Naval History and Heritage Command Goes Digital with “U.S. Navy and the Vietnam War”

April 2, 2020

The lavishly illustrated historical series includes both ePub and MOBI formats for each volume of the educational and narrative volumes about the U.S. Navy’s varied operations during the Vietnam War.

I was not yet born at the beginning of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and was a young girl when the war ended. Therefore, reading these early volumes detailing the United States’ intervention in the Indochina conflict and the U.S. Navy’s many-faceted role, ranging from humanitarian aid missions over riverine warfare to carrier-launched air strikes, was enlightening to me.

Although I’ve spent much of my life reading in print format, I’ve embraced the birth of digital formats that allow for an easy, lightweight alternative for reading an extensive historical series such as this one.

This series comprises nine distinct volumes, each portraying a different aspect of the U.S. Navy’s missions during Vietnam War and bridging five Presidential administrations – those of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and Gerald Ford. The volumes of this series that appeared most interesting to me are those that touch upon the extensive use of high-altitude reconnaissance photography for intelligence purposes. (Today’s equivalents are most likely the employment of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.)

However, each volume of this series serves its purpose: to detail the multifaceted operational role of the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. Approaching Storm details the waning years of French colonial governance and “Passage to Freedom,” the U.S. Navy’s 1954 humanitarian evacuation operation and the service’s first large-scale, in-theater deployment. Other volumes cover the many types of naval operations ranging from carrier air strikes offshore in the South China Sea over combat in South Vietnam’s canals and rivers to special warfare missions with the goals of collecting intelligence and neutralizing Communist command and control. The Battle Behind Bars shares the wrenching stories of many Navy and Marine POWs (prisoners of war), most of them downed naval aviators, in North Vietnamese captivity. Navy Medicine in Vietnam also speaks to me, as it highlights a Navy nurse’s reflections on the only land-based naval hospital in Vietnam. My mother served as registered nurse and head nurse at the West Haven, Connecticut, Veterans Medical Center and received patients for recovery after the Korean and Vietnam wars. Her stories, ranging from triage care performed by front-line medical teams to Stateside recovery care, were similar to the one featured in this volume.

Grab your tablet or e-reader, and download these digital format references about the Navy’s role in the Vietnam War, free of charge! I’ve provided a synopsis for each volume so you can read the volumes that most interest you to the entire series. Happy reading!

Approaching Storm: Conflict in Asia, 1945–1965

This work is the first in NHHC’s Vietnam War series. It describes the U.S. response to Communist movements in Asia after World War II, the initial American support for French colonial forces in the region, and the U.S. Navy’s role as it evolved from an essentially advisory one to actual combat after the Tonkin Gulf attack off North Vietnam in August 1964. The real and purported North Vietnamese attacks on the U.S. Navy ships in the Tonkin Gulf gave President Lyndon B. Johnson sufficient reason to broaden and expand U.S. involvement in the conflict. The volume covers many lesser-known, yet significant, aspects of the initial years of the Vietnam War and the U.S. Navy’s early humanitarian, advisory, and combat operations in southeast Asian waters.

Nixon’s Trident: Naval Power in Southeast Asia, 1968–1972

This volume focuses on the three prongs of the naval “trident” that President Richard M. Nixon wielded during the final years of the Vietnam War: naval air power, naval bombardment, and mine warfare. For much of this period, Navy aircraft sought to hamper the flow of supplies down the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos—a huge investment in air power resources that ultimately proved fruitless. After North Vietnam’s invasion of the South in 1972, however, Navy tactical aviation, as well as naval bombardment, proved critical not only in blunting the offensive, but also in persuading North Vietnam to arrive at a peace agreement in Paris in 1973. For the first time in the war, the Navy was also authorized to close Haiphong Harbor and North Vietnam’s other ports with naval mines—an operation that still stands out as a textbook example of how mine warfare can inflict a major economic and psychological blow on the enemy with minimal casualties for either side. Thus, naval power was indispensable to ending America’s longest war.

