His 78th Volume
For Civil War Buffs
By NELSON MORAIS
Myron J. ("Jack") Smith, Tusculum College's librarian, has authored a new book, "The Timberclads in the Civil War -- The Lexington, Conestoga and Tyler in the Western Waters."
The 552-page book chronicles the origin, battles and skirmishes of three "timberclads" on the Western front of the Civil War from 1861-1865.
"It (the timberclads) was the only (Union) naval force for the first six months of the war, so a lot of attention is paid to that period," including how the three timberclads were initially transported from Cincinnati to Illinois, Smith said in an interview Wednesday.
Timberclads were essentially converted riverboats, which were the majority of Union vessels on inland rivers from July 1861-February 1862, Smith said.
The book should be of interest to Civil War buffs, especially students of the early days of the war, the author said.
Amazingly, this is the 78th volume of history or bibliography that Smith has written or compiled. "I'm trying to reach 80 (volumes) before I quit," Smith said.
With their distinctive tall smokestacks (called "chimleys" by some Confederate youths), the timberclads had camouflaged twin paddle-wheel houses and pilothouses.
The boats "served and fought alongside more glamorous and heavier gunned and constructed ironclads," notes B. Franklin Cooling, a history professor in the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National Defense University, in a foreword to "The Timberclads in the Civil War."
Also according to Cooling, the timberclads, "like weaponry procured at the start of war generally ... were obsolete before they even got under way, yet they were representative of the hasty mustering and mobilization of men and materiel from available resources."
Successes In Winter 1861
Three boats -- the USS Lexington, Conestoga and Tyler -- were noteworthy for their successes in the winter of 1861, supporting operations against Forts Henry and Donelson in western Tennessee and the capture of the Confederate bastion at Columbus, Ky., on the Mississippi River, according to Smith's book.
In April, 1862, the Lexington and Tyler helped take Island Number 10 to ward off a Union defeat at Shiloh in southwestern Tennessee.
The Conestoga was lost during the war when it collided with a former Confederate gunboat then flying the Stars and Stripes.
The Lexington and Tyler boats were sold at the end of the war to "private hands," Smith said.
The timberclads were "controlled and built by the (U.S.) Army, and officered by the (U.S.) Navy," Smith said.
"The Confederacy had a naval force (at the same time), but it was very inadequate and considerably less organized," Smith said.
According to book reviewer Andrew Wagenhoffer, "The Timberclads in the Civil War" is "a highly original narrative history and an invaluable reference (and) significant contribution to the Civil War naval literature."
The book, published by McFarland and Company, Inc., is available at http://www.amazon.com and larger booksellers, Smith said.
The hardcover book's price is $75.