Kenning, Thomas. Abandoned Coastal Defenses of Alabama. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2021. 96
pages, color photos. ISBN 9781634992831, $23.99.
One of the newer series being published by Arcadia Publishing imprint America Through Time is
“Abandoned.” According to the Arcadia website, “America through Time is a local and regional interest series that showcases the history and heritage of communities around the country. Using modern color photographs juxtaposed with old images, these titles capture a strong sense of the past while demonstrating the force of change through the passage of years.” The “Abandoned” series appears to use only modern color images.
As the reader might expect, the book is image heavy with little text, making this a quick read. Author Thomas Kenning starts out asking a fair question; “What is it about forts that make them so appealing?” (page 8) He puts forth the ideas of protection and security only to swiftly undercut those ideas with theidea, “as long as the waves don’t rise too high and this concrete, laid on a drifting dune, doesn’t crack beneath our feet…” (page 10)
This idea of change is put forth throughout the book. Whether it be the long trend of changing
ownership of the lands around Mobile Bay to the inevitability of climate change and the repercussions
for Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, change is something not always under the control of man. Whether
humankind is able to step up to the challenge does not receive a rousing endorsement however, “The
immediate benefits of doing nothing, of continuing our carefree business as usual, look far greater in our
lizard brains than the abstract consequences, which will be suffered most seriously decades down the
line—not by us, but by our kids.” (page 95)
The aim of this book is not to educate the reader on the Battle of Mobile Bay or fort construction, or
ways that man can fight climate change and rising seas. Rather, the success of this title is in the
photography. The book is full of stunning, and sometimes dramatic, color photos showing these
amazing structural marvels and the surrounding environment in their current state. The captions are
often quite informative and should not be skipped over.
The book is not without issues however. A map would have proved quite helpful, as would a glossary.
Multiple times, I found myself having to look up a definition for a term with which I was unfamiliar.
These are formatting issues however and publisher decisions most likely dictated that there was not
space available for such. A stronger editorial pen however was needed as lines on pages 15 and 17 are
repeated almost verbatim.
Titles dealing in more depth with the Battle of Mobile Bay include:
West Wind Flood Tide: The Battle of Mobile Bay written by Jack Friend
Mobile Under Siege: Surviving the Union Blockade written by Paula Lenore Webb
Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for providing a review copy of this title.
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