Illustrating Civil War history can be challenging. Maps, photos, drawings, paintings, prints–period and modern–are tools of the trade. But addressing the complex and esoteric technology of naval vessels calls for another method: the digital graphic drawing.
Historical illustrator Jim Caiella provided excellent ship plans for my previous books, A Confederate Biography: The Cruise of the CSS Shenandoah (Naval Institute Press, 2015) and Unlike Anything That Ever Floated: The Monitor and Virginia and the Battle Hampton Roads, March 8-9, 1862 (Savas Beatie, 2021). He encountered a problem with our current project on the Mississippi River campaigns.
Jim is working on drawings covering vessels of the Union River Squadron starting with the famous ironclad USS Cairo. Developing accurate representations of this historical gunboat requires deep and detailed research combining nautical archeology, reconstruction, replication, and imagination.
When Jim encountered a particular challenge with the ship’s cook stove, he found invaluable assistance and solved the problem with excellent results as described in this fascinating blog post on the subject. Please take a look.