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Galveston and the Civil War:: An Island City in the Maelstrom Paperback – September 4, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Schmidt is a member of the Galveston Historical Foundation, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, and the Woodlands area Civil War Round Table. He is the author of three other Civil War titles and the Civil War Medicine (and Writing) blog.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609492838
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609492830
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #904,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Jim Schmidt's Galveston and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom is a unique and valuable account of the experience of Galvestonians during the conflict of 1861-65. While several previous works have focused on military and naval activities on the upper Texas coast, none has devoted as much attention to the experiences of common citizens and soldiers as this book does. I had the pleasure of corresponding with the author during the development of this book, and reading sections of it before it went to print, and was impressed by the depth of Jim's scholarship and the variety of primary source material he has pulled together to tell a complex story that, up to now, has only been briefly touched on by others.

As a native Galvestonian with a long-abiding interest in the history of my own home town, I was surprised at how much new material, and new understanding, Jim has brought to this short volume. His closing chapters on the scourge of yellow fever and the arrival of emancipation are particularly important in understanding Galveston's past and the long-lasting legacies of the war here. Jim's dogged research and fine writing skills have combined to produce a volume that is both easily accessible to the casual reader and valuable to the scholar seeking a better understanding of the war on the Texas coast. This book will be appreciated by anyone with an interest in local history, the Civil War in Texas, or the home front in the South during that conflict.
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Format: Paperback
I recommend this book for both the general reader and the professional community. As a nautical archaeologist with an ongoing research project concerning a site in Galveston, I found this an excellent if brief retelling of Galveston's Civil War experience. It particularly appeals to me in the extensive use of archival resources such as letters and diaries to bring the experience of individual participants to the fore.

The volume's editor would have done well to consult a specialist regarding proper use of maritime terminology (see the chapter on blockade-running), but a few such errors will not detract from the public's enjoyment and are easily fixed in future printings.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
“Galveston and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom” is a useful contribution by an amateur historian. James Schmidt is a Houston research scientist with a strong interest in Texas history and an avowed life long fascination with Galveston. This is a quick read based on extensive research and a good overview of Civil War era Galveston. Schmidt makes particularly good use of contemporary letters and diaries housed in Galveston’s Rosenberg Library and the Center for American History at the University of Texas. There is an excellent bibliography for readers interested in exploring Civil War Texas history in greater depth.

Schmidt makes some profound points. He documents that slavery was central to Galveston which was the main Texas port for the booming pre-war interstate slave trade. Fear that Lincoln would aggressively attack slavery underpinned the strong Galveston secessionist movement. That argument is explored in more depth by David Keehn in “Knights of the Golden Circle: Secret Empire, Southern Secession, Civil War” published after “Galveston and the the Civil War” went to press. The Confederates exploited impressed slave labor to build strong defensive works, a major factor in the decision by U.S. Naval officers not to try to retake Galveston after the Confederates recaptured the city in 1863. Schmidt also shows how this victory benefited the rebels first by boosting morale then after Mobile fell in August 1864 by their use of Galveston as the last Gulf port available to blockade runners. Indeed, Galveston was the only significant rebel held port at the end of the Civil War. The Navy was still engaging blockage runners in May 1865 well after the end or organized Confederate resistance east of the Mississippi.

Schmidt’s perspective is highly localized.
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