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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Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War by Jamie Malanowski

“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: 1,214,749
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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Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
civiwarlibrarian More than 1 year ago
Commander William B. Cushing is best known for his leadership in the sabotage effort which sank the CSS Albemarle during the night of October 27-28, 1864. Born in Wisconsin and raised in western New York provided with a both down to earth view of life and the ability to create fun where every his lived and worked. He was expelled from the U.S. Naval Academy for poor study habits and a surfeit of demerits during his final year. He was forced to resign from the academy just 90 days before graduation. Jamie Malanowski describes Cushing throughout his early years as having a talent for buffoon. Cushing's friends and relatives in Washington, D.C, lobbied the secretary of the navy who had been in the post for just 16 days. Gideon Welles met with Cushing and informed him that his appeal would not be accepted. Then came the bombardment of Fort Sumter and the pleading of Benjamin Butler to Gustavus Fox, assistant secretary of the navy. In the emergency of the moment, Cushing reentered the navy as a acting master's mate and joined the crew of the U.S.S. Minnesota. Cushing found opportunities to create adventures. In 1862 Cushing was promoted to lieutenant and later in life to commander. The Confederacy's ironclad ram, Albemarle, dominated the frequently contested region of the Roanoke River and its major port, Plymouth. During the late summer of 1864 considered various plans for destroying the Albemarle; two of the plans were submitted by by Cushing. Cushing's daring plan and heroic execution earned him a reputation and fame that lasted his lifetime. Malinowski offers a witty portrait of Cushing and his adventures. With some very short captures and some very extensive chapters, he briskly moves the story forward from Cushing's childhood and to his death. Reckless and impatient during his childhood and adulthood Cushing rushed through his own life. The author does not loiter either and propels the narrative forward at a lively pace. Malinowski is a writer and editor who has served eight or more magazines and newspapers. Most recently he has served as a lead writer for The New York Times' sesquicentennial Disunion column. Additionally he has written novels, biographies, plays, and an HBO film. Commander Will Cushing is a well assembled story which reflects the author's career in the field of magazine writing. Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War is, as Malinowski states, a retelling of an exciting story about a remarkable individual whose fame is in this centur beginning to fade. He speculates that Cushing's heroics may have been part genius and part personality disorder. Malinowski outlines this possibility but does not force it down the reader's throat. The book ends with Malinowski reflecting on Cushing's death at age 32 and what another 32 years of life would have brought Cushing. Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War is accessible and enjoyable for readers of nearly all ages. Though a benefit to readers would have been the addition of maps of Hampton Roads and Gosport, Virginia and coastal North Carolina.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A terrific story about a young naval officer whose heroic acts during the course of the war have not been heralded in the past. His daredevil attitude and willingness to take on impossible challenges made him popular with many leaders in the Navy and President Lincoln, while his willingness to disobey orders he didn't agree with and the resulting acts of heroism made him unpopular with others. This book explores this complex person and what drove him during his naval career.