet the Navy’s role during the conflict is far more complicated than most acknowledge. Davey describes how after Trafalgar, Napoleon waged economic war with his Berlin (1806) and Milan (1807) decrees, trying to cripple Britain financially. Britain responded with a series of Orders in Council in an attempt to control all trade to and from the continent. After 1805 the British scored no dramatic victories against French fleets but rather faced the mundane task of blockading Napoleon’s ports, which meant constantly keeping ships supplied on distant stations. The British Navy redeployed from the Bay of Biscay to Portugal and the Mediterranean in the South and to the Baltic Sea in the North, stretching supply lines and making it even more difficult for the fleet to fulfill its mission. Between 1808 and 1812 the British fleet in the Baltic Sea under the command of Sir Admiral James Saumarez protected trade, organized convoys, and offered European merchants under France’s orbit the chance to renew illicit trade and commerce, which undermined Napoleon’s economic decrees. The presence of the British fleet in the Baltic also blockaded the Russian fleet in port, depriving Napoleon access to the second largest fleet in Europe after Trafalgar, and drove Russia away from its French alliance. 

    Perhaps Davey’s most important contribution reveals how sweeping British administrative reforms enacted between 1808 and 1812 created a highly effective logistical system, which permitted British ships to remain on the Baltic Station for as long as necessary. By highlighting the provisioning and constant transport of supplies to the Baltic Squadron, Davey offers the first systematic study of these areas and proves how the success of the Royal Navy depended on government and administration as much as on the fighting capabilities of ships and fleets.

    Effective logistics and ample supplies win wars; the British supply system that developed by the early nineteenth century transformed naval operations, permitting the navy to pursue crucial objectives of national importance, protect essential exports and imports and attack the economies of the Napoleonic Empire, ultimately contributing to the defeat of France. This proves that naval history also encompasses administrative, economic, and political influences, and Davey makes that clear. Military and naval historians will find this book very useful. 

    • Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2012
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, ix + 237 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, tables, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. $99.00
    • ISBN: 9781843837480

    Reviewed by Gene Allen Smith, Texas Christian University

  • February 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862

    John K. Driscoll

    Much has been written about America’s entry into the Civil War, including the inept Buchannan administration that sought to ignore any hostilities until the Lincoln administration took over. When all attempts at reconciliation and appeasement failed, the separation was complete with the bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter in South Carolina by Confederate forces. However, there was one other major fortification that the Confederates needed but failed to capture: Fort Pickens that guarded Pensacola Bay. In this work, Driscoll explains how, in the months leading up to and throughout the war, the Federals were able to hang onto such a vital asset.

    What makes this work so communicative is the focus on the importance of Pensacola Bay, and its naval and military infrastructure: the naval yard and the ring of forts built to protect Pensacola Bay from foreign intrusions. Driscoll successfully brings out the political and military machinations by both Federal and Confederate government officials and officers, both in their respective capitals and on scene at Pensacola. Pensacola Bay was vital to anybody who could possess it, especially in conjunction with the subsequent fortifications. While Confederate forces secured the naval yard and two of the three forts guarding Pensacola Bay, they failed to take Fort Pickens; a thorn in their side which would come to haunt them in the years to come.

    In a prologue and through twelve subsequent chapters Driscoll effectively describes the slow roll out of secession and hostilities and how they led to a standoff in the only southern port that remained in Union hands throughout the entire war. Through the use of primary sources, such as personal letters, journals, communications between the local officers and officials in both the Federal and Confederate capitals, he is able to portray a period of time of confusion and missed opportunities as well as inept Federal administrations. Indeed, many of the tribulations that the officer who assumed command of Fort Pickens and those commanding the United States Navy ships on station suffered through were due to an ineffectual Buchanan administration and two conflicting federal departments: the Navy department and the Army department, which refused to work together. This focus by Driscoll is one of the strengths of his book as it presents a vision of how the war evolved, of which many people may not be aware.

    The book is thoroughly researched and presents over seventy illustrations, including pictures and drawings of people, military camps and military installations, fortifications, and ships. As for any criticism of the work, one that quickly comes to mind is the lack of an overall site plan of Pensacola Bay and its features. An extended site plan would be extremely beneficial to readers as it would help develop a good mental picture as events occurred.

