Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

RSS feed of this blog

Civil War author at book-signing today

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

Michael D. Coker, a naval historian and author from Charleston, S.C.,will be at downtown Fredericksburg’s Civil War Life Museum for a book-signing from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday. Please drop in and welcome him to the area. The museum, operated by wet-plate photographer Terry Thomann, is at 829 Caroline Street.

The History Press recently published Coker’s book, “The Battle of Port Royal,” as part of its Sesquicentennial Series. It weaves together Robert E. Lee, Herman Melville’s novel “Moby Dick” and the first successful attack submarine in history.

Though relatively little known today, the fight for Port Royal at Hilton Head Island in South Carolina in late 1861 was a pivotal turning point in the Civil War, Coker says.

Having been outfought and outwitted by Confederate forces since war broke out, Union commanders were desperate to capture part of the Southern coast.

Here’s the publisher’s description of Coker’s work:

November 1861, the South was winning the Civil War. Fort Sumter had fallen to the Confederates. The Federal army was routed at Manassas. The blockade of Southern ports was a farce; commerce and weapons flowed almost as freely as before the war. There were stirrings of interest from foreign powers in recognizing the Confederacy and brokering a forced peace accord. The Federals needed to turn the tide. The largest fleet ever assembled by the United States set its sights on the South Carolina coast for this much-needed victory.

On November 7, 1861, this mighty weapon of war engaged two undermanned and outgunned forts in Hilton Head in a clash called the Battle of Port Royal.

Coker, formerly the visuals-materials curator at the South Carolina Historical Society, will address the Civil War Round Table of Fredericksburg when it meets tonight at the University of Mary Washington’s Jepson Alumni Executive Center.

He is also the author of “Historic South Carolina” and “Charleston Curiosities: Stories of the Tragic, Heroic, and Bizarre.”

For a review of “The Battle of Port Royal” in Civil War News, visit