Monday, November 7, 2016

Iron Dawn by Richard Snow

book cover
Iron Dawn:
The Monitor, the Merrimack, and the Civil War Sea Battle that Changed History
by Richard Snow

ISBN-13: 9781476794181
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Scribner
Released: Nov. 1, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
No single sea battle has had more far-reaching consequences than the one fought in the harbor at Hampton Roads, Virginia, in March 1862. The Confederacy, with no fleet of its own, built an iron fort containing ten heavy guns on the hull of a captured Union frigate named the Merrimack. The North got word of the project when it was already well along, and, in desperation, commissioned an eccentric inventor named John Ericsson to build the Monitor, an entirely revolutionary iron warship—at the time, the single most complicated machine ever made. Rushed through to completion in just 100 days, it mounted only two guns, but they were housed in a shot-proof revolving turret.

The Monitor fought the Merrimack to a standstill and saved the Union cause. As soon as word of the battle spread, Great Britain—the foremost sea power of the day—ceased work on all wooden ships. A thousand-year-old tradition ended, and the path to the naval future opened.

Richly illustrated with photos, maps, and engravings, Iron Dawn is the irresistible story of these incredible, intimidating war machines. Historian Richard Snow brings to vivid life the tensions of the time, describing the building, battles, and impact of the Merrimack and Monitor.

My Review:
Iron Dawn describes the origin, building, and careers of the Merrimack and the Monitor. The author set the scene for the building of these ships through a series of short biographies of the top people involved.

Apparently, not a lot of information has survived that describes the Merrimack (as an iron side ship) and that information isn't very clear. So we mainly learned about the logistics of making her rather than details about how she actually worked. In contrast, the author provided some good descriptions of the Monitor, from how her engines worked to how she stayed watertight. Much of this information was provided through descriptions that people gave at the time as recorded in letters, journals, newspapers, etc.

Once the Merrimack and Monitor were built, we followed their careers with much time spent on the famous fight between the two. This battle was vividly retold as the author quoted descriptions given by people who served on the two ships. The descriptions were gory since the Merrimack had a devastating effect on the wooden ships it attacked before the Monitor arrived.

The author described the fate of the ships after that battle and gave an idea of what serving on them was like. He also talked about the modifications that were made to the Monitor design in future monitor-class ships and how other nations reacted to the new ships.

There were pictures of the people involved, some diagrams and such for the Monitor, and a picture of what the Merrimack may have looked like. The book was very readable, and the battles were exciting even knowing the ultimate outcomes. The Monitor's design and construction was quite remarkable. I'd recommend this book to those interested in naval history, the Civil War, or how we went from wood to iron warships.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

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