    The work may not be meant for a general audience, I would, however, recommend it to a number of readers including those interested in understanding how the war unfolded overall, and especially along the Gulf Coast. In the end, it is evident that Driscoll put effort into research and writing, thus producing an informative product. The work covers a specific part of part of the Civil War that perhaps has not been covered to such a degree in any other work or study, and would be an appropriate addition to anybody’s library.

    • Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2013
    • 7” x 10”, softcover, 234 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $29.95
    • ISBN: 99780786473124

    Reviewed Wayne Abrahamson, University of West Florida

  • February 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    The Marine Chronometer: Its History and Development

    Rupert T. Gould

    The successful development of the marine chronometer in the mid-eighteenth century revolutionized navigation, since it allowed for simple computation of longitude through the comparison of the difference in time between one’s location and a fixed point. Whereas other methods required complex mathematical calculations using data from celestial observations, determining longitude needed only an accurate timepiece.

    This, of course, was the rub, since clock errors would have potentially catastrophic consequences. The Antique Collectors’ Club new edition of Rupert Gould’s classic treatise on the topic presents an exhaustive analysis of the entire process of the development of marine chronometers from the earliest efforts in the first part of the sixteenth century to their final versions some 450 years later. The author lays out this story in clear language that thoroughly explains not only the technological developments in design and materials but also the processes for evaluation and adoptions.

    This is not only reproduction of the original astonishingly comprehensive study but also includes a new brief introduction that extends its scope beyond Gould’s death, and adds a very informative picture gallery that surveys the chronometer’s development. As one might expect from the publisher, this is a truly handsome presentation. Practically every page contains images—drawings, diagrams, period illustrations, and photographs of extant examples—all crisply reproduced on high-quality paper. Even the endpapers are works of art! Collectors and researchers will find this a treasure trove of information. 

    Zeit auf See is geared to a very different audience, since it was issued originally in conjunction with an exhibit at the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum in Bremerhaven. Nevertheless, it does an excellent job in presenting a concise history of the development of the marine chronometer through a series of twenty-four very short chapters. The text is fully bilingual (German and English) and is integrated with superb full-color photographs of examples from the museum’s collection. Although its brevity necessarily means that many topics receive only limited attention, it brings the story right up to date, with sections covering modern testing methods, radio location finding, and global positioning satellite systems.

    Whereas Gould’s monumental work is very markedly Anglocentric, Zeit auf See is more inclusive and presents a fair selection of timepieces from Continental Europe as well. Its physical appearance belies its paperback status and low cost; the color reproduction is excellent and the paper if high quality.

    These two books take very different approaches to their subject but both succeed admirably in their goals. The specialist inevitably will choose Gould but those with less interest in details will find Zeit auf See very satisfying indeed. 

    • Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Antique Collectors’ Club, 2013
    • 8” x 10-1/2”, hardcover, lv + xvi + 287 pages
    • Photographs, diagrams, appendices, notes, indices. $125.00
    • ISBN: 9781851493654 
    • Zeit auf See: Chronometer und ihre Schöpfer High-Tech aus drei Jahrhunderten (Time at Sea: Chronometers and their Creators: Three Centuries of Cutting Edge Technology)
    • Bremerhaven: Oceanum Verlag, 2012
    • 8-1/4” x 8-1/4”, softcover, 136 pages
    • German-English text, photographs, diagrams. €19.90

    Reviewed by Christopher Voss, San Francisco, California

  • February 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    Men of Iron: USS Constitution’s War of 1812 Crew

    Matthew Brenkle, Lauren McCormack and Sarah Watkins

    USS Constitution defeated the British warships Guerriere, Java, Pictou, Cyane and Levant during the War of 1812, which cemented its place in American history. In addition to its pivotal role in the war, Constitution is the oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat, and, as such, has inspired much literature. Most of these written works focus on the anatomy of Constitution, the role that the ship played in the War of 1812, and the recent efforts in its preservation. Men of Iron: USS Constitution’s War of 1812 Crew, however, focuses exclusively on the men who ran the ship and their experiences during the war. Matthew Brenckle, Lauren McCormack, and Sarah Watkins, who are part of the faculty and staff of the USS Constitution Museum, combine their historical knowledge to explore this often overlooked topic in a reader-friendly style. This non-fiction paperback consists of sixty-eight pages divided into five chapters, featuring topics such as recruitment, daily life, training and discipline, performance in battle, and the aftermath of the war for Constitution’s crew.

