While I enjoy reading history, I am, by any definition, a history buff. When one finds a well written history, it will read like an adventure story, often with intrigue, action, murder, heroes, villains and a clear resolution. Mr. Peffer, an obvious student of Civil War History, has taken a part of that war unknown to this neophyte; the role of the Confederate Navy played in that horrible event in our history and created a historical novel, the first of a trilogy from the facts. His writing is so good, I am tempted to read the actual history of the events related, they seem that they would probably be exciting had he merely related the events as they occurred. I would NOT have read this book had it not been another “freebie” from my electronic reader. These freebies have more than covered the cost of the reader.
Raphael Semmes was a United States Naval Officer, whose first command was wrecked by a sudden, violent marine squall that sank his vessel, killing eleven of his crew, within the first weeks of his first cruise. For the next 10-15 years, he was assigned to mundane tasks, far away from the sea, in practice if not in location, but his heart never left the salt air nor did it forgive the administrative structure that would never forgive him his “unfortunate weather moment.” When the winds of Civil Discontent began to blow, he saw his opportunity to return to sea as Captain of a war vessel. He transformed a “mail packet” into a camouflaged, effective, deadly ship that caused havoc upon the Union Merchant fleet. In a matter of weeks Semmes, by causing the Northern insurers to pay the claims on the Merchant ships “liberated for the Confederacy,” very nearly stopped all merchant shipping in the Union, in effect, creating his own blockade of all Union Ports. It ends just as any first novel of a trilogy and good History should - with the reader eager to see what happens next.
The book is populated with historical figures, from Abraham Lincoln, to William “Bill” Seward (a despicable character in Mr. Peffer’s rendition), to Raphael Semmes. This is not a book glorifying either side nor does it paint a picture of “success is easy.” There are hardships aplenty aboard a warship representing a country (CSA) that is not recognized by the majority of the world; in the halls of the White House as a war that will rend America in two is gathering steam; in the lives of the spies who believe in their respective causes and will do whatever is needed to see their side win. Had this not been a well-researched historical novel, I would have been anxious to see how the war played out and who would have “won.”
This book is for anyone who: enjoys history, particularly Civil War History (I am sitting within 5 miles of a Civil War Battlefield), wants a good sea adventure story or likes to see how historical figures might have “lived.” The idea of giving this volume away was a good one for the publisher’s; it probably has sold the next two volumes to me.