Although the author presents him as a sort of Wisconsin-bred Tom Sawyer, the recitation of William Barker Cushing's earliest years and hi-jinks carries the hint of instability that seems borne out by his two mental breakdowns before the age of 30. These are explained as the result of pains due to Civil War damages and grief at the loss of his two brothers. Possibly, or could be that the young man was the sort of crackpot for whom total risk is total happiness. His Civil War career is astonishing for its unsupervised dare deviltry. Again and again, the washout from Annapolis, when given his second chance, took small boats into Confederate waters and incurred heavy damages. His techniques were foreign to naval practice at the time, most successful, and a necessary morale builder for the North. The dialogue is awash with melodramatic fiction and Cushing's finest hour, the sinking of the Albemarle comes late in the overlong book.