    After a brief prologue on Constitution’s role in the war, the authors begin the book by describing the recruitment process. Constitution did not have problems recruiting sailors during the War of 1812. The best seamen, who often included colored men and older veterans, were eager to sign on because Constitution was a “lucky ship” with a reputation for being well-organized. After being recruited, the crew lived on board the three-masted 44-gun frigate while preparing for battle. Sharing the cramped quarters with 450 men was a challenge because of the strict cleaning routine, training, and repetitive meals. Most of their time was spent training, which involved “quartering” the men and drilling them. If men fell out of line, punishment included “starting” incompetent individuals, withholding daily grog allowances, or flogging culprits with a cat-o’-nine-tails. When Constitution engaged in its first battle, it earned its nickname, “Old Ironsides,” after two heavy shots from Guerriere struck Constitution’s wooden hull and bounced off without inflicting any damage. “Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!” became the ship’s claim to fame after this encounter. 

    Following the victory against Guerriere, Constitution won several other battles against the British, and the crew returned home to lavish celebrations in their honor. The book concludes with a dedication to the men who were behind Constitution’s success and a list of each individual on board.

    Although this publication does not contain new research or provide previously unknown information on nineteenth-century ships’ crews, it does present the data in a fresh and enjoyable way. Of great value are the fifty-six color images of photographs, paintings, documents, and artifacts which truly bring the crew of Constitution to life. Additionally, the facts presented in Men of Iron are supported by historical documents, genealogical and demographic data, official letters and correspondences, and memoirs and journals, making it an academically sound publication. The authors’ joint efforts have yielded a wealth of detail on this fascinating topic, which will be a delight to both academics and anyone interested in one of the most famous vessels in American history. 

    • Charlestown, Massachusetts: USS Constitution Museum, 2012
    • 8-1/2” x 11”, softcover, 68 pages
    • Illustrations, tables, notes. $10.00
    • ISBN: 9780615672069 

    Reviewed by Grace Tsai, Texas A&M University

  • February 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    Shipping in the Medieval Military: English Maritime Logistics in the Fourteenth Century

    Craig L. Lambert

    Craig Lambert, a research assistant at the University of Hull, brings to light the important logistical role of less notable men in the wars conducted by Edward II and Edward III, namely the medieval mariner and his myriad of partners responsible for the raising, outfitting, and transporting of armies and their requisite supplies by sea. For though the English Channel is not the Atlantic Ocean, undertaking a crossing for the invasion of France required logistical virtues that foreshadowed later English naval logistics: the well organized and highly efficient garnering of resources (including crews, ports, and supplies), their organization, and their distribution.

    From the outset of his well-crafted historiographical introduction, Lambert immediately engages his readers with two excerpts by fourteenth-century travelers to relate the perilous nature of seafaring in the medieval period. Lambert illustrates the dangerous nature of maritime travel, but also the necessary role of merchant fleets in supplying and transporting invading armies of Edward II, Edward III, and the Black Prince. He illustrates, as an example, the ample amount of scholarship devoted to land campaigns, but points out that just how the Crown raised the 1342 invasion fleet of 487 ships, sailed by 8,796 mariners, carrying 4,500 soldiers, remains unexplored by historians. The focus of Lambert’s work is an assessment of the “contribution made by maritime communities to the supply and transportation of troops during the period 1320-1360.”

