Sea History 073 - Spring 1995

Page 47

laying-up or sale to foreign flags. Robinson draws three conclu sions about the cruise of the Alabama. First, the American merchant marine was already declining by the Civil War and , while the Alabama's depredation s hastened its decline, she was not the sole cause. Secondly, the Alabama failed to loosen the Union blockade of the South, largely due to Union Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles' refusal to divert large numbers of ships to hunt the Alabama. Lastly , the Northern naval victory was due to "superb leadership and unequivocal sense of purpose." Robinson has written a fine operational hi story of the CSS Alabama with excellent descriptions of her specifications, armament and crew usi ng a wide range of documents. His portrait of Captain Raphael Semmes is a sympathetic but balanced view of a professional naval officer serving a doomed cause. H AROLD

N.

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RoyalNavy,1914-1915 , by Keith Yates (Naval Institute Press, Annapolis MD, 1995, 288pp, maps, photos, appen, biblio, index , ISBN 1-55750-977 -8; $32.95hc) The dustjacket reveals that Professor Yates' prev iou s publications include Huckel Molecular Orbital Theory . Evidently naval hi story has been a lifetime interest outside hi s main career. We are fortunate that he has decided to share it, for on this subject the author writes with sparkle, perception and wit. Many accounts have been published of the exploits of Graf Spee's Cruiser Squadron and the detached raiders which caused so much commotion in the latter part of 1914. But thi s one is different. For a start, the author has command over German sources as well as English ones. He writes with understanding of the predicament of the players, and with a perspective of events which can only be obtained after a decent lapse of time. Passions have calmed, and we now know all there is to be known about the actions of individual s and about prevailing materie l and technical circumstances. At the outbreak of war in August 19 14 there were eight significant German regular warships abroad , beyond the fleet in home waters and two portentous units in the Mediterranean. This handful of cruisers caused losses to Allied shipping out of all proporti on to their numbers, di verted countless ships SEA HISTORY 73, SPR ING 1995

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