Defending the Arteries of Rebellion; Confederate Naval Operations in the Mississippi River Valley, 1861-1865

Defending the Arteries of Rebellion; Confederate Naval Operations in the Mississippi River Valley, 1861-1865, by Neil P. Chatelain, Savas Beatie, 339 pages, 2020, Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table review by Arley McCormick

This book may become the “go to reference” documenting the Confederate Naval Operations in the Western Theater. Hundreds of pages are on the shelves of the War Between the States enthusiasts and historians that address the belligerent Army’s effort to secure or defend the influential waterways of the Western Theater, but none concentrate as comprehensively on the Confederate Navy.

Many of the most decisive moments documented by the author are accented by the personal accounts of those who were responsible or close to the action, and he addresses both the strategic aims of President’s Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. He includes the Confederate innovations that ultimately failed to secure the tributaries from Union control, but startled the U.S. Navy and opened the door for increased emphasis on remotely detonated torpedoes and armament.

Confederate defensive measures are explained in the context, scope, means, and performance of Confederate Naval and Army forces defending the Mississippi River, its tributaries, and more detail regarding the defense of fortified towns of Vicksburg, Mississippi and Port Hudson, Louisiana.

The author documents both Confederate and Union governments logic behind building a riverine force that contributed to the campaigns on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers in Tennessee as well as the Yazoo in Mississippi, the Arkansas River in Arkansas, and the Red River campaign of 1864; and of course the Navy view of the capture of New Orleans. With few exceptions, all of these areas are frequently analyzed, debated, and illustrated from the Union forces perspective and casually address the Confederate Navy effort. The authors research certainly provides comprehensive coverage of the courage and initiative invested by Confederate sailors, marines, soldiers and contractors to challenge the more numerous and better armed U.S. Navy.

Many authors have chronicled the effort of the U.S. Navy during the Civil War, but Neil Chatelain clearly achieved his goal of documenting the Confederate effort to organize a Navy both on the high seas and inland waterways and is nothing short of a monumental achievement.