In addition to researching and writing little-known naval history, I
enjoy delivering presentations on a number of the episodes I’ve
discovered.* I’ve spoken twice at the Maritime Heritage Conference in
Norfolk, five times at the Naval War College in Newport, to the Naval
Order of the United States in Jacksonville, at the Portsmouth Navy
Yard’s 238th Anniversary Ball and at the Mariners’ Museum Civil War Navy
Conference in Newport News. Other venues include a large number of
historical societies, Civil War Roundtables and schools in the
Northeast. I’ve also been interviewed on Civil War Talk Radio to discuss A Dog Before a
Soldier as well as Sea Miner. If you are interested in a presentation,
please contact me by email
How the U.S. Navy Won the American Civil War
Along with Alligator, this heretical-sounding talk is the most-requested presentation I give. The claim is based entirely on what people at the time recognized as the U.S. Navy’s critical contribution to Union victory. Although this information might not make a believer out of everyone, the story is thoroughly documented in historical records, and comes as a surprise to most audiences.
Alligator, the Civil War’s First Submarine*
Although CSS Hunley garners almost all the modern media attention, she was actually one of more than twenty submarines built during the War of the Rebellion–and far from the most advanced. That laurel belongs to the first submarine of the war–and the first in the U.S. Navy–Alligator. This talk details the background of the inventor, the boat’s design and systems, and the various missions she undertook.
Monitor’s Unknown Mission: The Navy Raid on the Petersburg Bridges
Despite 150 years of research on USS Monitor, one mission escaped all the history books–until 2008, when I discovered and research an assignment that could easily have resulted in her capture or destruction in June 1862.
Lewis Horton, Medal of Honor, USN
Unlike my other talks and research, this one focuses on a single individual and his experiences during the war. Lewis Horton served two hitches in the Navy between 1861 and 1863, suffered and survived incredible hardships, and lived to exceed those experiences in the years after the war. Winning the Medal of Honor was probably the easiest thing he ever did!
The Great Navy Cattle Drive
Despite the humorous title, this talk details a very unusual episode that illustrates the vital role played by the Navy in interdicting Confederate supply lines throughout the war. An excellent example of innovative command in a rapidly-changing and fluid situation.
A Handsome Affair: The Navy at Fort Butler
The 1863 Battle of Fort Butler at Donaldsonville, LA, has never been researched from a naval perspective. Doing so provides the key to the success of the wildly-outnumbered Union garrison, and resolves a mystery that has dogged local researchers for over a century.
African Americans in the Union Navy
For those who are familiar with the stories of the U. S. Colored Troops (most commonly showcased by the well-known 54th Massachusetts Regiment)–forget all that. The experience of blacks in the Navy was very different (and very much better) than the treatment their fellows received in the Army.
Edward B. Hunt’s Sea Miner
“Sea Miner” is not a talk for the faint of heart–it is, quite literally, rocket science. Edward Hunt’s incredible weapon seems to belong to at least the Second World War (or perhaps much later). If you are tired of the “same old Civil War stories” of bludgeoning tactics and staggering losses from wounds and disease, Sea Miner will show you what the scientists were up to during the war.
Upon the Best Authority
A (mostly) light-hearted romp through a selection of articles from my four-volume compendium of period news articles. The talk (as well as the books) showcase American society as her people saw themselves. Many of the short pieces never made the history books, and will come as a surprise to a modern audience. By turns hilarious, frightening, unusual, and terrifying!
This talk details the rise of self-taught maritime salvage operator John Gowen, and his astounding feat in the harbor of Gibraltar–accomplishing in record time a project that had stymied the best divers on the planet for over eight years.
The Yankee Expedition to Sebastopol
While recapping the episode detailed in Raising Missouri, this talk continues John Gowen’s story as he moves on to undertake the largest salvage operation in the history of the world–and the least known.
In addition to books and talks, my work has appeared in the following magazine and journals:
Naval History: “First Shiloh,” “A Novel Naval Scout,” “The Great Navy Cattle Drive,” “Raid on Pitch Landing,” “The Innovative, Mysterious Alligator.”
American Historical Print Collector Society’s Newsletter: “Wells & Gowen Submarine Armor”
Historical Diving Times: “Submarine Armor and the Civil War Submarine Alligator” and “The Difficulty is in Knowing How: The Rise of John Gowen and Salvage of the First USS Missouri
Civil War Navy: “Submarines in the Civil War” and “The Strangest Weapon of Them All: Edward B. Hunt’s Sea Miner”
Journal of the Company of Military Historians: “Researching a Ship’s Medicine Chest” (with L. Veit) and “Lewis Horton, USN, MoH.”
*Alligator/ is not exclusively my research; I am a small part of a larger team that has been uncovering the story of the boat for more than a decade. Similarly, “African Americans in the Union Navy” is based mostly on the published work of a number of other individuals, which I assembled into a talk.
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