The Battle Behind Bars: Navy and Marine POWs in the Vietnam War

The unconventional nature of the war and the unforgiving environment of Southeast Asia inflicted special hardships on the Vietnam-era POWs, whether they spent captivity in the jungles of the South, or the jails of the North. This book describes the experiences of the 201 captured sea services personnel (157 Navy, 47 Marines)—the similarities and the differences—and how the POWs coped with untreated wounds and other malaises, systematic torture, and boredom. The creative strategies they devised to stay fit, track time, resist the enemy, communicate with one another, and adhere to a chain of command attest to the high standards of conduct in captivity that so distinguish the POWs of the Vietnam War. Personal stories ranging from that of Seaman Apprentice Douglas B. Hegdahl, the youngest POW, to that of then-Commander James Stockdale, the senior U.S. Navy officer held in captivity, are featured.

Navy Medicine in Vietnam: Passage to Freedom to the Fall of Saigon

Navy Medicine in Vietnam begins and ends with a humanitarian operation—the first, in 1954, after the French were defeated, when refugees fled to South Vietnam to escape from the communist regime in the North; and the second, in 1975, after the fall of Saigon and the final stage of America’s exit that entailed a massive helicopter evacuation of American staff and selected Vietnamese and their families from South Vietnam. In both cases, the Navy provided medical support to avert the spread of disease and tend to basic medical needs. Between those dates, 1954 and 1975, Navy medical personnel responded to the buildup and intensifying combat operations by taking a multipronged approach in treating casualties. Helicopter medical evacuations, triaging, offshore deployment of hospital ships, and a system of moving casualties from short-term to long-term care meant higher rates of survival and targeted care. Poignant recollections of the medical personnel serving in Vietnam, recorded by author Jan Herman, historian of the Navy Medical Department, are a reminder of the great sacrifices these men and women made for their country and their patients.

Combat at Close Quarters: Warfare on the Rivers and Canals of Vietnam

Combat at Close Quarters describes riverine combat during the Vietnam War, emphasizing the operations of the U.S. Navy’s River Patrol Force, the joint U.S. Army–Navy Mobile Riverine Force, and the Vietnam Navy. One section details the SEALORDS combined campaign, a determined effort by the U.S. Navy, Vietnam Navy, and allied ground forces to cut enemy supply lines from Cambodia and disrupt operations at base areas deep in the delta. Also provided are many details of the combat vessels, helicopters, weapons, and equipment employed in the Mekong Delta, as well as the Vietnamese combatants on both sides and American troops who fought to secure Vietnam’s many rivers and canals. The American experience on Vietnam’s waterways is indispensable to understanding the impact of riverine warfare on modern U.S. naval and military operations in the 21st century.

Naval Air War: Rolling Thunder Campaign

Naval Air War: The Rolling Thunder Campaign, the sixth monograph in the series, covers aircraft carrier operations during one of the longest sustained aerial bombing campaigns in history, intended to force North Vietnam into peace negotiations. Despite causing extensive damage to North Vietnam’s infrastructure and its war-making capability, the campaign fell short of its ultimate goal. However, aircraft from U.S. Navy carrier air wings proved essential to the conduct of Rolling Thunder, not least due to the inherent flexibility and mobility of naval forces: U.S. Seventh Fleet aircraft carriers operated with impunity for three years off the coast of North Vietnam. The success with which the Navy executed the later Operation Linebacker campaign against North Vietnam in 1972 revealed how much the service had learned from and exploited the Rolling Thunder experience of 1965–1968.

