Nearing a publishing deadline is always a hectic time for editors. That's especially true when the Naval History issue we're working on includes a bonus gatefold package. And as you probably know by now, this is one of those stress-inducing fold-out editions—focusing on the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay and the West Gulf Blockading Squadron.
This time, however, assembling and editing the package's articles, maps, and drawings has gone remarkably well, and we're not scrambling as we enter the home stretch. Credit for that goes to authors Robert M. Browning Jr. ("More Than Just Blockade Duty" and "Go Ahead, Go Ahead") and Craig L. Symonds ("Confluence of Careers at Mobile Bay"); artist Patrick O'Brien; design director Kelly Erlinger; and senior editor James M. Caiella.
Dr. Symonds submitted his article about Union Rear Admiral David G. Farragut and Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan weeks ahead of his deadline—always a big help. Dr. Browning, chief historian for the U.S. Coast Guard, did more than just get his stories about the blockading squadron and the 5 August 1864 battle in on time. He also helped research Patrick O'Brien's Battle of Mobile Bay painting (see cover and pages 28-29) by locating ship photographs at the Naval History & Heritage Command and answering questions ranging from weather conditions—mostly overcast with a westerly wind—to the number of men in the Hartford's tops-two howitzer gun crews plus the pilot (Admiral Farragut was in the rigging just below the main top).
Also, a resource with which every Civil War writer should be familiar was an invaluable help in pulling together this gatefold package—the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. Looking up an action report for a World War II ship requires a journey to the National Archives. Comparable information about a Civil War vessel, however, is readily available in the 31-volume Naval ORs. To find it just requires a trip to a large library or an internet search. All sorts of details about the Battle of Mobile Bay—including officers' reports, forts' armaments, order of battle, messages sent and received, ammunition expended, and damage reports—were found in Series I, Volume 21, which covers the West Gulf Blockading Squadron in 1864.
Beyond just facts and figures, the Naval ORs, as well as their 128-volume army counterpart, are a rich and colorful compendium of men's actions in the heat of Civil War battle. And an anecdote in Volume 21 from the journal of USS Lackawanna Captain John B. Marchand illustrates how those actions can occasionally be surprisingly humorous.
Marchand was standing on the screw sloop's bridge when she slammed into the CSS Tennessee during the Battle of Mobile Bay's final, hectic free-for-all. Peering into one of the ironclad's gun ports, he locked eyes with a Confederate Sailor, who the captain recalled, "hallooed out to me, 'You d-d Yankee son of a b-h.'" Nearby Union crewmen overheard the curse and "redoubled their discharges of small arms into the rebel ports, and as some of them had not small arms in their possession, one of them threw a spitbox and another a hand holystone at the fellow." One fact the Naval ORs don't include is whether the profane Confederate was among the Tennessee's 11 casualties.