Shomette Book Wins Brewington Prize

Southern Maryland author Donald Grady Shomette receives a statewide honor for his 2019 book recounting Civil War happenings on land and in the water. The Maryland Historical Society has tapped Anaconda’s Tail: The Civil War on the Potomac Frontier, 1861-1865 for its 2020 Brewington Book Prize. 

The “tail” in the title refers to the image featured on the cover of the book, illustrating the blockade of the South in the form of a curled anaconda, the tail of which lies in the Chesapeake Tidewater. 

“Shomette has woven a narrative of regional resistance, racism, and the brutal military occupation of Southern Maryland,” says Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, retired Maryland State Archivist and member of MdHS. 

 “This struggle was a part of everyday life for these citizens. The book covers the attempted escape of John Wilkes Booth…not the usual fare of a maritime book but the water figures in because it melds almost seamlessly into the land in Tidewater Maryland,” says Karl Kirkman, retired Naval Architect and member of the Maritime Committee of the Historical Society. 

Shomette is a maritime historian who has authored more than 18 books. This one, despite being based in history, is timely. 

 “His book gives insight into the terrible consequences of a sharply divided state and nation. While the details are starkly different it has a decidedly familiar ring in today’s world,” says Papenfuse.  

The Brewington Book Prize has been awarded annually since 2016 to what the society considers to be the best book on maritime history related to the Chesapeake Bay or the nation. The prize is named for Marion V. Brewington, a maritime curator and historian from Salisbury. During World War II, he was curator for the U.S. Navy. 

“Maritime in Maryland is more than ships; it embraces waterman and their daily life as well as the yachtsmen who race historic log canoes,” Kirkman says. “If there is one thing that was noteworthy about this book it is that the author took a broad view and blended land and water activities, but all related to the Tidewater area.” 

The Maryland Historical Society has been collecting, preserving and interpreting the history, art and culture of Maryland since 1844.