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45-50 minutes with PowerPoint images

They really enjoyed your presentation, were blown away by your expert use of graphics, and learned a lot about the CSS Shenandoah and the men who sailed in her. (Richmond Civil War Roundtable)

Your research was thorough and impressive, and your videography was beautifully and informatively presented. A fascinating story, and well done by you. (Hampton Roads Civil War Roundtable)

This was one of the most thorough and well-made Power Point presentations I’ve seen. Great Job! (Dan Sickles Civil War Round Table)

The Q&A was the BEST part of the talk . . . it demonstrated that you knew your subject, you had the technical knowledge, you did not need notes and it could have gone on much longer. (James City Cavalry Camp, SCV)

The Naval Civil War in Theaters Near and Far

Great talk and especially good on the joint operations of Grant, Porter and others on the Mississippi which resonate for today. (Naval Order of the United States)

In his classic treatise of strategy, On War, Carl von Clausewitz discussed “different factors of space, mass, and time” related to battle including the “theater of operations,” which he defined as “a sector of the total war area which has protected boundaries and so a certain degree of independence.” Combat theaters of the Civil War are identified as the Eastern, the Western, and the Trans-Mississippi. However, the naval side of the war also can be defined in terms of theaters, which interact with but are distinct from military counterparts. They are the Wide Oceans, the Offshore Blockade, Peripheral Coasts and Harbors, and Heartland Rivers. Bounded primarily by land-water interfaces, some of the wet theaters overlay terrestrial counterparts while others extended far beyond familiar battlefields to the far side of the world. Each demonstrated unique characteristics and posed unique challenges to both navies. This presentation discusses distinctive strategic, tactical, technological, and command characteristics of naval theaters and their contributions to land campaigns. Based on an essay in The Civil War on the Water: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War (Savas Beatie, 2023).

The Sailor and The Soldier at Vicksburg: Unprecedented Joint Operations 

Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter, commander of the Union Mississippi River Squadron, formed an underappreciated partnership with General Ulysses S. Grant to conquer the Confederate bastion at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The U.S. Navy had never undertaken extensive operations on inland waterways in cooperation with land forces. Despite contrasting personalities, the sailor and the soldier hit it off. Grant and Porter “were a formidable combination, hyperaggressive and strategically astute,” noted one historian. From December 1862 to July 1863, their joint forces conducted unprecedented amphibious river assaults and expeditions through sluggish swamps, flooded forests, and tiny, choked channels. Porter’s squadron braved massive shore batteries, providing transport and heavy artillery support until Vicksburg fell. Published in The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg and Tullahoma: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War (Savas Beatie, 2021).

Unlike Anything That Ever Floated: The USS Monitor and the Battle of Hampton Roads

The USS Monitor was an ingenious but hurried response to both the imminent threat of the Confederate ironclad, CSS Virginia (ex USS Merrimack), and to the growing prospect of international intervention backed by powerful British or French seagoing ironclads. The United States had no defenses against either menace. This presentation takes Monitor from her inception in the mind of her brilliant inventor through the dramatic first clash of ironclads at Hampton Roads.

Based on the book for the Emerging Civil War series, Unlike Anything That Ever Floated: The Monitor and Virginia and the Battle Hampton Roads, March 8-9, 1862 (Savas Beatie, 2021).

Rebel Odyssey: The Cruise of the CSS Shenandoah
The Confederate commerce raider CSS Shenandoah carried the Civil War to the ends of the earth through every extreme of sea and storm pursuing a perilous mission in which they succeeded spectacularly after it no longer mattered. This thirteen-month, global cruise (October 1864-November 1865) was watery asymmetric warfare in the spirit of Mosby, Forrest, and Sherman. Rebel Americans disrupted Melbourne, Australia, enjoyed a Pacific island holiday as guns fell silent at Appomattox, and six weeks later invaded the north, the deep cold of the Bering Sea. Shenandoah fired the last gun of the conflict and set Arctic waters aglow with flaming Yankee whalers. Months later, she limped into Liverpool where Captain Waddell lowered the last Confederate banner without defeat or surrender. Based on the book A Confederate Biography: The Cruise of the CSS Shenandoah (Naval Institute Press, 2015).