Knowing the Enemy: Naval Intelligence in Southeast Asia

If you are intrigued by behind-the-scenes knowledge and secret missions, this volume may interest you. Knowing the Enemy details the U.S. Navy intelligence establishment’s support to the war effort in Southeast Asia from 1965 to 1975. It describes the contribution of naval intelligence to key strategic, operational, and tactical aspects of the war. This included the involvement of naval intelligence in the seminal Tonkin Gulf Crisis of 1964 and the Rolling Thunder and Linebacker bombing campaigns; the monitoring of Sino-Soviet bloc military assistance to Hanoi; the operation of the U.S. Seventh Fleet’s reconnaissance aircraft; the enemy’s use of the “neutral” Cambodian port of Sihanoukville; and the support to U.S. Navy riverine operations during the Tet Offensive and the SEALORDS campaign in South Vietnam.

Fourth Arm of Defense: Sealift and Maritime Logistics in the Vietnam War

Fourth Arm of Defense describes the roles of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Merchant Marine in the logistical support of the conflict in Southeast Asia, essentially the lifeline of U.S. and allied combat forces. The monograph details the large-scale deployment of Army and allied troops to the theater of operations by the Navy’s Military Sea Transportation Service (later Military Sealift Command) and the development of essential modern port facilities and cargo-handling procedures in South Vietnam. Also detailed is the dangerous and sometimes deadly effort to deliver ammunition, fuel, and other supplies to Saigon and other ports far upriver. The overall command and control of the 5,000-mile logistics pipeline across the vast Pacific is covered, as is the employment of revolutionary cargo container and roll on/roll off ships. The narrative concludes with the maritime evacuations from South Vietnam and Cambodia in 1975. Always in focus are the service and sacrifice of U.S. Navy sailors and the men of the U.S. Merchant Marine and many other countries who braved tempestuous seas, and ports and rivers subject to enemy attack.

End of the Saga: The Maritime Evacuation of South Vietnam and Cambodia

As the decades-long struggle in Southeast Asia came to a climax in the spring of 1975, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps saved thousands of U.S. citizens and pro-American Vietnamese and Cambodians from the victorious Communist forces. Also covered is the final operation of the decades-long conflict, the recapture of SS Mayaguez from Cambodian Communist forces and the assault on the Cambodian island of Koh Tang by a joint U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force task force. Slightly older readers may recall how the precipitate withdrawal of the United States from Viet Nam and Cambodia presented the disconcerting spectacle of the abandonment of allies and, on a more human level, desertion of a host of individuals who had worked and fought for common aims. Yet behind the tragic elements of the picture, the final evacuations highlighted the skill and courage of American uniformed personnel in the midst of chaos. The U.S. military, especially the Navy and Marine Corps, demonstrated extraordinary professional skill in carrying out large-scale and complicated evacuations. Given the public’s skepticism of American service members at the tail end of the Vietnam War, this performance seems at first glance surprising. However, despite the woes afflicting the military in 1975—racial tensions, counterculture sentiment, drug abuse, a lower quality of recruits—these Americans in uniform showed that that the services retained a solid core of competent and dedicated people, many of whom were instrumental in restoring and advancing the armed forces’ capabilities and image during the 1980s.

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About the author: Blogger contributor Maureen Whelan is a former Supervisory Marketing Specialist in GPO’s Publication and Information Sales program office.


How Naval Intelligence Shaped the Vietnam War

September 12, 2016

During the Vietnam War, U.S. naval intelligence was a very complex affair. Layers of political organization, military strategy, offensive tactics, and logistical operations shaded the struggle to win in South Vietnam. Much of that portion of the Cold War era is now declassified, illuminating the contributions of the naval intelligence establishment.

008-046-00298-3GPO makes available “Knowing the Enemy: Naval Intelligence in Southeast Asia,” part of the U.S. Department of the Navy series of commemorative studies on the Vietnam War.

The U.S. Navy intelligence effort in Vietnam played out in several pivotal events. Intelligence-gathering squadrons informed operations during 1964’s Tonkin Gulf Crisis and 1968’s Tet Offensive. Naval commands closely traced Soviet and Chinese military aid to North Vietnam and surveilled the use of the vital Cambodian port of Sihanoukville. And analysts processed raw data that informed the Linebacker bombing campaigns and pressed North Korea to eventually negotiate terms to end the war.

