Voice from the Past: “Absolute Naval Supremacy”

We continue our Fort Donelson sesquicentennial celebration with the following diary entry by William Howard Russell, December, 1861:

On my return to New York, at the end of February, the North was cheered by some signal successes achieved in the West, principally by gunboats, operating on the lines of the great rivers. The greatest results have been obtained in the capture of Fort Donaldson and Fort Henry, by Commodore Foote’s flotilla co√∂perating with the land forces. The possession of an absolute naval supremacy, of course, gives the North United States powerful means of annoyance and inflicting injury and destruction on the enemy; it also secures for them the means of seizing upon bases of operations whereever they please, of breaking up the enemy’s lines, and maintaining communications; but the example of Great Britain in the Revolutionary War should prove to the United States that such advantages do not, by any means, enable a belligerent to subjugate a determined people resolved on resistance to the last. The long-threatened encounter between Bragg and Browne has taken place at Pensacola, without effect, and the attempts of the Federals to advance from Port Royal have been successfully resisted. Sporadic skirmishes have sprung up over every Border State; but, on the whole, success has inclined to the Federals in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Source: Russell, William Howard, “Diary of William Howard Russell, December, 1861,” in My Diary North and South (O.H.P. Burnham, 1863).

Image Credit: Harper’s Weekly, March 15, 1862.

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