Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy by Peter Carlson

Adventure, suspense, and a dash of romance make for a highly readable–and absolutely true–Civil War story.

Peter Carlson’s Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy opens with the capture of its titular subjects near Vicksburg in 1863, then rewinds to show how they landed in such a predicament. Albert Richardson, an enterprising journalist for the New York Tribune, had decided to travel south as an undercover correspondent, and naturally chose his best friend and fellow newspaperman Junius Browne to accompany him. The stakes were high if they were discovered–the Tribune was reviled as a liberal abolitionist paper–but the two young men were game for adventure. After their capture, they spent nearly two years in a series of Confederate prisons before escaping, half-starved and freezing, to trek overland toward Union lines in December 1864.

Despite the serious and frequently tragic nature of Albert and Junius’s story, the book’s title signals the often playful tone that Carlson (K Blows Top) employs. The descriptions of Confederate prisons like Libby, Castle Thunder and Salisbury are horrific, but there is also the occasional scene of mirth–as when prisoners put on a variety show to celebrate the 4th of July. Besides Junius and Albert, the other colorful personalities in Carlson’s history include a larger-than-life “Union pilot” skilled at guiding refugees over the mountains to freedom, and a beautiful young Southern horsewoman who rescues them during a perilous moment. With eccentric and likeable characters like these, Carlson’s history successfully masquerades as an entertaining adventure story.

This review originally ran as a *starred review* in the June 4, 2013 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

Rating: 7 weary months.

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