Preview: Hahn, “Campaign for the Confederate Coast”

20 08 2021

By now, my regular readers (both of you) are familiar with how my book previews work. I have hundreds of Civil War books that sit on my shelves unread, and in my limited time left the only thing that dictates what I’m going to read cover-to-cover is me. So most books I’m asked to discuss on this site only get the “preview” treatment. This is no judgement on the worth of the book. What I try to do here is apply the methodology I would use if I was looking at a title in the bookstore and deciding whether or not to shell out the cash. And I make that clear to the authors, publicists, and publishers when they ask to send me a book for perusal. I tell them I look at the foreword and any conclusion, but most importantly the illustrations (maps, mostly), notes, bibliography, and index. These things tell me a lot, and I’m guessing they tell you a lot, too. As a side note, I don’t review advanced reading copies or uncorrected proofs because, usually, these things are lacking in those formats.

So, I was a little surprised when I received Campaign for the Confederate Coast, by Gil Hahn, from West 88th Street Press. Surprised because it contains no foreword, no maps or other illustrations, no bibliography, no index. The notes are endnotes and unnumbered, employing the technique of identification by first few words of the paragraph being referenced. I at first assumed the copy I received was an ARC, but upon inquiry was informed that:

The author thinks that the lack of maps, bibliography, index, and real footnotes are standard academic complaints against popular books. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of US geography knows where all the places are. Bibliography is a list of references already named in the notes. An index adds additional pages that most readers ignore.

With that being said, let’s look at Campaign for the Confederate Coast.

You get:

  • 255 pages of text.
  • 58 pages of endnotes.
  • No foreword
  • No bibliography.
  • No index.
  • No illustrations or maps.

From the back cover:

Readers will learn the story of blockade running from a nuanced, all-points-of-view perspective. Without recounting hundreds of encounters between pro-Confederate blockade runners and Federal blockading forces, it traces the ebb and flow of events as the U. S. Navy, blockade runners, and foreign governments (primarily the British) all pressed for advantage.

The book is blurbed by Allen C. Guelzo, William C. Davis, and James M. McPherson.

Gil Hahn is an attorney and historian who lives near Wilmington, Delaware.

See the author’s website.