That Anvil of Our Souls

Written by David Poyer
Review by John R. Vallely

David Poyer has written some twenty-five novels to date and is widely respected for his fictional accounts of the modern U.S. navy. His present work is the third of an ongoing series on the naval aspects of the American Civil War. Although Poyer populates his work with a number of civilians, the main action consistently revolves around the naval officers and seamen who wage war with a combination of traditional sailing ships and revolutionary ironclads. The Union “Monitor” and Confederate “Virginia” (“Merrimack”) are described with such an eye for detail that in many ways they are more interesting to the reader than an ex-slave turned Union sailor, Confederate and Union ship designers, a Confederate wife struggling to survive, and the officers and men who serve during the battle regarded as the beginning of modern naval warfare. Although the result of the day long battle is well known, Poyer’s minute-by- minute recreation of the drama and stress of a legendary sea battle sets this novel apart from others in the genre.