The Navies - Preface
FEW annals in the history of the United States are of greater and more compelling interest than those connected with the achievement of its sailors. The descendants of Drake and Frobisher, led by John Paul Jones, Perry, Bainbridge, Porter, and other illustrious naval heroes in the days of lofty spars and topsails, made a name for themselves both on the sea and on the lasting scrolls of history. Their records, penned by historians and novelists, form brilliant pages in American literature. Therefore, it was not strange that a conflict in which officers and seamen of the same race and speech, graduates of the same historic Naval Academy and sailing the same seas and along the same shores, met in heroic struggle, should form a story second to none in its fascination and interest.
The Civil War ships and the men who fought them are distinctive in naval history, not for immensity of single battles or extent of total destruction, but for diversity of action, the complete realization of the ironclad as a fighting vessel, and the development of the torpedo as a weapon of destruction. Readers are fortunate in finding, at the outset of this volume, the scholarly appreciation by Admiral Chadwick of the essential part played by the navies in the war, while the battles at sea and on inland waters are described by Mr. Barnes with a vividness possible only to a naval historian to whom the sea and its sailors long have been objects of sympathetic study.
The photographic record of the great American conflict is particularly striking in this volume. Never before has there been assembled such a pictorial and actual record of fleets and sailors, Union and Confederate. The stately frigate with walls of live-oak, the newly born ironclad, the swift blockade-runner, the commerce-destroying cruiser, which left its indelible mark on the American merchant marine no less than on international law, and last, but not least, the actors in scenes of the great naval drama appear on the pages that follow, in an illustrated "catalogue of the ships" that even Homer in his stately Iliad could have envied.