Defending the Arteries of Rebellion: Confederate Naval Operations in the Mississippi River Valley, 1861-1865

Savas Beatie, 2020

A National History Book Club and Military Book Club selection!

Most studies of the Mississippi River focus on Union campaigns to open and control it, overlooking Southern attempts to stop them. Neil Chatelain’s Defending the Arteries of Rebellion: Confederate Naval Operations in the Mississippi River Valley, 1861-1865 is the other side of the story—the first modern full-length treatment of inland naval operations from the Confederate perspective.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis realized the value of the Mississippi River and its entire valley, which he described as the “great artery of the Confederacy.” This key internal highway controlled the fledgling nation’s transportation network. Davis and Stephen Mallory, his secretary of the navy, knew these vital logistical paths had to be held, and that they offered potential highways of invasion for Union warships and armies to stab their way deep into the heart of the Confederacy.

To protect these arteries of rebellion, Southern strategy called for crafting a ring of powerful fortifications supported by naval forces. A lack of industrial capacity, coupled with a dearth of skilled labor, further complicated Confederate efforts and guaranteed the South’s grand vision of deploying dozens of river gunboats and powerful ironclads would never be fully realized.

Despite these limitations, the Southern war machine introduced numerous innovations and alternate defenses including the Confederacy’s first operational ironclad, the first successful use of underwater torpedoes, widespread use of Army-Navy joint operations, and the employment of extensive river obstructions. When the Mississippi came under complete Union control in 1863, Confederate efforts shifted to its many tributaries, where a bitter and deadly struggle ensued to control these internal lifelines.

Chatelain, a former Navy Surface Warfare Officer, grounds his study in extensive archival and firsthand accounts, official records, and a keen understanding of terrain and geography. The result is a fast-paced, well-crafted, and endlessly fascinating account that is sure to please the most discriminating student of the Civil War.

Chatelain's book is "comprehensive ... fast paced, easy to read, and well supported by archival research. ... This is a good book, and the author should be congratulated."
The Civil War Monitor

"... a worthy Confederate companion to the many studies of Union naval operations along the Mississippi River."
Civil War Books and Authors

"the 'go to' reference documenting the Confederate Naval Operations in the Western Theater ... and is nothing short of a monumental achievement."
Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table

"The narrative, richly sourced from archives, newspapers, and memoirs, is supported by footnotes and excellent maps. Recommend. All levels."
Myron J. Smith Jr. writing for Choice Reviews

"This book is well written and researched" with an "engaging tale ... This is a useful contribution to the Civil War's literature, and anyone interested in the Western Theatre should consult it"
Robert "Bob" Browning, Ph.D., Sea History Magazine

"... a skillful narrative based on impressive research."
Steve Davis, Civil War Times

"... a fast paced read, well written, and demonstrating careful research, with extensive documentation. ... It's a great read."
New York Military Affairs Symposium Review

"... an extremely thorough chronicle ... Many vivid descriptions of the campaigns and ships involved paint a fuller picture of the events."
Lieutenant Katrina R. Jorsch, USN, Naval History Magazine

"Chatelain does an excellent job describing how the Confederacy went about setting up defenses along the coasts and in the Mississippi River system."
Midwest Book Review

A "detailed," fast-paced," and "welcome study of the key actions taken by Confederates charged with guarding the Mississippi."

G. David Schieffler, Michigan War Studies Review

"... a welcome view rarely presented and certainly not at this level of detail."
Gary McQuarrie, Managing Editor, Civil War Navy - The Magazine

Presentation given to the Brunswick Civil War Roundtable in January 2023 about my second book, Defending the Arteries of Rebellion.

Recognized by BookAuthority as one of the top 15 books of all time regarding US Civil War Naval Operations!

Recognized by Civil War Books and Authors as one of the top 10 US Civil War books published in 2020!