A SEAL scans the surroundings during his unit's intelligence-gathering mission in a Mekong Delta village.

A SEAL scans the surroundings during his unit’s intelligence-gathering mission in a Mekong Delta village.

Officers and enlisted personnel gathered and analyzed credible intel on the movement of Communist combat units, the location of Viet Cong encampments, and the flow of weapons and ammunition along the Mekong Delta. The communications, electronic, human, and imagery intelligence they collected was “key to the operational and tactical success of naval forces in the Vietnam War.”

Members of the naval intelligence community that routinely “engaged in intelligence collection often did their dangerous but vital work in direct contact with the enemy.” For example, photo reconnaissance pilots flew fast and furiously into oncoming antiaircraft fire for the best pictures—“since anything worth photographing was likely well-defended.” Hardly desk drones, intelligence staffs “fought face-to-face with the enemy” and suffered causalities for it.

Photo intelligence 3rd Class Charles R. Pearson uses his stereoscopic equipment to analyze an aerial image of an enemy site in Vietnam.

Photo intelligence 3rd Class Charles R. Pearson uses his stereoscopic equipment to analyze an aerial image of an enemy site in Vietnam.

U.S. naval intelligence units furnished operational forces “with information that, for the most part, improved their battle performance…and prospects for survival in combat.” More than anything, the cadre of intelligence professionals helped the American military understand the enemy.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THIS PUBLICATION?

Shop Online Anytime: You can buy eBooks or print publications —with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide— from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov.

 Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Visit a Federal depository library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. You can find the records for most titles in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.

About the author: Blogger contributor Chelsea Milko is a Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations Office.

 


Happy Birthday, U.S. Navy!

October 9, 2014

US Navy logoOctober 13 marks the 239th anniversary of the establishment of the United States Navy. Dating back to the early days of the revolution, the Navy was initially formed when the Continental Congress voted to “fit out” two sailing vessels. The sailing vessels armed with carriage and swivel guns and manned by small crews were sent out in an effort to stop transports that helped supply British forces during the American Revolution. This effort mandated by the Continental Congress on October 13, 1775 established the Continental Navy, and thus is now recognized as the official birthday of the U.S. Navy. Celebrate the remarkable history of the U.S. Navy with these publications currently available from the U.S. Government Bookstore:

008-046-00289-4Naval Documents of the American Revolution, V. 12, American Theater, April 1, 1778-May 31, 1778; European Theater, April 1, 1778-May 31, 1778: This twelfth volume in the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Naval Documents of the American Revolution series tells the story of the Revolutionary War on the water during the period of April to June 1778. In the tradition of the preceding volumes—the first of which was published in 1964—this work synthesizes edited documents, including correspondence, ship logs, muster rolls, orders, and newspaper accounts, that provide a comprehensive understanding of the war at sea in the spring of 1778. The editors organize this wide array of texts chronologically by theater and incorporate French, Italian, and Spanish transcriptions with English translations throughout. Volume 12 presents the essential primary sources on a crucial time in the young republic’s naval history—as the British consolidate their strength in the Mid-Atlantic, and the Americans threaten British shipping in European waters and gain a powerful ally as France prepares to enter the war.

008-046-00202-9Sea Raiders of the American Revolution: The Continental Navy in European Waters: This book discusses three American Revolutionary War captains: Lambert Wickes, Gustavus Conyngham, and John Paul Jones. Each of them lead raids on British waters during the American Revolution.

008-046-00282-7Commerce Raiding: Historical Case Studies, 1755-2009: The book of sixteen case studies examining commerce raiding or guerre de course shows that this strategy has time after time proven itself a most efficient way for sea powers to exert pressure on an opponent, especially a lesser sea power or land power, but that land powers have had little success using this strategy against sea powers. Topics include international piracy, international trade and historical background for the American War of Independence, the Civil War, and both World Wars.

