by Maurice Melton
Tuscaloosa: University Alabama Press, 2012. Pp. xiv, 542.
Illus., maps, plans, notes., biblio., index. $69.95. ISBN: 0817317635
A valuable account at the largely overlooked Confederate naval squadron at Savannah and its operations.
Prof. Melton (Albany State) opens with the secession of Georgia and the brief life of the “Georgia Navy”, which was quickly folded into the new Confederate Navy. He then covers the process by which a rather strong naval squadron was developed at Savannah, from recruiting personnel to the improvisation of warships and the problems of building ironclads with a limited industrial base, which resulted in the commissioning of such unusual vessels as the floating battery Georgia and the casemate ironclad Savannah. Melton blends this in with an account of operations, which began even as the squadron was being improvised, notably the business of the blockade and of blockade running, supporting raiders, and sustaining an active defense, the squadron engaging in a number of notable if small actions. Melton carries the story beyond the fall of Savannah to Union ground forces in December of 1864 (William T. Sherman's "Christmas present" to President Lincoln), for he follows up the scuttling of the warships to cover the service of the squadron’s blue jackets and marines fighting as infantry, first in defense of Wilmington and later as part of the Army of Northern Virginia to the fall of Richmond and the surrender at Appomattox. In the course of his account, Melton also from time to time gives us little portraits of some interesting people, such as the rather famous Josiah Tattnall, for much of the war the senior naval officer at Savannah, and less-well known officers such as William Hunter and Robert Pinkney.
Melton’s sympathies for the Confederacy are often on display in his well-researched work, but The Best Station of Them All is nevertheless a very important contribution to the literature of the “brown water” war and for students of the improvisation of naval forces.