Written by Jim Stempel
Review by Jeanne Greene

Albemarle is the story of a ship—and a battle for the control of a river—which had strategic consequences in the final years of the Civil War.

A steam-driven ironclad ram, CSS Albemarle was not completed until 1864; iron was in short supply. By then, the South was reeling. While Lee fought to reestablish supply lines to Richmond, Albemarle cleared the Roanoke River of Union vessels. Sinking her became a high priority for the Union Navy, but the Albemarle seemed impervious to torpedoes.

The Albemarle’s first captain, James W. Cooke, 51, is an experienced sailor. When he hears rumors that a 21-year-old Union officer has a plan to sink her, Cooke guesses the man’s identity—he had run into Lt. William Cushing before—and tries to stop him. Cooke’s role makes an interesting story, but what follows is high adventure. A daring nighttime mission, in which 15 brave sailors under young Lt. Cushing sent the Albemarle to the bottom, marked a turning-point in the coastal war.

Written in conversational style, but well-documented, Albemarle is for all readers (and would make a great movie!).