008-046-00263-1Talking About Naval History: A Collection of Essays: This collection of naval history essays provides a wide historical perspective that ranges across nearly four centuries of maritime history. A number of these pieces have been published previously but have appeared in other languages and in other countries, where they may not have come to the attention of an American naval reading audience. This collection is divided into parts that deal with four major themes: the broad field of maritime history; general naval history, with specific focus on the classical age of sail, from the mid-seventeenth century to the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815; the wide scope of American naval history from 1775 to the end of the twentieth century; and finally, the realm of naval theory and its relationship to naval historical studies.

008-046-00271-1New Interpretations in Naval History: Selected Papers From the Sixteenth Naval History Symposium: A selection of the best 12 papers presented at the 2009 Naval History Symposium, the 16th in the series. The contributors are all maritime and naval historians, and their contributions range from the U.S. colonial era through the 1960s. They are not tied to a central theme but represent the vitality of studies in naval and maritime history.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THESE PUBLICATIONS?

Shop Online Anytime: You can buy these and other publications (with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide) from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore website at http://bookstore.gpo.gov:

Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for these in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the author: Trudy Hawkins is Senior Marketing and Promotions Specialist in GPO’s Publication & Information Sales Division supporting the U.S. Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov).


Influence without Boots on the Ground: Seaborne Crisis Response

August 7, 2013

TInfluence without Boots on the Ground: Seaborne Crisis Response, by Dr. Larissa Forster , ISBN: 9781935352037here is an ongoing debate about the civil war in Syria and the role the United States is playing, should play, will play or won’t play. One option is “boots on the ground” or the deployment of troops to the region, a physical presence. To examine another option, look to Influence without Boots on the Ground: Seaborne Crisis Response, a recent publication by the Naval War College in their Newport Papers series that explores the power and influence of the United States Navy. The Navy is unique in that it has the ability to operate on, above, and under the surface of the sea and has presence around the world since most countries are near the sea or within range.

Influence without Boots on the Ground explores the political use and impact of naval forces during foreign-policy crises that fall short of full-scale warfare.

The first chapter, entitled “Navies Are Able to Do Things That Armies Can’t”, explains the role of the Navy in the context of the U.S. military and how it differs from other branches. The author emphasizes that the Navy is unique in that its presence alone can comfort allies and pressure enemies.  The second chapter piggybacks on the first by examining the concept of naval diplomacy and the many theories that accompany the concept.

U.S. Navy sailors in joint exercise with Peruvian Navy. (By US Navy)The third chapter– “Uncharted Waters: Data on U.S. Naval Activity Short of War”— identifies different data models and ways of gathering information and crunching the numbers to determine the Navy’s influence in international crises, from disaster response to ethnic cleansing, anti-piracy, combating drug and human trafficking and more. The final two chapters bring together the ideas of the entire publication by using case studies to illustrate the theories and data presented in the previous chapters.

Image:  U.S. Navy sailors in joint exercise with Peruvian Navy. (Source: US Navy)

While Influence without Boots on the Ground is intended for a specific audience in the naval and military scholar community, the general public will find the first chapter the most readable section as it uses more common historical references to demonstrate the Navy’s influence.

The most important part of the publication is the case studies in the later chapters that look at the U.S. Navy’s involvement in conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America in the second half of the 20th century. The case studies simplify the complex theories and data by giving real life examples. While the specific name of ships and air craft carriers is over most people’s heads, naval enthusiasts will enjoy the detailed information and accounts of the conflicts used in the case studies.

Check out Influence without Boots on the Ground: Seaborne Crisis Response to brush up on your naval knowledge and make an informed opinion regarding current events. All in all, you may learn that the sea can be mightier than the sword.

HOW DO I OBTAIN “Influence without Boots on the Ground”?

About the Author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. Government Book Talk Editor: Michele Bartram, Promotions & eCommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division.


