A stirring story of the Civil War—maritime style—as told by savvy veteran Poyer (China Sea, 2000, etc.) in the first of an ambitious trilogy.
Except for the zealots and the hotheaded sunshine patriots, it’s a war few want, but in the spring of 186l it seems inescapable. And good people, on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, are forced to scrutinize positions they had thought fully settled. Aboard the Navy sloop Owanee, for instance, there are two such: the captain and his executive officer, both men of honor, both career officers, but both also Virginian-born and -bred. And on the day that young Elisha Eaker, recently of Harvard University, reports for duty, only one of the two has made up his mind. Though Captain Trezevant’s love for his home commonwealth is hardly a secret, he’s told no one that he intends to resign his commission, a fact that will complicate life for all the ship’s company. Eli, too, has some difficult decisions to make. His, however, have little to do with the war. He has to decide whether the affection he feels for his childhood sweetheart is really strong enough for marriage. And he has to decide whether he will allow his arrogant, plutocratic, tyrannical father to continue going on forever without a confrontation. When guns open fire on Fort Sumter, the war few want breaks out for real. Captain Trezevant leaves the Owanee. Reluctantly, his exec, Lieutenant Claiborne, takes command. Eli becomes gunnery officer, and to his own considerable surprise performs efficiently, even valiantly. Finally, on the last day of that fateful April, volume number one slips safely into harbor, all plot lines neatly advanced and yet satisfactorily in flux.
Poyer, a former Navy captain, knows his ships, of course, but his cast is strong besides, and his grip on the tiller of Civil War history appears reassuringly firm.