Sea Wolf of the Confederacy: The Daring Civil War Raids of Naval Lt. Charles W. Read

David W. Shaw, Author
David W. Shaw, Author Free Press $25 (235p) ISBN 978-0-7432-3555-6
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-57409-207-3
Hardcover - 408 pages - 978-0-7862-6700-2
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-7432-6750-2
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Confederate commerce raider Charles Read rampaged up the Atlantic seaboard in the summer of 1863, capturing and burning dozens of Yankee merchant ships and augmenting Union panic in the weeks leading up to the battle of Gettysburg. Drawing on official reports, news accounts and diary entries of participants, journalist Shaw, author of America's Victory, a 19th-century yachting saga, brings this adventure to life in a sprightly historical study of Read and Gideon Welles, the Union Naval Secretary charged with hunting him down. In contrast to the Gettysburg bloodbath, Read's campaign was an almost gallant feat of quick-wittedness and derring-do that destroyed much property but caused almost no casualties. Jumping his command from one captured Yankee ship to the next, always on the alert for fresh victims and novel ruses by which his punily armed crew might overcome them, Read lived the life of a buccaneer but was simultaneously mindful of the punctilious rules governing naval warfare against civilians. Arranging for the safe return of his prisoners to shore was one of Read's biggest headaches, necessitating complex negotiations with passing neutral--or even Yankee--ships; vessels with too many passengers to accommodate were simply released in exchange for an IOU to the Confederate government for their value. Shaw fleshes out the picaresque with sailing lore, sharply etched portraits of figures on both sides, and engaging background material on Union and Confederate naval strategy. Civil War and nautical buffs alike will enjoy this well-told account of a colorful chapter of the Civil War at sea.
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