First Blood: Year One of the War Between the States

November 22, 2012

On another Thanksgiving Day 150 years ago, America was embroiled in a bitter Civil War. A year later, expressing gratitude for the key Union Army victory at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln would proclaim that the nation will celebrate an official annual Thanksgiving holiday on the fourth Thursday of November. But in 1862, 25 states and three territories were already celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday.

Thus it is fitting that we have this wonderful guest post about the newest book from the Army’s Center of Military History series about the U.S. Army Campaigns of the Civil War. Those who had survived these clashes had much to give thanks for that Thanksgiving Day- as do we all, particularly members of our military and diplomatic services and their families who have served in harm’s way. Enjoy the post and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,  Michele Bartram


Guest blogger Sonya Kunkle was a writer and editor for more than 15 years before she joined GPO’s Proof & Copy Markup section. Here she reviews a U.S. Government Bookstore booklet on a topic that caught her interest fairly recently—the American Civil War.

As a child growing up in the Washington, DC, suburbs, I once walked through the grassy fields of Antietam Battlefield (near Sharpsburg, MD) oblivious to the historical struggle waged under my feet. American history wasn’t my favorite subject in school, but as an adult my interest in the Civil War was sparked when I read “The Killer Angels,” a novel by Michael Shaara. “The Killer Angels,” a work of historical fiction, details the Battle of Gettysburg.

This is a good time to be a Civil War history enthusiast, with 2012 being part of the sesquicentennial (150-year anniversary) of America’s bloodiest war. To mark the occasion, the U.S. Government Bookstore has for sale a 64-page booklet, The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861 published by the U.S. Army’s Center for Military History.

Image: (Cover of the booklet,. Detail from Capture of Ricketts’ Battery by Sidney E. King, courtesy of William V. Fleitz, Manassas Battlefield Park.

 In this booklet you can read about the reasons for going to war and why key players made many of the decisions they did during the first year of the conflict. The author, Dr. Jennifer M. Murray, also provides a lot of information in text and graphics on the troop movements of both the Federals and the Confederates during each of the key battles of 1861.

Strategic Setting

In his inaugural address, on March 4, President Lincoln declared that he didn’t intend to abolish slavery in states where it existed. Stating that he would not initiate a war, Lincoln informed Southerners, “In your hands … is the momentous issue of civil war …You can have no conflict, without being yourselves the aggressors.

If you look at the numbers, perhaps the Confederates were doomed from the start. The 1860 Census shows that the Union could call on 4 million military-age white males to build their army, whereas the Confederacy could assemble 1 million at most.

The Union also had 10 times the industrial capacity, not to mention better transportation capabilities. In spite of these disadvantages, the South started the Civil War with its first big move—firing on Federal Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

Operations—Fort Sumter

Charleston, South Carolina, was well fortified with Fort Sumter and other defenses. Sumter was built to guard against an enemy fleet, and the walls facing the city were much weaker than those facing the water, leaving the fort vulnerable to attack on land.

On April 11, the Southern Brigadier General Pierre G. T. Beauregard demanded that the Union forces evacuate Fort Sumter. The North’s ranking officer at Sumter, Major Robert Anderson, declined.

At 3 a.m. (or 0300; the author uses military time) on April 12, the Confederates notified Major Anderson that General Beauregard and company would open fire on Fort Sumter in one hour. Twenty minutes after the deadline, a single shell from nearby Fort Johnson, which the North had abandoned, exploded over Sumter. War had begun.

Into Virginia—Bull Run

Image: First Battle of Bull Run. 1889 chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison. Source: Library of Congress. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

In May the Confederates moved their capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia. Richmond became a strategic target for the North, both for its industrial capability and its political importance. The two capitals, separated by only 100 miles, now figured prominently in both sides’ strategies.

The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861 explains why the Union was determined to control Manassas Junction and why in May 10,600 Confederates defended the northern entrance to the Shenandoah Valley.