    The succeeding four chapters discuss the above subject in detail, with statistical and anecdotal evidence from a vast selection of primary sources. Lambert divides the content into clear and easy to follow categories, each chapter focusing on the logistical organizational systems, time lines, advances, and changes over time in how the Edwardians raised their fleets. Chapter 1 covers the specific logistics of raising a fleet; Chapter 2, in detail, discusses the logistics and preparations for war as well as the supplying armies and garrisons by sea. Chapter 3 examines the preparation of fleets and their transportation of English armies to France by the Edwardians, and Chapter 4 addresses maritime resources of the Kings’ wars. Lambert finishes the body of his text with a well-rounded conclusion, tying in his extensive research with his main argument regarding the undeniably critical role of maritime resources in medieval English military operations. Supplemental to the introduction, four chapters, and conclusion, are two appendixes. The first lists each port, by county, that contributed supplies to fleets. The second describes Lambert’s methodology for how he reconstructed the fleets, with detail to their identification, and how he calculated their size and composition. The latter may be of some use to historians wishing to undertake a similar medieval maritime endeavor, whereas the former, interesting to both the historical enthusiast and academics alike. 

    Although not particularly interested in military or naval logistics, this reviewer found the book an enjoyable and eye-opening read. So much literature exists on the land operations of medieval-modern European armies, with only a fraction of attention given to how those armies arrived at their destination. Though logistical history may not be every history buff’s cup of tea, anyone devoted to the Edwardian conquests in Scotland and France may find these underlying and crucial supply forces of surprising interest. The work is well written, well argued, and supported with a substantial array of primary sources with a scholarly demonstration of Lambert’s knowledge of secondary material devoted to his topic. The period 1320-1360 has an obvious terminus, but excluding Edward II’s failed Bannockburn campaign of 1314 seems to leave the chronology with a somewhat capricious start. Other than a few citation irregularities with tables, there is little to critique in this work. Regarding the tables overall, they are well put together and Lambert makes ample use of the data provided in supporting his discussions on maritime logistics—an inherently complicated subject conveyed quite satisfactorily with well-structured arguments and clear language. Lambert’s book is an excellent contribution to medieval, military, and maritime history. This reviewer hopes Lambert’s attention to a less than popularly explored area of research reminds historians in general to consider the maritime and naval sides of things—the land and the sea. 

    • Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2011
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xiii + 243 pages
    • Tables, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $90.00
    • ISBN: 9781843836544 

    Reviewed by Daniel M. Brown, Coastal Carolina University

  • February 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    Titanic Voices: 63 Survivors Tell Their Extraordinary Stories

    Hannah Holman

    The author of Titanic Voices, Hannah Holman, provides an objective presentation of the experiences of those who witnessed the legendary sinking. Holman worked to ensure that this book gave readers the opportunity to better understand the event through the words of those most closely related to it. She did not want to create another reinterpretation of the tragedy, but she does build off the interest created by popular films and novels. The book appeals to the general public, and Holman’s direct presentation of the information makes it accessible to the average individual interested in the subject.

    Holman chose to satisfy her childhood intrigue with the sinking of Titanic and her passions for the subject by creating this book as a side project outside of her career. The author received her degree in English Literature from the University of Birmingham, which provided substantial training in the area of investigative reading needed for the inclusion of first-hand accounts in her book. Her educational background also gave her the necessary writing ability to author this piece, her first book.

    The author relied on the narratives of survivors for the majority of her book, but did reach out to respected authors well versed in the subject, such as Tad Fitch and George Behe, to assist her in providing additional information on the event. The supplementary information allowed Holman to establish the context needed to comprehend the first-hand accounts, derived from newspaper interviews, the United States Senate Inquiry, and the British Board of Trade Inquiry. Holman arranged the testimonies in chronological order to display the transition in the tone of the individuals as the ship sank further into the cold Atlantic waters, and to illustrate that class had an impact on the order in which individuals escaped. The book also contains a mid-section collection of photographs, drawings, and newspaper clippings that assist the reader in visualizing the authors of the narratives and the events described in their accounts.

    Despite the interesting and informative accounts, Holman does not contribute to the compilation of academic studies in this field. As opposed to a critical analysis of the sources, documented by a list of references, that supports an original thesis, the author provides merely a collection of primary sources. This omission does not mean the book lacks value. Holman’s work allows researchers easily to access otherwise unknown or difficult to locate resources, and could be a good starting point for students, enthusiasts and professionals.

