After decades of neglect, the naval aspects of the Civil War are at last getting a lot of serious attention from historians. In addition to old standards such as Virgil Carrington Jones’ three-volume The Civil War at Sea (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1960–62), published 50 years ago during the centennial of the war, there are a number of newer works that focus on the naval war. These include Ivan Musicant’s Divided Waters: The Naval History of the Civil War (HarperCollins, 1995), and Spencer Tucker’s Blue & Gray Navies: The Civil War Afloat (Naval Institute Press, 2006). A recent shorter history is my own book The Civil War at Sea (Praeger, 2009). Lincoln’s role in the naval war is covered in my 2008 book Lincoln and his Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, The U.S. Navy, and the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2008), which won the 2009 Lincoln Prize.
Stephen R. Taaffe investigates the Union high command and its management of the Navy in Commanding Lincoln’s Navy: Union Naval Leadership during the Civil War (Naval Institute Press, 2009), and Michael Bennett studies the lower deck in his book Union Jacks: Yankee Sailors in the Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2004). The best general history of the Confederate Navy is by Raimondo Luraghi: A History of the Confederate Navy (Naval Institute Press, 1996).
The war’s role as a technological watershed has not been overlooked. For Union ironclads see William H. Roberts, Civil War Ironclads: The U.S. Navy and Industrial Mobilization (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), and for Confederate ironclads see William N. Still Jr., Iron Afloat: The Story of the Confederate Armorclads (Vanderbilt University Press, 1971; reprinted University of South Carolina Press, 1995). The best book on the role of the submarine H. L. Hunley is Tom Chaffin’s The H. L. Hunley: The Secret Hope of the Confederacy (Hill & Wang, 2008).
For the blockade, Robert Browning covers the history of the Union effort in two books: From Cape Charles to Cape Fear: The North Atlantic Blockading Squadron during the Civil War (University of Alabama Press, 1993), and Success Is All That Was Expected: The South Atlantic Blockading Squadron during the Civil War (Brassey’s, 2002). Stephen A. Wise covers the Southern side of the story in Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running during the Civil War (University of South Carolina Press, 1988).
For the war on the Western rivers, the best general study is still John D. Milligan, Gunboats Down the Mississippi (Naval Institute Press, 1949, reprint 1990). But see also the specialized campaign studies by B. Franklin Cooling—Forts Henry and Donelson: The Key to the Confederate Heartland (University of Tennessee Press, 1987)—and Chester Hearn—The Capture of New Orleans, 1862 (Louisiana State University Press, 1995). The best one-volume study of the Vicksburg campaign is by Michael Ballard: Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi (University of North Carolina Press, 2004).