by Robert M. Browning Jr.
Tuscaloosa: University Alabama Press, 2015. Pp. xii, 700.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $69.95. ISBN: 0817318461
Blockading the Gulf
Browning, the Chief of Coast Guard History, and the author of a number of notable books on naval history, including two excellent works on the blockade of the Confederate Atlantic coast, From Cape Charles to Cape Fear: The North Atlantic Blockading Squadron during the Civil War and Success Is All That Was Expected: The South Atlantic Blockading Squadron During the Civil War, takes up the subject of the blockade of the western Gulf of Mexico, from Pensacola to the Rio Grande.
This is a well-written, very detailed account, with many fine battle pieces, such as David Farragut’s running of the Confederate batteries on the Mississippi below New Orleans and at again at Vicksburg, as well as the Battle of Mobile Bay. While the treatment naturally tends to be dominated by the figure of Farragut, Browning does give us looks at the many other commanders on both sides, such as his foster brother David Dixon Porter or Confederate Adm. Franklin Buchanan. At times, Browning shows how the personalities of these and other officers affected operations or command relationships, often negatively.
Browning covers strategic planning, technical problems, such as the limitations of the engines of the day and the armoring of the “iron clads”, as well as logistical management, most notably the continuing problem of procuring coal, but also keeping the fleet fed and healthy and coping with large numbers of fugitive slaves. We also get insights into intelligence operations, ship handling, and more, including a great deal about “prize”, a subject dear to most Navy men’s hearts at time. Browning manages to cover these subjects while avoiding technicalese, neatly fitting these often slighted aspects of naval operations into the narrative.
Lincoln’s Trident is an excellent treatment of the blockade.