A Book about the Civil War – and a Mystery

I was at a book sale last week and, lover of obscure historical topics that I am, picked up a book on the Civil War in Maine. Yes, there was a naval battle in Maine in 1863: the battle of Portland Harbor, when Confederate raiders seized the revenue cutter Caleb Cushing and, after pursuit by Federal forces, set it afire. Seeing this incident mentioned in the table of contents reminded me that the vast Government Book Talk vaults (AKA my office) held a copy of U.S. Revenue Cutters of the Civil War – a Government book published years ago and a perfect subject for blogging.

Things got mysterious after I unearthed it, though. Upon examination, I couldn’t find any indication that it was a Government publication. In fact, the publisher seemed to be “Alised Enterprises.” Had I been deluding myself all these years? On the other hand, the book also stated that it was “A U.S. Coast Guard Bicentennial Publication” and had a foreword by the Coast Guard’s official historian.

After a quick perusal of the Internet, I relaxed. It had a SuDocs classification number – TD 5.30: C49, to be exact – which means GPO had cataloged it as a Government book. I then learned that, according to WorldCat, which bills itself as “the world’s largest library catalog”, U.S. Revenue Cutters of the Civil War was published in 1988 by Alised Enterprises and again in 1990 by the Coast Guard. I couldn’t find a publication date in my copy, but my guess is that it’s a Coast Guard printing and that the author, Florence Kern, may have done the book under contract. (If anyone can add to the solution of this bibliographic mystery, please let me know.)

Florence Kern wrote a number of short pamphlets about various revenue cutters, mostly of the Revolutionary era. This book does something similar for Civil war cutters but also covers which ships went North or South at the beginning of the war, their work as blockaders for the Union, and much more, including the battle of Portland Harbor. It’s based on extensive archival research and provides a good introduction to a little-known aspect of the war. I wouldn’t mind delving into some research on this topic myself – maybe once I finish reading that book about the Civil War in Maine…

I couldn’t find an online version of U.S. Revenue Cutters of the Civil War, which is long out of print, but used copies do seem to be available at reasonable prices – and through Federal depository libraries, of course.

GPO does have other, more recent books about the Civil War that are well worth reading, so feel free to take a look.

12 Responses to A Book about the Civil War – and a Mystery

  1. ThaiMlM says:

    Can I buy this book in my country, Thailand?

  2. Alison Kern Stitzer says:

    Hi — I am thinking about the many copies of the books we have on the first 10 Revenue Cutters that my Mom Florence Kern wrote and we published as Alised Enterprises and that I should make a web site or sell them thru Amazon or something …. was googling her name to see what came up — and came across your May 2010 comments…. You are right, the Coast Guard /GPO printed the Civil War book as we didnt have time……. Contact me with any questions! After she died, I donated BOXES of her research notes etc to the Coast Guard — some went to HQ and some to the Academy library…. Glad to see current interest!! Alison

    • govbooktalk says:

      Ms: Stitzer:
      It’s great to hear from you! Thanks for providing the additional information about your mother’s work and her papers. I appreciate the comment because it will let our readers know more about this interesting book and its author.

      Jim C.

  3. JOHN HOJNAR says:

    So just how can one order the book about the Civil War in Maine??????

    • govbooktalk says:

      Unfortunately, as I indicated in this post, this book is out of print and can be obtained only as a used book. For future posts, when this is the case, I’ll try to emphasize that point more strongly.

      • Bill says:

        Perhaps GPO should offer this book for sale as a “Print-On-Demand” title.

      • govbooktalk says:

        Thanks for the suggestion. Since this is an older book, we would need to scan a hard copy to create an electronic file. We would also need to check with the Coast Guard to get their approval. We can have our financial folks take a look at the feasibility — they’re really good about that.

      • J. Trouses says:

        Hey govbooktalk

        I am interested in this book. Just wondering if there is any update on this being available on an electronic file?

      • govbooktalk says:

        I’m not aware of any electronic version, or of anyplans to make it available electronically — sorry! Maybe other readers will let us know if it happens.

  4. govbooktalk says:

    That’s a good suggestion. They do have a nice Web site and a fascinating history to study. I’ll pass along anything I find out.

  5. Carolyn Cihelka says:

    Have you contacted the Coast Guard Historian?
    http://www.uscg.mil/history/default.asp

    Here’s a list of cutters from the historian’s web site. I don’t see yours on it but I’m sure they’ll be able to help.
    http://www.uscg.mil/history/cutterindex.asp

    Carolyn Cihelka, Master Chief Petty Officer, USCG (Ret.)

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