Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War

Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War

by Jamie Malanowski


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“Superbly entertaining.”—S. C. Gwynne, best-selling author of Empire of the Summer Moon

October 1864. The confederate ironclad CSS Albemarle had sunk two federal warships and damaged seven others, taking control of the Roanoke River and threatening the Union blockade. Twenty-one-year-old navy lieutenant William Barker Cushing hatched a daring plan: to attack the fearsome warship with a few dozen men in two small wooden boats. What followed, the close-range torpedoing of the Albemarle and Cushing’s harrowing two-day escape downriver from vengeful Rebel posses, is one of the most dramatic individual exploits in American military history.

Theodore Roosevelt said that Cushing “comes next to Farragut on the hero roll of American naval history,” but most have never heard of him today. Tossed out of the Naval Academy for “buffoonery,” Cushing proved himself a prodigy in behind-the-lines warfare. Given command of a small union ship, he performed daring, near-suicidal raids, “cutting out” confederate ships and thwarting blockade runners. With higher commands and larger ships, Cushing’s exploits grow bolder, culminating in the sinking of the Albemarle.

A thrilling narrative biography, steeped in the tactics, weaponry, and battle techniques of the Union Navy, Commander Will Cushing brings to life a compelling yet flawed figure. Along with his three brothers, including one who fell at Gettysburg, Cushing served with bravery and heroism. But he was irascible and complicated—a loveable rogue, prideful and impulsive, who nonetheless possessed a genius for combat.

In telling Cushing’s story, Malanowski paints a vivid, memorable portrait of the army officials, engineers, and politicians scrambling to win the war. But he also goes deeper into the psychology of the daredevil soldier—and what this heroic and tragic figure, who died before his time, can tell us about the ways we remember the glories of war.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393351859
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 11/09/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,155,800
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Jamie Malanowski has written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and the New York Times. Author of And the War Came, about America’s six-month-long descent into war after Lincoln’s election, he lives in Briarcliff Manor, New York.

Table of Contents

Introduction 17

Chapter 1 Terrible Excitement 19

Chapter 2 Plague and Pride 22

Chapter 3 A Talent for Buffoonery 27

Chapter 4 Not Recommended 33

Chapter 5 Neither Efficient nor Subordinate 35

Chapter 6 His Exuberant Spirit 44

Chapter 7 The Gosport Debacle 49

Chapter 8 The Delaware Farmer 54

Chapter 9 Baptisms of Fire 59

Chapter 10 Twenty-Eight Shells a Minute 62

Chapter 11 Original and Speculative 66

Chapter 12 Transformations 73

Chapter 13 The Virginia 77

Chapter 14 The Monitor 83

Chapter 15 Rising 91

Chapter 16 Reenter Flusser 97

Chapter 17 Adventures of the Ellis 102

Chapter 18 Pilot Hunting 108

Chapter 19 Alonzo at Antietam 113

Chapter 20 In Old Virginia 117

Chapter 21 At Gettysburg 127

Chapter 22 Alonzo's Glory 132

Chapter 23 Grieving 137

Chapter 24 The Essence of Impudence 141

Chapter 25 Marsh Grass and Cattails 149

Chapter 26 High Time We Went 151

Chapter 27 Zigzag 154

Chapter 28 Letters from Welles 157

Chapter 29 The Coming 160

Chapter 30 Rampage 164

Chapter 31 Too Strong 170

Chapter 32 Proceed to New York 176

Chapter 33 No One Else 180

Chapter 34 In Case of Failure 184

Chapter 35 Dead Ahead 187

Chapter 36 Now 191

Chapter 37 Dead Gone Sunk 194

Chapter 38 Seldom Equaled, Never Excelled 198

Chapter 39 Back in Action 202

Chapter 40 Secret Weapon 206

Chapter 41 Sitting Duck 209

Chapter 42 Return to Fort Fisher 212

Chapter 43 Slaughter at the Northeast Bastion 216

Chapter 44 Endgames 223

Chapter 45 Victory 228

Chapter 46 On the West Coast 231

Chapter 47 Love and Duty 235

Chapter 48 Love Letters 240

Chapter 49 In the Orient 246

Chapter 50 Howard 251

Chapter 51 The World Stage 257

Chapter 52 The Virginius 260

Chapter 53 The Butcher 264

Chapter 54 Face-off 267

Chapter 55 At Rest 272

Epilogue 275

Acknowledgments 283

Notes on Sources 285

Bibliography 287

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