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THAT ANVIL OF OUR SOULS by David Poyer Kirkus Star


A Novel of The Monitor and The Merrimack

by David Poyer

Pub Date: July 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-684-87135-1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The iron ships duke it out in the third of Poyer’s banner Civil War at Sea cycle (Fire on the Waters, 2001; A Country of Our Own, 2003).

Since there was no way you could hurt them, ironclads were able to hang around and eventually blow you out of the water, thus consigning wooden-ship warfare to naval history. The Merrimack, Yankee at birth, captured, refitted and reborn as the Virginia, was the South’s great hope to legitimize the Confederate States of America in the eyes of Britain and France, gain their aid and perhaps even hurry the end of hostilities by demonstrating a weapon powerful enough to defy countermeasure. Enter “the cheese box.” Compared to its hulking rival, the diminutive Monitor at first generated more amusement than concern. But that didn’t last. In March of 1862, seagoing David and Goliath bombarded each other for almost four hours; at the end of that time, both remained essentially what they had been at the outset, still impregnable. Serving aboard the Merrimack/Virginia is Lieutenant Lomax Minter—resplendently red-haired, magnetically handsome, totally insufferable. In the view of the ship’s wise and weary doctor, he is one of the “lovely fiery fools,” easily capable of bringing death to them all. To which the quintessential cavalier replies with a shrug. Minter’s theme: “What was life for but glory?” Serving on the Monitor, meanwhile, is Chief Engineer Theo Hubbard—short, solemn, as unprepossessing as his ship and as different from Minter as two brave men could ever be. Through them, mostly, readers experience the epic battle. And who really won? It’s arguable both ways, though in his darker moments Poyer seems to suggest that no one did.

Series best, and for those who see the Civil War as this country’s defining drama, simply not to be missed.