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Publisher's Summary

In July 1862, Confederate Captain Raphael Semmes took command of a secret new warship. At the helm of the Alabama, he became the most hated and feared man along the Union coast, as well as a Confederate legend. Now, with unparalleled authority, depth, and a vivid sense of the excitement and danger of the time, Stephen Fox describes Captain Semmes's remarkable wartime exploits. Burning one Union ship after another, he eluded capture time and again, ravaging Union commerce. But when the tide turned in favor of the Union, foreign ports were less willing to take in the Alabama, forcing Semmes to wander the oceans on a deteriorating ship, his ability to outwit the Union captains diminishing rapidly. Finally, in 1864, a Union ship sank the Alabama - though not her captain - in a world-renowned battle.
©2007 Stephen Fox; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"[A] fact-filled, cleanly written...well-conceived, and executed military biography." (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By margot on 06-09-12

Thrilling and excellent (with minor reservations)

I do not know how anyone could not love this book, or the figure of Commander Raphael Semmes, the South's greatest naval hero. The biography neatly balances the details of Semmes's curious and poignant personal life, against the vast sweep of the two-year odyssey of the commerce raider CSS Alabama.

The book admirably avoids partisanship when it comes to the War Between the States...at least till the last few chapters, when Fox briefly goes off on a quasi-Marxist rant against the Confederacy, damning Semmes for having "racist" [sic] beliefs. This sudden disgression seems forced and artificial. I'm just guessing here, but it appears this change of voice was imposed by the publishing house. Fox's editor must have been getting a little uneasy about putting out a popular history wherein the hero is a Confederate Navy commander who sinks 100 Yankee ships, while the villains are all Yankee politicians, diplomats, or (in the notable case of Clarence Yonge) money-grubbing turncoats in their employ. So Mr. Fox paid his lip-service to Political Correctness, and in due course the book was published by HarperCollins of New York and London, rather than the Dixieland Vanity Press of Holly Springs, Mississippi.

Fox seems to be the first biographer to uncover the details of Semmes's unfaithful wife and her illegitimate child Anna, conceived while Semmes was off fighting the Mexican War, and delivered shortly after he returned. Semmes behaved as a true Christian gentleman in this crisis; a veritable St Joseph. Although the child was sent away to Eden Hall for some years, she was never disavowed, and is always listed as the fifth of their six children. (Fox offers a bizarre interpretation of Semmes's forbearance and charity, explaining it away as a product of Catholic leniency toward sinfulness.)

For this Audible edition, I have only one complaint about the performance. The reader does not know how to pronounce "Raphael." Here in America, and the English-speaking world in general, the archangelic name is usually "RAY-feeyul." But the narrator consistently says "ROFF-ay-el," making it weirdly exotic, as though Semmes were some sort of Mexican or Levantine. Can it be he's never heard the name before?

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Jonathan on 01-10-08

Worth a listen

I enjoyed this book. Yes is does go deep into the background of Semmes, but I think it is important in understanding who he was. It is not the greatest book about Naval strategy, but it is a great book about the story of the Alabama and the life of Captain Semmes.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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