The newest book by one of Greene County’s most published writers provides detailed insight into one of the least explored chapters of the American Civil War.
The latest work by Professor Emeritus Myron J. “Jack” Smith Jr. of the University of Tusculum is a 327-page book, “After Vicksburg: The Civil War on Western Waters, 1863-1865.” This title is the 92nd volume in the prolific historian, and the ninth in a series of related works from McFarland & Company, of Jefferson, NC
Prior to his retirement, Smith was a professional librarian and historian for 50 years, two competing interests and careers that meshed well for him. Smith served as director of the Thomas J. Garland Library at Tusculum University from 1990 until his retirement in 2015.
Smith describes the new 327-page book, “After Vicksburg: The Civil War on Western Waters, 1863-1865,” as the “first published comprehensive survey of naval action on the Mississippi River and its tributaries after the capture of Vicksburg by Union in July 1863.
Over the years, Smith has established a reputation as an outstanding author in his areas of expertise and his works can be found in many libraries. Like “After Vicksburg”, much of Smith’s work is published by McFarland & Company, a publishing house in Jefferson, NC
Smith dedicated “After Vicksburg” to his wife, Dennie.
In a recent written response to questions from the Greeneville Sun about his new book and his writing career in general, Smith replied, “I’m personally quite proud that many libraries hold my 92 works around the world. The last count was for almost 50 countries and of course all 50 states and territories.
“Libraries that I know of that hold complete sets in the United States are the Cleveland Public Library in Ohio, the Library of Congress, the Navy Department Library, the United States Naval Academy Library, the University of Shippensburg Library in Pennsylvania; abroad, several national libraries hold comprehensive collections, including those in the UK, France, Australia, and Europe’s largest contemporary history library, the Bibliothek für Zeitgeschichte in Stuttgart, Germany.
He continued, “Many institutions where I was employed or a frequent researcher (or sometimes a guest) hold partial sets; here in Tennessee they include Tusculum University, University of Tennessee, ETSU, Vanderbilt, Tennessee State Library, Carson-Newman, Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State, University of Memphis , the Lincoln Memorial, Maryville, the State of Tennessee and a few others.
Additionally, he said, online versions of many of his titles are available. “Readers can see Amazon, Books-a-Million, Barnes & Noble, etc. for lists to buy,” he said.
Additionally, many titles are available from e-book vendors such as EBSCO, who include them in packages sold to libraries.
EBSCO Information Services is a leading provider of information resources for researchers.
The descriptive text of the book on Amazon reads: “This is the first published comprehensive survey of naval action on the Mississippi River and its tributaries for the years 1863-1865. After introductory reviews of Rivers and the US Navy’s Mississippi Squadron, the Federal Navy’s chronological involvement in various larger raids and campaigns is highlighted, along with counterinsurgency, support and control economic and logistical protection. The book includes details of units, locations, and activities that were previously under-reported or overlooked.
The new volume owes its existence to Smith’s discovery of a gap in published historical data on maritime military activity in western waters.
He told the Greeneville Sun that when he began his writing career “as a scholarly journal writer and book reviewer” he discovered a market for Civil War naval articles, “especially anything related to inland rivers. At the same time, I couldn’t easily find published information on what some considered a minor topic.”
But Smith kept pushing. “As I delved deeper,” Smith noted, “it became apparent that there were no single-volume guidebooks published to the period of American nautical writings. In searching, I found managed to convince Robert Franklin, who retired a few years ago as president of McFarland & Co., but was then an editor in New York, to take on one.
Bruce Catton, Cornelius Ryan, and Ed Bearss, whom Smith had contacted, helped Smith advocate for such a volume.
The result was Smith’s American Civil War Marines: A Bibliography, the success of which opened the door to further research, compilation and writing.
“I was fortunate enough to continue to publish in the years that followed, offering both textual and illustrated history-type monographs in addition to many reference titles and articles,” he said.
His perseverance allowed him to achieve a few “firsts”.
Smith said: “During the 15 years I was at a university in West Virginia, for example, I wrote the first detailed historical newspaper articles detailing the 1863 Battle of Buffington Island (a small place of the Ohio River owned by WV), during which Union gunboats prevented (John Hunt) Morgan’s successful return to the South.
When asked which of his many writings he felt were the most significant, Smith said, “Based on all-time sales to date, my most significant Civil War contributions have been ‘Civil War Biographies from the Western Waters” and “Tinclads in the Civil War.”
On a more subjective and less commercial basis, Smith cited different work as his “most satisfying”.
He said: “Personally, my most satisfying was ‘Joseph Brown and his Civil War battleships.’ there is not even a photograph – which had an important and fascinating career before, during and after the conflict.
Brown’s wartime activity helped secure Federal success on the rivers, a contribution so far “underappreciated”, according to Smith. The same goes for Brown’s “two very successful postwar terms as mayor of St. Louis,” a period of public service that Smith says is “totally forgotten, even in Missouri.” No “Show Me State” grad student has even written a master’s paper about him that I know of.
Among Smith’s published reference books and bibliographies, which are not limited to Civil War subjects, he said his “greatest success” came with his “original five-volume United States Navy set, his “Baseball Bibliography” and for a four-volume book. Airline Encyclopedia.’”
A collection of these latter works was donated to the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library in 2003.
Several of Smith’s pictorial stories also did well, he said, particularly “Keystone Battlewagon: USS Pennsylvania” and “Passenger Airliners of the United States.”
Orders for Smith’s new book can be placed through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million or the University of Tusculum Bookstore.
In an earlier interview with former Greeneville Sun Lifestyles editor Lori Goff, Smith said he is currently writing “The Old War Horse: USS ‘Benton’ in the Civil War,” a companion to his earlier battleship stories. of the river USS ‘Carondelet’ and CSS “Arkansas”. Beginning as a pre-war government snagboat, the ship was converted into the flagship of the Union River Navy.
Smith lives with his wife in northern Greene County and writes in a small building on his property.
He’s an award-winning writer. In 1993 he was awarded the Nelson Ross Professional Football Award. In 2016, the American Library Association named his “Civil War Biographies of Western Waters” as Outstanding Reference Source of the Year.
Smith is also the only American to have received the Richard Franck Preis for historical bibliography from the German government.
In 2006, Smith became what is believed to be the first Greene Countian to publish an e-book.