Big Bad Ironclad! (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #2)

Where's this book been?
by Nathan Hale | Graphic Novels |
ISBN: 9781419703959 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 9/16/2020
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Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Wednesday, September 16, 2020
I got this hardcover from an online seller. I've enjoyed Hale's previous graphic-novel-format history books, including One Dead Spy, about the Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale, and The Underground Abductor, about Harriet Tubman. While the premise is a bit wacky - Hale, standing on the gallows where he'll die, regales the hangman and the British officer with tales from history, some far distant in time from his own life. It's a mix of humor and fact, and a very enjoyable way to learn history.

This one deals with the battle of the ironclad warships early in the Civil War - with lots of info about the adventures of William Barker Cushing, who went from being expelled from the Naval academy for too many pranks to becoming a hero of the war, a prototypical Navy Seal - and, alas, one who died too soon, at age 32.

There are the usual quips and historical side notes, opening with a new character at the hanging tree - a Black man whose job is to fetch the new hanging rope. But Hale knows his future - he'll be a famed international prizefighter! [He demonstrates on the hapless hangman, who then asks that the next story feature "less punching, please".]

We meet Gideon Welles, Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy, nicknamed "Father Neptune" by Lincoln himself; Stephen Mallory, the Confederacy's Secretary of the Navy, nicknamed "Sharkface" (by the hangman in-story, NOT a historical nickname!), engineer John Ericsson who designed the USS Monitor, and lots of other characters - including the captains and crews of the ironclads, who have some severe trials while attempting to make use of this new technology.

While the overall tone is lively and light, there are darker nods - to the death toll of the war, to its causes in slavery, and even to the fate of Nathan Hale himself; it's pointed out (not for the first time) that "it's history - no one gets out alive". (One of the side stories involves Ericsson's connection with the "Peacemaker", a ship's cannon that exploded in 1843 and killed members of President Tyler's cabinet; turns out Ericsson designed the type of gun, but it was another man who built the Peacemaker without heeding all of Ericsson's design details.)

The book does describe the damage done by the ironclads - to other ships; they didn't make much headway against each other. The Confederates scuttled the Virginia to keep her out of enemy hands, and the Monitor sank in a storm, so that first battle of the ironclads was also their last. [The tale of the discovery of the Monitor's wreck and the raising and conservation of its signature turret is a fascinating tale in its own right, but is only touched on in this book.]

There is another interesting account of an ironclad, though: the CSS Albemarle, another Confederate ironclad made by attaching iron plates above the waterline of a wooden ship, was causing a lot of trouble for Union ships - so Lt. Cushing took a small boat near the ship under cover of darkness and managed to land a spar torpedo against her sides below the iron plating. Why this guy isn't better known I have no idea!

As usual the book has loads of additional bits, from the "correction babies" answering questions at the end to a bibliography, a cast-of-characters, and a highly detailed author bio ("The primary snack consumed during this project was the cracked pepper sunflower seed.").

See also the "hazard level" on the back: "Blockade-runners, privateers, burning shipyards, underwater toilets, Swedish swearing, ironclad battleships, and a bomb on a stick." And that covers it!

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at Little Free Library, Jamie Rd in Dunstable, Massachusetts USA on Saturday, September 19, 2020

Released 1 mo ago (9/20/2020 UTC) at Little Free Library, Jamie Rd in Dunstable, Massachusetts USA


Guidelines for safely visiting and stocking Little Free Libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic, from the LFL site here.

I left this book in the Little Free Library; hope someone enjoys it!

[See other recent releases in MA here.]

*** Released for the 2020 September Sapphire challenge. ***

*** Released for the 2020 Talk Like a Pirate challenge, in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19. Arrghh! ***

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