6 thoughts on “The Sunday Question: Union Naval Operations

  1. Michael Lynch October 9, 2011 / 5:35 pm

    I think they did about all they could do. They used the rivers in the western part of the Confederacy to penetrate deeply into enemy territory and instituted a blockade along the coasts.


  2. Jeff Davis October 9, 2011 / 5:54 pm

    I think on the Rivers it was a magnificent combined arms effort, and in Mobile Bay, the Union Navy had perhaps its finest hour.

    On the Atlantic Coast I have always felt they did not support coastal operations with anywhere near the weight and number of guns necessary to breach Confederate Coastal defenses.

    Operations in Hampton Roads, however, with the two experimental ironclads squaring off would have been something special to witness.

    On coastal blockade the Confederate =blockade runners did get through but not nearly enough to mae a difference, hence it can be viewed as effective.

    On the high seas, the sinking of the USS Alabama was the high point, and the Kearsarge and crew performed commendably in that effort.

    All in all, for a war that was fought almost entirely on the ground, the Navy made a substantial contribution.

  3. James F. Epperson October 9, 2011 / 6:01 pm

    Almost surely they could have done something better, but I think they generally did as best they could. To affect the land campaigns required army troops, and that is what was lacking in most cases.

  4. Ray O'Hara October 9, 2011 / 7:42 pm

    Grant certainly used it. He ranks high in Army-Navy co-operation even by WWII standards.
    Farragut was aggressive and energetic, butr he couldn’t be everywhere commanding every squadron.
    Others like Dupont and Porter could have been more aggressive, Grant always wanted more effort from the Navy in regard to closing the ports , they spent too much time just blockading when they might have tried closing them in late 63 and early 64.

    Letting the Hartford rot away until it had to be scuttled in 1954 was a tragedy. it should be on display like the Constitution and the Olympia.
    they should have saved the Carrier Enterprise too.
    those four ships are the history of the USN writ large.its a shame only two survived

  5. John Foskett October 10, 2011 / 8:10 am

    I’m hardly an expert in this area, so I’ll leave detailed assessments to the others. Given the composition of the Navy at the start of the War and at least two very different missions they were given (blocklade and riverine), it seems to me that they did a good job. They were still phasing out the remnants of the old sail/frigate-based force for open water operations and had to create from scratch a force to operate internally on the western rivers. The latter mission also required them to formulate from scratch a combined operations doctrine. All of this had to occur in the midst of a full-on war. When you look at the results, it has to be graded pretty highly. .

  6. TF Smith October 10, 2011 / 8:59 pm

    The USN’s effort was superb, given the strategic situation and the resources available, especially in a period of vast technical change.

    As one example, the creation of Blockade Board itself, made up of Du Pont, Barnard, Davis, and Bache (at the time, a captain, major, commander, and civilian, and with Fox’s enthusiastic support) is an impressive example of the talent the US was able to mobilize – and quickly – in 1861. Basically, between June and September, they met, wrote multiple reports, each focusing on a different section of the coast, and presented the plans to the NCA…

    By Oct. 19, 1861, DuPont and Sherman left New York with an expeditionary force of 12,000 men, escorted by (among others) designed-for-the-purpose coastal warships that had been timber three months earlier, and took Port Royal on Nov. 7, 1861…the equivalent in WW II would have been if WATCHTOWER had been sucessfully mounted in May of 1942…

    Along with the work that Foote and Porter accomplished with Grant (much less Rodgers’ and Eads’ work to create the Western flotilla); the facts of the Port Royal expedition, and the Burnside/Goldsborough 1862 expedition in North Carolina and the Farrugut/Butler effort in Louisiana, are extremely impressive, given the era and the mobilization effort necessary to make them happen.

    In many ways, the professional leadership of the USN did better in the war, in terms of applying professional planning and maintaining control of the mobilization, then the US Army did…

    There was no naval equivalent of the “political general”, and the prewar regulars maintained command throughout – there was no naval equivalent of McClellan, for example.

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