Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Island No. 10: Struggle for the Mississippi Valley First Edition by Larry J. Daniel (Author), Lynn N. Bock (Author) (University of Alabama Press)

This book covers not only Island#10, but also the nearby/adjoining river defenses at New Madrid and Point Pleasant on the Missouri shore (captured by Pope's Army), and batteries along the Tennessee shoreline across from Island #10 and below it (neutralized by Union Gunboats). The batteries on Island#10, which were the most significant threat to Union ships, were surrendered once gunboats passed the island thus enabling thousands of Union troops to safely cross the river below the island, thereby flanking it (the island was not heavily garrisoned and defensed only facing the river).

Like Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland, the batteries on and around Island #10 presented the Confederate forces their most forward (and most substantial) defensive position on the Mississippi River (Columbus, KY was initially, but was abandoned without a fight once the position was turned by Grant's Army). What is also notable about this battle was that this defensive position had more heavy canon that even Vicksburg subsequently had. Furthermore, this siege/battle provided valuable lessons for the Union that were incorporated in subsequent ones, notably Vicksburg, e.g., understanding that ironclads could effectively run past heavy shore batteries, the limitations of mortars, and the effective application of joint Navy/Army operations. The defeat created panic and had negative effects on morale in the South, and highlighted the shortcomings of static river defenses as the predominant Confederate strategy to block Union use of the river to ferry troops and supplies, and keeping it open for its own use. Finally, this defeat resulted in at least 4,000 confederate forces captured with no more than 25 total casualties for the Union, as well as the loss of dozens of Confederate artillery pieces. No Union gunboats were lost.

This book is well-researched, structured, and easy to read and comprehend. The paperback is also larger than normal, and so is the text. Good maps, photos, and illustrations are generously provided in appropriate locations throughout.

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