Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Faces of the Civil War Navies: An Album of Union and Confederate Sailors

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Faces of the Civil War Navies: An Album of Union and Confederate Sailors

Article excerpt

Faces of the Civil War Navies: An Album of Union and Confederate Sailors. By Ronald S. Coddington. Foreword by Craig L. Symonds. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016. Pp. xxxiv, 401. $32.95, ISBN 978-1-4214-2136-0.)

They were poets, lawyers, bookkeepers, and waiters. They participated in well-known battles and nearly forgotten engagements. They were black and white men who fought for the Union or the Confederacy, and no matter their background, they were all sailors during the American Civil War. Ronald S. Coddington has profiled seventy-seven of them in this well-crafted volume. Part of an ongoing series by Coddington, this book takes its place next to Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories (Baltimore, 2004), Faces of the Confederacy: An Album of Southern Soldiers and Their Stories (Baltimore, 2008), and African American Faces of the Civil War: An Album (Baltimore, 2012); it also serves as a natural extension of the quarterly publication Military Images, which Coddington edits and publishes. The images in this latest offering were drawn almost exclusively from private collections, including Coddington's own--a decision the author made after abandoning searches at public and private institutions, in part because such repositories tend to collect more historically significant images. Coddington has eschewed the famous in favor of the everyman officer and mariner, and the book is all the better for his decision.

Twelve of the images depict Confederate sailors, and sixty-five are of Union sailors. Sixty-two of the individuals represented were officers, and the remaining fifteen, including the two African American men, were enlisted. Each man's image is accompanied by a written profile that adds color and life to the sometimes stiff and static black-and-white images. When fewer personal details exist, Coddington highlights events that a sailor would have participated in. Humor, honor, disgrace, and pathos exist in somewhat equal portions within the seventy-seven profiles. …

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