In McPherson’s view, the Union’s “much maligned blockade” of cotton and the money-starved Confederates’ emphasis on shipping cotton bales through the Caribbean islands and thence to Britain are main themes of the blue -water conflict. But McPherson also argues for a fuller appreciation of the “brown water” navies, particularly on the Union side. The Union’s greater facility for building shallow-draft gunboats and coordinating their movements with ground-warfare and transportation needs was largely the work of one man, Foote, a Lincoln favorite who died of kidney disease in 1863. McPherson shows that in a fairer world, this Connecticut Yankee, who could “pray like a saint and fight like the devil,” would rank near Farragut in postbellum fame.
Fans of glorious Rebel tidbits will appreciate the credit given Confederate Navy Secretary Stephen R. Mallory’s “strategy of countering Northern naval superiority with Southern ingenuity.” The result was a technological head start for the South on saltwater ironclads and submarines. One of Mallory’s two submarines scored history’s first sinking of a surface ship by an underwater craft. His Confederate Submarine Battery Service also put out thousands of mines; these were the “torpedoes” that Farragut may have damned.