Sailing Aboard the Monitor: Reviews of Two Books about the USS Monitor

Reviewed by William F.B. Vodrey
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2002, 2007, All Rights Reserved

The March 9, 1862 clash of the ironclads USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimack) has always had a tenacious grip on the American imagination. It is easily the best-known naval engagement of the war. Many historians call the first-ever battle between two armored warships a draw; after all, neither warship was sunk or seriously damaged. However, when the battle was over, it was the larger, more heavily-armed Virginia which withdrew, and the smaller, more maneuverable Monitor which remained in place, having successfully guarded the vulnerable wooden warships of the U.S. Navy blockading fleet in Hampton Roads, Va.

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The Essential Lincoln Bookshelf

By Mel Maurer and William F.B. Vodrey
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2010, All Rights Reserved

We will not be surprised if everyone who comes to this web page shouts, “Fools! With at least 16,000 books on Abraham Lincoln written over the years, how could anyone hope to boil them all down to a mere handful?” A fair question, but throwing caution to the wind, here is our idiosyncratic list of favorites. Disagree? Have at it!

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Jacob Dolson Cox

By Dennis Keating
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2014, All Rights Reserved

As Eugene Schmiel concludes in his biography of Jacob Dolson Cox, he was a Renaissance Man in the Gilded Age. Schmiel recounts his many pursuits as a Citizen-General. These include his life as a lawyer, politician, corporate executive, educator, author, and Civil War general.

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A Report on American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague, Civil War “Belle of the North” by John Oller

By Jean Rhodes
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2015, All Rights Reserved

Katherine Jane Chase, the daughter of Ohio politician, Salmon P. Chase was the envy of the Washington social set during the war years and beyond.

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On Trees and Forests: Correcting History’s View of J. Wilkes Booth

By John C. Fazio
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2015, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: John C. Fazio is a past president of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable and the author of numerous articles on the Lincoln assassination as well as the book, Decapitating the Union: Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and the Plot to Assassinate Lincoln, published in 2015 by McFarland.


Even the masters go astray occasionally. Edison thought direct current was the wave of the future. Ezra Pound thought Mussolini and Hitler were statesmen instead of the buffoons and bloody tyrants they were. Einstein thought nuclear energy would never be obtainable. So it is, too, sometimes, with historians. Otherwise brilliant and conscientious men and women spend so much time studying trees that they lose sight of the forests.

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A Review of Pickett’s Charge: A New Look at Gettysburg’s Final Attack by Phillip Thomas Tucker

By Dennis Keating
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2017, All Rights Reserved


Historian Phillip Thomas Tucker claims about the Pickett-Pettigrew Charge on the third day at Gettysburg:

Lee’s complex battle plan on July 3 was more brilliant than Napoleon’s at Waterloo…Lee unleashed a sophisticated and complex, three-part tactical plan to split the Army of the Potomac in two. Despite the failure of Stuart’s cavalry to charge into the rear of Meade’s right-center, and the lack of Longstreet’s and Hill’s coordination of the offensive effort as Lee bitterly reflected for the rest of his days, the attack had nearly succeeded nevertheless. (p. 359)

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Lee’s complex battle plan on July 3 was more brilliant than Napoleon’s at Waterloo…Lee unleashed a sophisticated and complex, three-part tactical plan to split the Army of the Potomac in two. Despite the failure of Stuart’s cavalry to charge into the rear of Meade’s right-center, and the lack of Longstreet’s and Hill’s coordination of the offensive effort as Lee bitterly reflected for the rest of his days, the attack had nearly succeeded nevertheless. (p. 359)

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