Unvexed Waters: Mississippi River Squadron

History offers few examples other than the American Civil War and the conflict in Vietnam of extensive military operations on inland waterways requiring specialized classes of war vessels commanded and manned by naval personnel. The contest for the Mississippi River and its tributaries—the spine of America—was one of the longest and most challenging campaigns of the Civil War encompassing a 700-mile wet corridor from Mound City, Illinois, to the Gulf of Mexico. Control of the rivers was a key strategic factor, but in tactics and technology, riverine warfare was a fundamentally new concept empowered by industrial revolutions in steam propulsion, armor, and armaments. Both navies, Union and Confederate, started with no shallow-water warships, no tactics, no command structure, and no infrastructure. This presentation reviews the unprecedented conflict along the watery spine of America. (Presented at the North American Society for Oceanic History Annual Conference, May 2018.)

See Dwight’s essay Riverine Warfarein the online Essential Civil War Curriculum of The Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech.

Burnside’s Sand March: The Forgotten North Carolina Expedition

Poor General Ambrose Burnside. He gets no respect. Bumbling his way across Burnside Bridge at Antietam, through the disastrous battle of Fredericksburg and the Mud March. But before all that, Burnside’s innovative planning and effective leadership brought significant victory in a series of engagements from February to June 1862 in the strategically vital sounds and along the barrier islands of North Carolina. In partnership with the U.S. Navy, the Burnside Expedition was the first and one of the few major joint amphibious operations. With aggressive follow up, it might have shortened the conflict. (Presented at the Emerging Civil War Annual Symposium, Spotsylvania, VA, Aug 2, 2019.) See Emerging Civil War blog post.

From Shenandoah to Seeadler: The Legacy of Civil War Commerce Raiders in WWI
Rebel raiders Alabama, Florida,Shenandoah, and their sisters wreaked havoc on powerful Union shipping and whaling industries. Confederates applied new industrial technologies to advance ancient concepts of commerce warfare and to develop innovative cruiser warships while the U.S. Navy struggled to combat them. These controversial weapons disrupted economies, exacerbated international tensions, diverted critical resources, and threatened the Union war effort. Early in World War I, German naval planners consciously applied Confederate precedents but with less success. This presentation explores the legacy of Civil War commerce raiders leading up to submarine warfare and beyond. (U. S. Naval Academy McMullen Naval History Symposium, Annapolis, MD, September 2015.)

Rebels Down Under: A Surprise Confederate Visitor Makes Mayhem in Melbourne
January 1865: Confederate commerce raider CSS Shenandoah invades the bustling port of Melbourne—the most remote and most British imperial outpost with intriguing parallels to dynamic U.S. frontier cities. The citizenry (including a sizeable American expatriate community) split into contentious political camps over crucial issues of international law, trade, neutrality, and independence. Reflecting deep worries concerning the distant war, Australians mirrored the prejudices and misperceptions of their British cousins. Shenandoah officers were feted as heroes by one faction but were denounced as pirates and nearly lost their ship to the other. This is the outsiders’ view of the conflict, dramatically illustrating international issues that were potentially decisive for the Civil War. (U. S. Naval Academy McMullen Naval History Symposium, Annapolis, MD, September 2011.) 

Rebels and Aliens: Confederates on the Far Side of the World
Towering verdant peaks sprouted from aquamarine seas as the commerce raider CSS Shenandoah approached the Island of Pohnpei on April fool’s day, 1865. While the country they served lay dying, this microcosm of the Confederacy carried the conflict to the remotest Pacific. There they encountered a courageous, resourceful warrior culture that seemed totally alien. But was it? Neither party saw into the heart of the other’s society but looking back, we find similarities as striking as differences, highlighting fundamental issues of the Civil War. While lonely Rebels slept under tropic stars, guns fell silent at Appomattox. This presentation reviews these strange events, concentrating on commonalities and contradictions of diverse peoples separated by vast reaches of ocean but inextricably linked by human nature, maritime technology, trade, and war. (U. S. Naval Academy McMullen Naval History Symposium, Annapolis, MD, September 2013.) See Emerging Civil War blog posts here and here.