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While Buchanan's Civil War experiences helped define the drama of the period, his fifty-year naval career illuminates the sweeping changes in the U.S. Navy of the antebellum years. This stimulating and authoritative biography chronicles Buchanan's life as a midshipman on the square-rigged sailing frigate Java and as a commander at the helm of the coal-burning side-wheel steamer Susquehanna. It examines his pivotal role in the establishment of the Naval Academy and his experiences both as the first American to set foot in Japan and the first to conn a U.S. Navy warship up the Yangtze River. More than a record of events in Buchanan's career, this biography helps readers understand Buchanan's character and appreciate the broader issues of politics, slavery, loyalty, and professionalism in the era of America's greatest national trauma.