Guns on the Western Waters: The Story of River Gunboats in the Civil War

Guns on the Western Waters: The Story of River Gunboats in the Civil War

Guns on the Western Waters: The Story of River Gunboats in the Civil War

Guns on the Western Waters: The Story of River Gunboats in the Civil War

Excerpt

Very little history of distant events can be much more than a rehash of material which has already been told or written before. Accordingly, no apologies will be made for reprinting without change the several eyewitness contributions which constitute the heart of this volume. As has so often been done, I might have taken these selections and transformed the narratives into my own words; by so doing I might perhaps receive more acclaim as a "writer of history" than will come to me under the present arrangement. I am satisfied, however, that the stories would lose a good deal through the transformation; therefore I am presenting them unchanged for that reason if for no other. If this scheme proves acceptable to the reader it should furnish him with a method of absorbing history painlessly. With the same aim in view, the "scholarly approach" is deliberately avoided in this volume. At the same time the greatest effort has been made to give every fact and judgment with the utmost accuracy.

A sufficient number of firsthand tales are included herein to provide a pretty good picture of the gunboat operations on western waters during the Civil War. Selections have been made with the aim of furnishing examples of the various phases of the fighting. However, there were a couple of events of which I have been unable to discover any suitable narratives written by participants-- events which were too dramatic to omit. Accordingly I have, myself, reconstructed those happenings as well as I was able to do it from the records. I hope that the quality of that work will not seem to fall too noticeably below the standards of the rest. The other new work included herein is of two kinds. To begin with, the several firsthand contributions are tied together to form a more continuous story of the four years of war in the West. And secondly, at the start and finish, sketches are provided of the more important affairs which took place on each of the other naval "fronts." Thus it is hoped that the reader may obtain an adequate view of the whole naval war from 1861 to 1865, even though all the emphasis is on the western rivers.

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