    The casual Titanic enthusiast will consider this piece a desirable addition to their bookshelves. While Holman does not fill the role of a typical academic study, she has provided a unique product to the assortment of publications in this popular genre. Holman presented an unusually large collection of eyewitness testimonies, which includes the experiences of second and third class passengers; individuals often forgotten. Her timely publication, within a year of the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking, will undoubtedly help to fulfill the growing interest in the general public to further their knowledge on the experiences of those who survived the horrendous disaster. 

    • Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2011
    • 9 ¼” X 6 ¼”, hardcover, 436 pages
    • Introduction, images, further reading
    • ISBN: 9781445602226

    Reviewed by Martha Tye, University of West Florida

  • February 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    The War of 1812 and the Rise of the U.S. Navy

    Mark Collins Jenkins and David A. Taylor

    Mark Jenkins and David Taylor wrote The War of 1812 and the Rise of the U.S. Navy in commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The authors provide a well-written narrative of the War of 1812, including ample first-hand accounts of events and effectively highlight the rise of the United Staes Navy as it pertained to the war. It is a great introductory work for anyone who wants to learn more about the War of 1812 or the early history of America’s Navy, but it offers little to enthusiasts and does little to help advance scholarship on the subject.

    The book’s five chapters cover a different front of the war during a different year. It starts by exploring the early origins of the war and the creation of United States Navy, and from there covers every year and major campaign of the war from Canada, to the Great Lakes, the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, Washington D.C., and New Orleans. The authors’ narrative of the war is easy to follow and enjoyable. Although the work is focused on the United States Navy, the authors do well to incorporate the major events of the war that are necessary to the narrative of the war, but have little to do (directly) with the navy. The reader benefits from their effort to explain the extensive naval terminology, making it possible for any reader to easily follow their narrative.

    The authors use primary sources very well and incorporate them into almost every facet of the book. Particularly useful are the first-hand accounts of the naval engagements from participants on both sides. One feature of the book that cannot go unnoticed is the work’s use of illustrations, maps, and images of artifacts. Their placement throughout the book is superb, with at least one on every page. It is clear the authors put a lot of effort into selecting the right image, illustration, picture, and map associated with each page and each one fits perfectly with the event that is covered. Also helpful were the descriptions beside each illustration, map, or image to help explain its significance to the topic when it was necessary for some of the more obscure topics. 

    Although the work was well written and enjoyable, the authors make no argument in the work and it is only a narrative of the major events of the war, along with an account of the significant role the navy played in the war. This book is good for anyone who is looking for an introduction on the War of 1812 and does particularly well at highlighting the early history of America’s Navy. For those who already possess a background in the War of 1812 it is an enjoyable read, but it offers little new evidence or any new arguments to help advance scholarship in the field. 

    • Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2012
    • 12-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, ix + 270 pages
    • Illustrations, bibliography, index. $30.00
    • ISBN: 9781426209338 

    Reviewed by Patrick J. Klinger, East Carolina University

  • February 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    William B. Cushing in the Far East: A Civil War Naval Hero Abroad, 1865-1869

    Julian R. McQuiston

    Julian McQuinston’s work puts forth a two-pronged narrative based on the letters and journals of Civil War hero William B. Cushing. Cushing was a young naval officer in the Union Navy who earned his fame by sinking CSS Albemarle. After the war ended, Cushing entered into an engagement with Kate Forbes, a young lady from Cushing’s hometown of Fredonia, New York. Their budding relationship was put on hold, however, when Cushing was assigned to a four-year stint in the Far East as commander of USS Maumee. During the course of this work, McQuiston details the dynamics of their long-distance relationship as presented in letters they wrote to one another during Cushing’s time in the East. In addition to the “love story,” McQuiston intertwines historical information about United States naval activities and customs in the Far East in the years after the Civil War.

