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Union Naval Leadership During the Civil War
  • ISBN/SKU: 9781591148555
  • Binding: Hardcover & eBook
  • Era: 19th Century
  • Number of Pages: 352
  • Subject: Civil War
  • Date Available: May 2009
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Full Description:

The Union Navy played a vital role in winning the Civil War by blockading Confederate ports, cooperating with the Union Army in amphibious assaults, and controlling the Mississippi River and its tributaries. President Lincoln understood, however, that the Navy was not as important, militarily and politically, to the war effort as the Army, so he delegated authority to his Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, who divided the Navy into six squadrons and hand-picked their commanders. This book examines Welles' selections and why he appointed them.

While noting that the officers' records, character, and abilities were of primary importance, Taaffe acknowledges that political connections, seniority, and availability were also factored into the selections. He demonstrates that Welles' appointments improved markedly as the war continued and as he gained a better understanding of the Navy and its officer corps. Taaffe contends that Welles' eventual success in picking effective squadron commanders contributed greatly to Union victory.
Stephen R. Taaffe is a professor of history at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX. He holds MA and PhD degrees from Ohio University. He is also the author of the award-winning Commanding the Army of the Potomac, The Philadelphia Campaign, and MacArthur's Jungle War.
 Praise for Commanding Lincoln's Navy

“A dense and richly detailed narrative that is filled with vivid thumbnail sketches of the main actors in the drama. Stephen R. Taaffe tells a good story, has a dazzling command of the primary sources, and, in the end, produces a reasonable and balanced picture of naval contributions to the war for the Union. . . . Taaffe’s narrative is worth reading because of his focus on and insights into leadership and decision making. Commanding Lincoln’s Navycontributes much and joins the list of key texts on Civil war naval history and should be read by anyone interested in the study of leadership—military or civilian.” 

Pull Together, Spring/Summer 2011

“This is not a chronicle of the Civil War at sea and on the rivers. Instead it is a penetrating examination of the political and operational leadership of the Union Navy in the context of the major naval campaigns of the War. . . Overall, Taaffe has provided a detailed examination of the operational leadership of the Union Navy at war and how it responded to political direction. He has exposed a ‘senior leadership group’ which was by no means perfect, but which in the end got the job done. His descriptions of squadron commanders really do illustrate just how individual and imperfect we humans are and possibly equally important, how imperfection does not necessarily mean inability. This is a very useful book and it will reward careful reading.”

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute, June 2011, Issue 140

"At a glance, Commanding Lincoln's Navy might appear similar in nature to Craig Symonds's Lincoln Prize-winning study published last year, but they are actually very different works that complement each other nicely. Both books are equally worthy of a prominent place in the Civil War naval literature. Stephen Taaffe's Commanding Lincoln's Navy is an instructive narrative summary of the wartime roles of the Union navy's squadron commanders and the political world that surrounded them. It should also prove to be a useful reference guide."
— Civil War Books and Authors
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