August 30, 2011

A Year on a Monitor and the Destruction of Fort Sumter

A Year on a Monitor and the Destruction of Fort Sumter (Classics in Maritime History)I have cited Alvah Hunter's book,  "A Year on a Monitor and the Destructionof Fort Sumter," several times in the past few posts. I finished reading it and I highly recommend it if you have an interest in Civil War  ironclads and naval warfare.

While Hunter enlisted at age 16 and served as a cabin boy, he was a remarkable mature and curious young man. Unlike his shipmates that used their shore leave for drunken revelry that usually ended in fist fights and arrest, Hunter took the opportunity to visit various historic locations like Battery Wagner after it fell, a captured blockade runner and the captured CSS Atlanta. His curiosity took him on deck at the start of the engagement with the CSS Atlanta such that the first shot fired, missed his ship but thoroughly splashed him with water.

He provides a lot of detail about the USS Nahant's, a sister of the USS Passaic, construction, operation, maintenance, problems they encountered and general life on board. He was present for several important battles including the failed April 1863 attack on Charleston, the capture of the CSS Atlanta - from which he received a $176 payment of prize money, the capture of Fort Wagner and several other minor engagements. He augments his personal observations with passages describing the Confederate viewpoint on the battles since he wrote the book about 50 years after the war. This helps keep the story aligned with the bigger picture. All in all a great little book.

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