    The narrative is, overall, very engaging, but the introductory chapter is somewhat chronologically confusing. While introducing the characters and Cushing’s background, McQuiston jumps back and forth in time, and the result is a slightly confusing beginning to the narrative. In spite of this, the purpose of the book is fairly simple, and the reader is able to follow the slightly obscured procession of events. The end of the book also seems abrupt, and certainly would have benefitted from a brief prologue about Kate and William Cushing’s relationship after he returned, and about Cushing’s death. The dearth of information about Cushing’s death is confounding, especially since it is mentioned and alluded to a few times in the book. Nonetheless, this is not a major shortcoming and does not detract from the many strong aspects of this work. 

    This work is richly illustrated with photographs of the objects and people dealt with. McQuiston uses excellent illustrative selections from Cushing’s journals and letters that show his attitudes about the different cultures he encountered, his experience with naval customs required of officers, and his outlook on his relationship with Kate. McQuiston also places these writings and reactions in their larger historical context. This contextual information helps to flesh out the narrative and make for a satisfying and informative read. Overall, William B. Cushing in the Far East is a great contribution to works that explore the interactions between the United Staes and the East in a time when the Navy was recuperating after the devastation of the Civil War and working toward being an international presence and tool of American diplomacy.

    • Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2013
    • 6” x 9”, softcover, vi + 222 pages
    • Photographs, notes, bibliography, index. $35.00
    • ISBN: 9780786470556

    Reviewed by Stephanie Croatt, East Carolina University

  • February 15, 2014 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    X-1: The Royal Navy’s Mystery Submarine

    Roger Branfill-Cook

    X.1: The Royal Navy’s Mystery Submarine grabs a reader’s attention from the start. The title indicates a dramatic read full of suspense and intrigue, but the book provides more with the truth about the often misrepresented boat. Branfill-Cook, a retired insurance writer and current translator of French books on historical and military subjects, seeks to clarify historical misinformation about X.1 and bring the story of the initially hidden, often ignored, and certainly ill-fated submarine to light.

    To achieve this goal, the author delivers twelve chapters and three appendices. The first chapter provides a history of giant submarines that influenced X.1’s design and armament. These submarines range from early twentieth- century German-built Russian-owned versions to German U-boats that the British captured during World War I. Although the author is thorough in his discussion of the submarines, prior familiarization with the historical circumstances occurring in this period would be beneficial and make the reading experience more pleasurable for the reader.

    Chapters two through six explore the design plans, armament, equipment and construction of X.1. These five chapters include many plan drawings and renderings of the interior of the boat. Each portion of the boat is discussed, and the reader gains an extensive knowledge of X.1 from the keel to the exterior paint schemes., At no point would these be considered easy reading, but the chapters are integral to a full understanding of X.1.

    Life aboard ship, trials, excursions and exercises fill the next five chapters. This is the section of the book that explores the intrigue and human element of X.1. The “secret” boat was announced by a newspaper at its launch, causing political upheaval. The unrest continued when copies of X.1’s design plans were found in the possession of a foreign spy. Not all of the stories are dramatic, and it is easy and enjoyable to be drawn into the stories of everyday life for the crew. 

    The concluding chapter is Branfill-Cook’s interpretation and opinion regarding the life and eventual perceived failure of X.1. The author successfully brings together the prior eleven chapters to support his arguments. The reasons for the unfulfilled potential of X.1 and its tragic end are explored and possible explanations discussed. In the following appendices, the author provides extracts from X.1’s log book, copies of the plans and a comparison of gun types used on the boat.

    Although a reader might be overwhelmed by the technical jargon of this book, any avid student of submarine or Royal Navy history would find themselves in familiar territory. The lack of in-text citation leaves the researcher with difficulties if trying to verify primary sources, but the author does provide a one-page bibliography and notes about specific details. The singular focus of the book allows for a range of subjects from exhaustive documentation of technical details to personal stories of life aboard X.1. Branfill-Cook successfully uses this focus to put to rest some of the myths surrounding X.1 and replace them with the true tale of “the Royal Navy’s mystery submarine.” 

    • Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2012
    • 7-1/2” x 10”, hardcover, 192 pages
    • Illustrations, drawings, appendices, notes, bibliography. $44.95
    • ISBN: 9781848321618
    • Distributed in the United States by Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland

    Reviewed by Julie A. Powell, East Carolina 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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