Book Review: "Friends in Peace and War": The Russian Navy's Landmark Visit to Civil War San Francisco


by C. Douglas Kroll

Washington: Potomac Books, 2007. Pp. xvi, 188. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index . $22.95. ISBN:1597970549

The sojourn of Russian naval squadrons in New York and San Francisco over the winter of 1863-1864 is both one of the most curious and one of the most controversial footnotes to the Civil War.
In "Friends in Peace and War," maritime historian Kroll uses the Russian fleet that wintered at San Francisco to look at the reasons for the two visits, their political implications, and their impact on the local community. 

Often viewed as an overt expression of Russian support for the
Union , the wintering of the Russian fleet in the U.S. had more to do with the state of relations between Russia and Britain in the aftermath of the Crimean War and recent unrest in Poland than any interest in America's domestic convulsions .  But Kroll does not dismiss the effect of the visit on American domestic affairs, for contemporary perception of the events did have important political influence, especially in California , where there a handful of pro-Confederate sympathizers were active. 
While discussing these developments, Kroll also gives us a look at the Russian Navy in the mid-nineteenth century, California during the Civil War, and a number of excellent human interest stories, including Russian sailors suffering casualties while helping battle a devastating fire, and an amusing not-quite "love triangle" with a happy ending. 

An interesting book.
Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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