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90CIVIL WAR HISTORY military historian, Alberts is also an archeology consultant and past president of the Glorieta Battlefield Preservation Society. All of this makes for a complete, in-depth knowledge of his subject, which is imparted to the reader by a masterful prose that brings the story alive as few others have. It is a book well worth reading. William L. Richter Tucson, Arizona Hurricane ofFire: The Union Assault on Fort Fisher. By Charles M. Robinson III. (Annapolis: United States Naval Institute Press, 1998. Pp. xiii, 249. $29.95.) Throughout the Civil War the Union tightened its grip on the Confederacy's seaborne commerce, but the navy's best efforts both could not stop blockade running at Wilmington, North Carolina. The area's unique hydrography made blockade enforcement difficult enough, but natural protection alone did not satisfy the Confederates. Fort Fisher, on the peninsula that divides the Cape Fear River from the Atlantic Ocean, formed the linchpin of Wilmington's defensive system. In his very readable narrative, Charles M. Robinson III, examines Fort Fisher's role in "the whole sweep of blockade operations," from the early days of the blockade in 1861 to the fort's capture in January 1865. Looking at Wilmington and Fort Fisher from the Union's point of view, Robinson traces Federal attempts to tighten the blockade. After flirting with the idea of a purely seaborne attack, by early 1863 the U.S. Navy had decided that closing the port ofWilmington would require ajoint operation. Several expeditions were proposed, but none was carried out, since the navy was focused on Charleston, South Carolina, and the army resisted the "diversion" of troops to coastal North Carolina. In addition, the author asserts, "elements in the North" who benefitted from Wilmington's trade had "enough political power to keep the port open until sheer military necessity . . . dictated otherwise." He provides few specifics, however, and vacillates between qualified statements ofpossibility and the flat assertion, "Such a situation could exist only with sanction from high levels in the U.S. political and military structure" (24-26). By 1864, Wilmington's importance was so manifest that the Union finally mounted ajoint expedition to capture Fort Fisher and close the port. The first attack , in December 1 864, failed when the army commander, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler, withdrew his troops. In this connection the author credits the failed attempts to storm Fort Wagner and Fort Sumter with creating a "Charleston effect ," which made army officers overcautious about assaulting seacoast forts but gave naval officers undue optimism about land action by their sailors. Adm. David Dixon Porter's plan for the second attack included a force of sailors who would "board" the fort, covered by the fleet's Marines. The book's greatest strength is its treatment of the action of this "naval brigade." Making extensive BOOK REVIEWS9I use of first-person accounts, the author firmly supports his contention that the Marines were unfairly blamed for the failure of the naval brigade's attack. Except in this area, however, the bibliography and notes do not sustain the jacket claims of "exhaustive" primary source research. The absence of citations to the unpublished papers ofGustavusV. Fox, Louis Goldsborough, and Samuel P. Lee, and to the National Archives' series of squadron and departmental letters, is surprising in a work that addresses the Union Navy's strategic thinking. Hurricane of Fire is a sound general history and a foundation for more detailed scholarship. William H. Roberts Columbus, Ohio Six Years of Hell: Harpers Ferry during the Civil War. By Chester G. Hearn. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996. Pp. xiv, 319. $29.95.) Six Years ofHell examines Civil War events in and about Harpers Ferry, from the John Brown raid in 1 859 through the war's conclusion in 1 865. "By all accounts," Hearn contends, "it had been six years of hell" (292). Certainly this thesis is borne out by the narrative; indeed one could argue that no town in America suffered more over such a prolonged period. One searches in vain, however, for something that would elevate the book beyond a mere chronicle of hard times at Harpers Ferry—some interpretive insight that would transcend...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 90-91
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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