My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Confederate Navy started the American Civil War as an organization with many disadvantages, including a very limited industrial base, a lower number of professional naval officers gone South after resigning from Union service, a limited supply of naval stores and the capacity to make more, and almost no real fighting ships drafted or seized into naval service at the onset. To offset these, the Confederacy enjoyed the services of some first rate naval leaders and innovators such as Matthew Maury. The leadership of the CSN was not delusional about its prospects, as perhaps the leadership of the land forces might have appeared to be from time to time. The CSN had to fight a defensive war with what it had available at the onset of hostilities, and hopefully build or purchase more as events unfolded. The main objective of the CSN was to keep the Confederacy intact, open the blockade for such commerce as it could manage, and keep the rivers and waterways free from Union incursions and invasions. A tall order even for an industrialized nation, but in the hands of the Confederacy, what they did manage to achieve is nothing short of miraculous. In such an unequal contest, it behooves the side with the disadvantages to become the innovator, and so the CSN tried many new inventions heretofore not broadly applied in naval warfare– the casemate ironclad, Submarines and semi-submersibles (such as the CSS David), spar torpedos, electrically detonated mines, and nautical camoflauge were all adopted by the CSN with varying degrees of success. Luraghi’s book on the Confederate Navy is thick with detail– lists and reports and battles of the CSN. I suspect his primary source was the official records of the United States Civil War, which features an extensive Naval element, including the CSN. The Official Records can be a trifle dry but Luraghi does do his bit to make the unfolding narrative more engrossing. This is not as comprehensive as other works such as Silverstone’s Ships of the American Civil War, but the CSN focus really is useful for the casual historian conducting research. Recommended.