The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 54, July 1950 - April, 1951

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

haps the editor-to say, in part, "Fortunately, life holds compen-
sations for us all, ... ."
The University of Texas
Guns on the Western Waters. By H. Allen Gosnell. Baton Rouge
(Louisiana State University Press), 1949. Pp. ix+273. Pho-
tographs and drawings. $6.50.
Lieutenant Commander Gosnell is a knowing and considerate
gentleman. He is aware that civil historians are uninterested in
"Othello's occupation" per se, that they have no enthusiasm for
mere technical studies of the deployment of machines and men
in battle, and that they dislike counting the wounded and dying.
They sift through military and naval volumes to get a complete
picture of a war period and to seek out circumstances and facts
which throw light on broader problems than merely winning the
war. Hence his story of gunboat engagements on the rivers and
bayous during the Civil War is as readable and non-technical as
an authentic and semi-scholarly study will permit.
The initial chapter gives the landlubber a primer on naval
science and tactics, marine engineering, ordnance and gunnery,
and the varied types of vessels employed in the gunboat navies
of the U.S.A. and the C.S.A. By his heavy reliance upon eye-
witness accounts of participants in most of the engagements
which he treats, he presents a sort of wild-western version. It is
true that gunboat warfare was rugged and peril was imminent
and heavy, and any realistic account would recite dramatic epi-
sodes and recount the continuous heroism of those who lived
and died.
The gunboat navy was composed of every type of boat that
would float or fight. They ranged from ironclads to wooden
craft "armored" with lashed-to barges and bales of cotton. There
were rams and even rowboats. It required an ingenious crew of
officers and seamen to keep them afloat by repair and by innova-
tion. The engagements were both episodical and planned. Cor-
related with land and sea action, river warfare was a phase of
the internal disruption and blockade of the Confederacy.
Gosnell's pattern is to introduce each engagement with his own


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 54, July 1950 - April, 1951. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed February 11, 2016.