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The American Civil War was primarily a land war, in which more than 700,000 young men lost their lives. But it was also a naval war waged along the coast, on the inland rivers, and on the high seas. Although the naval contest did not decide the outcome, it played a major role in the trajectory and very likely the length of that war. As in the land war, the war at sea witnessed the emergence of a new generation of technology, from armor plate to rifled guns, and from mines (called torpedoes) to the first submarine to sink a warship in battle.
Craig L. Symonds offers an overview of the naval war in its varied aspects, including three key episodes from the end of the war—the dramatic battle of Mobile Bay, where Admiral Farragut delivered his famous cry, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”; the battle of Wilmington, where combined Union naval and army forces successfully overran Fort Fisher; and the remarkable cruise of the CSS Shenandoah, a round-the-world voyage of 58,000 miles.
Symonds is professor emeritus at the U.S. Naval Academy and author of The Civil War At Sea (Oxford University Press, 2012), available for signing at the program.
Learn more about the Civil War at Sea, listen to clips from Smithsonian Folkways recordings>>
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Echoes of the Past.
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