Southern Seahawk: A Novel of the Civil War at Sea

Southern Seahawk: A Novel of the Civil War at Sea

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by Randall Peffer
     
 

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Southern Seahawk, the first novel in the Seahawk Trilogy, grows from the true story of Commander Raphael Semmes' rise to infamy, becoming the Union's "Public Enemy Number One."

In June, 1861, Semmes' Confederate cruiser Sumter makes a daring escape through the Federal Blockade of the Mississippi. So begins the commander's career as the Southern Seahawk. With

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Overview

Southern Seahawk, the first novel in the Seahawk Trilogy, grows from the true story of Commander Raphael Semmes' rise to infamy, becoming the Union's "Public Enemy Number One."

In June, 1861, Semmes' Confederate cruiser Sumter makes a daring escape through the Federal Blockade of the Mississippi. So begins the commander's career as the Southern Seahawk. With a hand-picked crew of Southern officers and mercenary seamen, Semmes seizes eight enemy ships in four days, a record never surpassed by any other captain of a warship. By the time the cruises of the Sumter and her successor Alabama end, Semmes will have taken and burned more than eighty prizes, making him the most successful maritime predator in history.

For two and a half years Semmes eludes a pack of pursuers and almost single-handedly drives marine insurance rates so high in the North, that many Yankee ships refuse to sail until he is caught Back in Washington, Semmes' predations fuel feuds within the Lincoln cabinet and incite the spy games of historical figures like courtesans Rose Greenhow, Betty Duval, detective Allan Pinkerton and the commander's mistress.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In the exciting first of a projected trilogy featuring real-life Confederate naval hero Cmdr. Rafael Semmes, mystery author Peffer (Old School Bones) spends as much time ashore as at sea as he tacks from the infighting among Lincoln's cabinet to the unsavory adventures of Semmes's Irish lover, Maude Galway, and the almost endless maneuvering and bickering among federal officials and officers over capturing Semmes. After joining the nascent Confederate navy in 1861, Semmes converts a packet boat into a warship in New Orleans, escapes the Federal blockade and begins a remarkable and lengthy run of predations on Yankee shipping. While some readers may wish for more high seas action, the character of Semmes, an ardent believer in the Southern cause as well as a daring and resourceful commander, and the difficult conditions under which he operated make this a compelling and colorful read. (Jan.)

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Library Journal

This first entry in mystery author Peffer's (Provincetown Follies, Bangkok Blues) projected historical trilogy follows the exploits of Confederate naval officer Rafael Semmes, an actual historical figure, during the first year of the Civil War. With the South's secession from the Union, Semmes resigns his post in the Lighthouse Bureau and heads south to gain command of a ship. As commander of the steam cruiser Sumter, Semmes, the newly nicknamed "Southern Seahawk," sets out to seize Northern merchant vessels and disrupt the enemy's maritime commerce. The unarmed merchant ships are no match for the Sumter, and Semmes quickly seizes eight vessels in a span of four days. In response, a panicked Union Navy sets out to catch him. In a parallel story, Peffer chronicles the transformation of Semmes's mistress, Maude Galway, into a Confederate spy. Neither Semmes nor Maude are appealing protagonists, and few of the characters on the Union side are terribly likable either. Probably the book's biggest flaw, though, is the lack of compelling naval battles. The seizing of merchant sailing ships by an armed steamship does not provide much drama, and the pursuit of the Sumter by Union vessels builds to a final confrontation that, while no doubt historically accurate, proves anticlimactic. Recommended for larger libraries with naval fiction collections. [For other military historical fiction, see also C.C. Humphreys's Absolute Honor, reviewed on p. 56.-Ed.]
—Douglas Southard

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440534034
Publisher:
F+W Media
Publication date:
09/26/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
294
File size:
680 KB

