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  The Civil War Memoir of
Lt. Cdr. William B. Cushing, U.S.N.

Edited by Alden R. Carter

"William Barker Cushing was the most intrepid and exciting officer in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. His daring raids behind enemy lines, including the destruction of the Confederate ironclad Albemarle, are the stuff of legends. Alden R. Carter perfectly captures Cushing's personality and actions in his introduction to the naval officer's fascinating wartime memoir." 
    --Chris E. Fonvielle Jr., University of North Carolina Wilmington, author of The Wilmington Campaign, Last Rays of Departing Hope

From Civil War News
William Cushing wrote in his memoirs, “Impossibilities are for the Timid.” This was basically the family motto, as Will and his brother Alonzo emerged from the Civil War as two of the most famous heroes of the war.
    The Wisconsin-born brothers became noted for Will’s daring raids and the sinking of the CSS Albemarle and for Alonzo’s heroic death while commanding an artillery battery opposing the Pickett, Pettigrew, Trimble Assault. (Another brother, 1st. Lt. Howard Cushing, was killed in a fight with Apache Indians in 1871 in Arizona.)
    After serving as a Congressional page, Will was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1857, while still 14. His high spirits and love of pranks led to his dismissal in 1861 just prior to graduation. But the Navy was desperate for trained personnel and he was quickly named an acting master’s mate that May.
    He achieved fame for a series of bold raids on Confederate coastal positions, culminating in the sinking of the ironclad ram Albemarle at Plymouth, N.C., on the night of Oct. 27, 1864.
    Cushing approached the vessel in a small steam launch equipped with a torpedo on the end of a pole extending from the bow. The launch drove through a log barricade and the torpedo exploded against the Albemarle’s hull.  Although most of his crew were killed or captured, Cushing made a spectacular escape.
    For his exploit, he received the thanks of Congress and a promotion to lieutenant commander, making him at the age of 21 the youngest individual to hold that rank in U.S. Navy history. The commander of the Albemarle said, “…a more gallant thing was not done during the war.”
    Cushing’s career was a short one, he died in Washington in December 1874 at the age of 32 after a long and debilitating illness.
After a short biographical section, editor Carter provides the naval memoirs, which were probably written in 1867-68. Cushing supplied fascinating details of his naval service, including a night spent in a Philadelphia jail “for thrashing a few copperheads.…”
    Much of the material was published in the Century Magazine and was later incorporated in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War; the latter version is reprinted here. Also included are articles by other individuals on the Albemarle and on the capture of Fort Fisher, N.C. Cushing was one of the commanders of the disastrous naval land assault at Fisher, when sailors, armed only with cutlasses and pistols, attacked the fort.
    Extensive appendices provide biographical sketches of individuals and detailed descriptions of ships named in the text.
As naval history and memoirs are relatively rare in Civil War publications, readers will find Cushing’s material to be unique in many respects, well-written, informative and exciting.

Reviewer:_Patrick E. Purcell

Patrick E. Purcell, a graduate of Northeastern University, is a retired railroad manager. He is a former president of the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table in Philadelphia and was on the Board of Governors of the Civil War Library and Museum in Philadelphia.

Rowman & Littlefield $34.95
0-7425-7053-3 | 978-0-7425-7053-5 Cloth
 0-7425-9996-5 | 978-0-7425-9996-3 electronic
Purchase at your local bookstore or from
Roman & Littlefield at



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