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.