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Southern Seahawk (Seahawk Trilogy Series #1) 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was very excited to get this book after reading the reviews. However, I found this book to have too much foul language. I understand that seaman may not have the best vocabulary, but i couldn't continue to read it. Such a shame. I love American history and was looking forward to this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first book of a trilogy and the second book of Peffer's that I've read and reviewed (Province Town Follies, Bangkok Blues is the first). Southern Seahawk is nothing like the previous book. This is historical fiction centered on the factual Rafael Semmes. Semmes was a U.S. Navy officer who like many officers of the time chose duty to his home state over duty to his country. Here in the North we are taught to look down our noses at folks who made that choice but it was a very real and difficult choice at the time. Semmes is given a steam powered commerce raider christened the CSS Sumter. He would become a major thorn in the side of the northern Navy. This first book takes Semmes from his decision to chose the Rebels through most of his time on the Sumter. Peffer once again shows solid skills in creating believable characters of depth and putting them in interesting and complex situations. I'll be honest and say that I found the book easy to put down but never easy to walk away from. This is a portion of Civil War history I never knew. If you love the Civil War, Navy stories, sailing stories, even a little spy story I think you'll enjoy this book
BlueHornet More than 1 year ago
The story itself has an engaging and interesting plot, at least moderately interesting and complicated characters, and seems to be true to much historical fact. Yes, it has curse words and foul language; it's a sea story set during wartime - foul language is apropos in both contexts. However, the editing (and the slipshod writing that was allowed to pass into the final manuscript - I don't expect writers to be perfect from the get-go, but their editors have to look out for them!) was so atrocious that it detracts - a lot! - from the enjoyment of the narrative. Maybe this wasn't the case with the bound version. Perhaps there is a different editing process that goes into the creation of an e-book. Maybe it has to do with electronic media somehow, but the version on my Nook had whole paragraphs missing from the text, run-on paragraphs with dialog from multiple speakers separated only by quotation marks, ambiguous pronouns, excessive, and misplaced, comma use (like that little example there) that threw this reader out of the story time after time.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was enjoyable to read. I agree with several other reviewers that the dialog was very hard to follow. I may have enjoyed the book more if this hadn't been such a distraction. The characters were enjoyable, although I wish the auther had played up the antagonist's relationship a little more. A flashback to outline some of the relationships that were mentioned could have added depth to the book. I dislike the need for the S&M to add a sexual component to the story. I felt like that aspect wa an unnecessary twist. Overall, the book had a great flow and the story was immensely entertaining.
Frogbilli More than 1 year ago
Story line was very interesting. Many characters and facts were real with just enough imagination thrown in to make it fun. I realized that I never knew that there was even a Navy involved in the Civil War and also did not realize a lot of the politics that went on at the time between Lincoln and his cabinet. I sure never learned any of this in high school history. Also a lot of sailing jargon for those who like that kind of thing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book, good reading.
GoodKarma More than 1 year ago
Could not get into it at all. I usually read a book at least a third of the way through before I give up on it, but I could not even get through the first few pages. Glad it was a free Friday book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
aletavh More than 1 year ago
Great historical fiction. Not much out there about the Confederate Navy. Very readable and highly recommend
indianscout More than 1 year ago
Randall Peffer writes very realistic historical novels. This one was a page turner that kept me up at night trying to see what this Rebel sea raider would do next to confound the Yankee Navy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love history stories and especially the Civil War exploits of actual figures. This is one of those books, enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
plvlrn More than 1 year ago
The combination of both historical fact and fictional ideas kept this book interesting. The characters, real and created are well-developed, and keep the reader involved. I pick this up a bargain list and have enjoy every page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While the subject matter is certainly worthy of a novelist's attention, I would think that Semmes entire career during the Civil War could be better done in 300 pages, not a trilogy. The fact of warfare is that it is long stretches of tedium interdispersed with brief moment of extreme terror, something that is reflected in this book a bit too well. Endless subplots make up the bulk of the work. On the positive side, being a big Civil War fan, the book was well worth the read because of the author's superb research. Lots of stuff here that I never read elsewhere. I recommend the book to those interested in the subject matter. I have not read the author's other books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Part MASTER AND COMMANDER, part KILLER ANGELS, part GONE WITH THE WIND, Randall Peffer bravely writes with energy and emotion and surehandedness in this introduction to his SEAHAWK trilogy. With spies and love affairs and a kind of wistful sense of loss like an undertow pulling it all along, we follow the real-life fate of Confederate Commander Semmes and his warship. No one captures the details of sailing better than Randall Peffer. "He stands high up on the promenade of the packet 'Queen of the Mohawk' as the steamer beats her way north against the current." The novel is full of perfect sentences like that, perfect observations, all at the service of the story of Semmes and his lover Maude Galway, their star-crossed story at the service of the Civil War itself. Truly, no one brings to life the sea and warfare with as much eloquence as Peffer. And no one is more curious than this reader to see how in the world he will tie off the many threads and themes of this novel in the next two installments.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Preposterous plot twists as well as burdensome amount of low value detail at times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We need a rating system for books Ioathe foul language it ruins a great book