In the most detailed history of Union warships on the western waters of the Civil War, the author recounts the exploits of the timberclad ships Lexington, Tyler, and Conestoga. Converted to warships from commercial steamboats at the beginning of the conflict, the three formed the core of the North's Western Flotilla, later the Mississippi Squadron. The book focuses on the activities of these wooden warriors while providing context for the greater war, including accounts of their famous commanders, their roles in both large and small battles, ship-to-ship combat, and support for the armies of Gen. U.S. Grant and Gen. William T. Sherman.
Smith, Myron J., Jr. The timberclads in the Civil War: the Lexington, Conestoga and Tyler on the western waters. McFarland, 2008. 552p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780786435784. Reviewed in 2009mar CHOICE.
When the Civil War broke out, the Union Army hastily converted three paddle-wheel riverboats into multipurpose vessels designed to support troops. Before being superseded by more modern ironclad steam-powered warships, the Lexington, Conestoga, and Tyler played key roles in the capture of Forts Henry and Donaldson, the Kentucky cities of Paducah and Columbus, and Island No. 10, and in staving off disaster at Shiloh. The conversion of the three riverboats and their role in these campaigns form the book's focus. The final third is devoted to mid-1863 to the end of the war, during which time these vessels conducted less glamorous but equally important roles patrolling the Arkansas, Yazoo, Cumberland, Tennessee, Black, White, and Ouachita rivers. There they transported troops and supplies, countered enemy guerrilla activity, provided gunfire support for infantry operations ashore, and generally policed the subdued rebel territory. Librarian Smith (Tusculum College) is also the author of Le Roy Fitch (CH, Oct'08, 46-1103), a biography of the lieutenant colonel who commanded the Carondelet, one of the ironclad gunboats that replaced the timberclads as front-line vessels in the West. Basing his work on thorough research, Smith has now produced the first, and what is likely to be the definitive, study of the timberclads.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. -- J. C. Bradford, Texas A&M University
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