The author notes an interesting moment caused by the differing (and lack of) uniforms:

Viewing the Virginians, who were wearing civilian clothes, the Federal troops were unsure of their allegiance. To complicate matters further … Federal units were not uniformly dressed in blue; soldiers in the 11th New York, for instance, were dressed in colorful Zouave uniforms, which were also worn by some Confederate units. The Virginians clarified the matter by opening a deadly volley on the New Yorkers.”

Image: Brandy Station, VA, Band of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry (Zouaves). Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-B8171-7611 DLC. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

The Confederates won the fight, protecting their capital. The first battle of the Civil War resulted in the death of nearly 5,000 men.

The Fight for Missouri

While emotions roiled to the east, the majority of delegates attending a special Missouri secession convention voted to remain in the Union. This decision ran counter to Governor Claiborne F. Jackson’s personal preferences, and he mustered forces in favor of the Confederates.

This part of The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861 provides details about how the Civil War reached into Missouri, with one of the key players being Union Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon.

While directing his men on the front line, Lyon got hit in the calf by a bullet, so he left the field for medical treatment. When Lyon got back on the field, a bullet grazed his head.

Determined to continue the fight, and apparently not taking the hint, Lyon returned to the field. Moments later, a bullet hit him in the chest. He was the first Union general officer to die in the Civil War.

From Belmont to Port Royal

In The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861 you can read about the Union Navy’s entry into the Civil War.

It’s an interesting read, with a little information about Southern pirates (pirates!) lurking inside the Outer Banks of North Carolina, pouncing on merchant vessels before Union warships could react. To thwart these outlaws, the Federal Navy designated the Outer Banks as its first target. Union forces prepared for the war’s first joint Army-Navy operation.

You learn something about the battle for Fort Hatteras and the naval tactic (and the Confederates’ faulty ammunition) that helped the Union win the day.

The North’s capture of Fort Hatteras and nearby Fort Clark improved the Union’s outlook soon after their defeat at Bull Run. Offering a “Congratulatory Order,” one Federal officer commented, “This gallant affair will not fail to stimulate the regulars and volunteers to greater exertions to prepare themselves for future and greater achievements.

The Union’s euphoria didn’t last long.

The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861 describes what happened between the North and South about 35 miles north of Washington at Ball’s Bluff. Perhaps the statistics are most noteworthy—there were an evenly matched number of men fighting on both sides, but the outcome was lopsided in terms of soldiers wounded and captured. The battle’s uneven results favored the South.

This section also addresses the Union’s win at Port Royal, South Carolina. Here you also can read about what Brigadier General (and future U.S. President) Ulysses S. Grant did in the area of Belmont, MO, that earned him President Lincoln’s favor.

The chronological coverage of the war ends with Union Major General George B. McClellan’s training the Army of the Potomac outside of Manassas. McClellan said he believed that he controlled the “destinies of this great country.”  There was no further action along the Potomac as the curtain closed on 1861.

Analysis

Dr. Murray offers incisive analysis at the end of The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861. She describes the early missteps of the secessionists, as well as what the South got right. She also notes the Union army’s mixed results.

Dr. Murray concludes, “As Federal forces grew more experienced and competent, they would gain key victories in 1862 that helped to shape the outcome of the Civil War.”

The last page of the booklet provides a short list of texts for further reading about the first year of the war.

Conclusion

The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861 helps me to appreciate the history in my own backyard. Although I find all of the information about the armies’ positions and movements a bit overwhelming, the booklet tempts me to take the 70-mile trip from Baltimore, where I live now, to explore the fields of Bull Run at Manassas. Taking the booklet with me, I’ll have a better understanding of the history I’m walking through.

HOW DO I OBTAIN The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a federal depository library.

Other Federal Titles about the Civil War

You may also be interested in these titles about the Civil War available from the U.S. Government Bookstore:


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