on February 18, 1999
Lieut. Ringle is among the first to examine the many aspects of sailors' lives during the American Civil War. He examines topics such as the recruiting efforts of the U.S. Navy, compensation and promotion, training, entertainment, and disease to name but a few. This book is not the most eloquently written piece, but the extensive research and sheer fact that this is one of the first books to examine this aspect of CW naval history makes it a must for any American naval library. I find it valuable as a reference for topics that are difficult to find sources on (recruitment, etc.).
on November 5, 2007
Endless treatments on the Civil War touch on everything about the armies, the men, and the campaigns they fought. Few books exist examining the naval facet of the war; an unforgivable omission since the navy played an integral component in the war's outcome. Dennis Ringle's Life in Mr. Lincoln's Navy is the first monograph to delve into examining the Yankee seaman. He discusses a variety of issues, from the type of men who enlisted, their training, food, medical care, social activities, integration with African Americans, shipboard and battle routine, and most importantly, their role in proving the new technological innovations of the ironclad.
Dennis Ringle's book is a good, though brief, view of the Union seaman, his role in the war, and the evolution of naval technology. He provides a tantalizing glimpse into the hardships endured by the naval leadership to build and recruit a fighting force. The seaman endured periods of boredom, punctuated by happy social times and terrifying bouts of battle horror. Ringle points out several areas where the army failed, but where the navy succeeded. One is in medical care and he makes a blanket statement that army surgeons had lacked in professional reading and competency. This is not true. Having read extensively Alfred Bollet's "Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs," H.H. Cunningham's "Doctors in Gray," and George Adams' "Doctors in Blue," the army dwarfed the navy in size and, thus, naturally (proportionally) incurred higher casualties and disease (amongst other issues). The army did possess a core of incompetent doctors, but eventually weeded them out through examination boards. Additionally, many surgeons were well read. Many were aware of scurvy, the use of hypodermic needles, and many instituted very remarkable treatments for disease and wounds. Ringle's statement leads a reader to believe army surgeons were generally incompetent. Historians today continue to try and counter this fallacy (as evidenced by the three previously mentioned books, which are exceptional treatments on Civil War medicine). What should be challenged was not competency, but the willingness of army leadership to actually listen to the surgeon and sanitary aid commissions' recommendations on health care, something that would happen, but only after the passage of some time.
Nevertheless, Ringle's book is an excellent primer on understanding the navy seaman. Incorporating a variety of diaries, correspondence, and official records, the reader departs with several important views. One, the tenacity and determination of those charged with outfitting and testing the dangerous new technologies of steam and ironclad laid the framework for war's success. It also laid the framework for the modern day navy. Second, the monitor-class warships were the war's greatest naval innovation, spawning further technical innovation and experimentation. Third, that racial integration amongst men could work. The navy needed the black man and in turn gave them equal footing with their white shipmates. Overall, the seaman was similar to his army brethren and can lay rightful claim in having performed just a vital a role in the war's outcome as the infantryman.
on August 27, 2008
The book is good, but it a lot flatter than I had hoped. Perhaps a few personal stories could give its heartline a little beat. It is interesting and easy to read, but too matter-of-fact. This book is not begging me to pick it up - but its history now.
on September 4, 2010
I stumbled upon Life in Mr. Lincoln's Navy completely by accident. It was on a reading list that I was supposed to read one book from. None of the books on the list seemed promising except for Dennis Ringle's non-fiction work regarding sailors and the navy during the Civil War.I had been in the Navy for seven years so I thought that it might be interesting to see what life was like for an enlisted man, like myself, at the time. Boy, was I disappointed.
Ringle has taken a subject matter that could have been very interesting to read and, instead, has written a straight-forward-bare-bones book that is very bland. It's an uninspired book and it shows in the writing. The book is written on about the same level that an undergraduate college student would write. The chapters, with titles like Beans and Pork and Shipboard Routine, are short on facts (There is no way to tell the story of a Civil War sailor or life in the Civil War navy in 149 pages).
The biggest problem with Life in Mr. Lincoln's Navy is that it is just plain boring to read. There is no narrative that connects the chapters. Some sort of narrative would have gone a long way to make this book a better read.
I would not go so far as to say "Don't read this book!" It's a decent book if you need a reference for a paper. However, it's not a book that an armchair historian, or even anyone well versed on Civil War history, would care to read.
on October 2, 2013
Great read for the historian interested in what life was like for the sailors in the Union Navy during the American Civil War. The details that Mr. Ringle has put together in categories such as recruiting, training, logistics and operations, makes for a good foundation for future reading into the Naval campaigns of the war.