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Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy: A Civil War Odyssey Hardcover – May 28, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


One of the Best Titles of 2013 by Bookpage

Wall Street Journal
“Engaging…. It's hard to believe that anything compelling about the Civil War remains unexplored, but the picaresque odyssey of these two plucky journalists turns out to be an intimate and absorbing social history of the rarely glimpsed backwoods of the great conflict….One of the great adventures of the Civil War.”

Boston Globe
“Peter Carlson weaves these and other research into a compelling, truly exciting tale. He finds humor in it, too, especially stories of grave journalistic crimes (entire battle scenes made up by reporters too drunk to witness the scene, for instance). The levity is more than balanced by the genuine menace the Yankees faced down South (in Atlanta, newspaper editorials urged they be lynched) and the deep humanity of those Union sympathizers, black and white, who helped them on their long, cold escape route. Plenty of nonfiction narratives claim to read like novels; this one actually does.”

James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom
“This absorbing story of two Northern war reporters who were captured by the Confederates at Vicksburg, imprisoned for nineteen months, and escaped two hundred miles to Union lines demonstrates that for the Civil War, truth is indeed more thrilling than fiction. The accounts of the essential help the escapees received from slaves and Southern white Unionists provides key insights on Southern society.”

David Finkel, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of 'The Good Soldiers
“Peter Carlson is one of America's greatest storytellers, and this is his best story yet. Funny, thrilling, tragic, and impossible to put down, Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy is a beautifully written, wondrous book.”

David Von Drehle, author of Rise To Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America's Most Perilous Year
“The amazing true story of Civil War journalists Albert Richardson and Junius Browne starts with the friends leaping from a burning barge into the Mississippi River and ends with a harrowing mid-winter passage through snowy mountains. In between lay endless months struggling to survive the hell of the Confederate prison system. This is history as it really happened, not the tidy school book version, and Peter Carlson tells it with the drive and verve of a truly gifted narrator.”

Kirkus Review
“A rollicking story of imprisonment and escape during the Civil War seems a stretch, but journalist Carlson accomplished a similar feat with a Soviet premier in K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist (2009), and this is another entertaining, occasionally gruesome account…. Carlson has taken full advantage of abundant material to deliver a vivid chronicle of two working Civil War reporters and their spectacular odyssey.”

Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway's Boat: Everything He loved in Life, And Lost, 1934-1961
“’Captivity dries up the heart,’ as Peter Carlson tell us in his grave, propulsive, heroic, and, not least, slyly comic tale of two old New York newspaper scribes who went deep into the Civil War--and lived to tell about it. This is a lost tale resurrected by a fine old newspaperman himself--and our hearts are better for it.”

Christopher Buckley, author of God is My Broker and Thank You for Smoking
“Another irresistible story, engagingly told, from the pen of irresistible and engaging storyteller Peter Carlson, about two jaunty Union reporters who undergo a harrowing 21 month-long ordeal as prisoners of the Confederacy and then escape. As with the best of non-fiction, it reads like a far-fetched novel.”

Publishers Weekly
“Civil War buffs and historians of journalism will revel in this thrilling tale of two raucous, self-described ‘knights of the quill.’”

ForeWord Magazine
“[A]thoroughly-researched page-turner…Carlson’s character development vividly transforms the nineteenth-century reporters into traveling companions who will engross readers with their tale of “A Thrilling Capture, a Long Confinement, and a Marvelous Escape,” as a Tribune headline described the adventure on February 8, 1865.”

Tony Horwitz, Washington Post
“Unspools like a buddy flick…Carlson’s story has so many twists, right up to the last page….But the exquisite plot is only one of the joys of reading this book….If there’s a flaw in this fine book, it’s that Carlson tells his story almost too well….[This is] a rollicking read.”

American History
“Thoroughly entertaining…Carlson, a former journalist, knows a good story when he finds one, and demonstrates a talent for ferreting out the odd detail and humanizing incident as he peers into some obscure corners of Civil War history. Aided in no small degree by the accounts his two principals left behind, Carlson weaves a suspenseful, fast-paced and sometimes wry tale, as full of incident and surprise as a novel.”

Associated Press
“Among the tens of thousands of books written about the American Civil War, there are dense histories of campaigns, profiles of leaders, compilations of battlefield photos or soldiers' letters home. Then, once in a while, you run across just a really good yarn....At the heart of this buddy story are two distinctive characters, close friends who sometimes infuriate and often help each other… Carlson's story portrays their relationship and the wild ride of their wartime with emotional depth and often with humor….[he] has produced a work that entertains as well as educates…and lets readers see the endlessly chronicled Civil War through a truly fresh lens.”

“Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy…possesses the juiciness of a beach read…. Carlson works with wonderful efficiency, describing the political and social environment both men faced but never losing sight of the story and its momentum. The writing is compact and vivid as readers are escorted to the hell both men endured.”

Asheville Scene
“Don’t come expecting a dry Civil War history lecture. A former Washington Post features writer, Carlson imbues historical record with humor and a great sense of character that plays the well-liked, adventurous Richardson off his class-conscious, persnickety counterpart Browne in a sort of Civil War “odd couple” dynamic.”

Shelf Awareness for Readers, Starred Review
“With eccentric and likeable characters…Carlson's history successfully masquerades as an entertaining adventure story…Adventure, suspense, and a dash of romance make for a highly readable--and absolutely true--Civil War story.”

Durham Herald Sun
“Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy would make a fantastic movie, too, but the tale is worth reading on the edge of your seat. A Civil War odyssey, indeed.”

Mountain Xpress
“Revisiting old territory with a new view of contemporaneous sources, [Carlson has] used Browne and Richardson’s story to open a window into how the Civil War ruptured the fabric of American politics and history, sparing almost no one, including a couple of brash young journalists.”

Idaho Statesman
“[Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy] is a story full of suspense, historical significance and intrigue. As the title suggests, it is an adventure in every sense of the word.”

Knoxville News Sentinel
“Peter Carlson’s Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy: A Civil War Odyssey is a gloriously entertaining book that should be on the reading list of anyone curious about the underbelly of the Civil War... [This book is] the perfect antidote to the endless stream of scholarly Civil-War-sesquicentennial tomes about this or that battle or major general. It is a grand tale of adventure, full of heroes and villains and a window into a world of honor and hypocrisy long dead, yet still oddly relevant.”

About the Author

Peter Carlson is the author of K Blows Top, which has been optioned into a feature film. For many years, he was a reporter and columnist for the Washington Post. He has also written for Smithsonian magazine, American History, and the Huffington Post. He lives in Rockville, MD.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (May 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610391543
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610391542
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Robideau on June 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After looking at the cover, the description, and the initial reviews, I wasn't sure whether I should expect a book full of historic adventure stories directed at young people or a deeper look at the life and activities of two reporters during the Civil War.

I found that this book is equally suited for either task!

The stories are simple and easy to follow for a younger audience, but if you are looking, there is much more that can be gleaned. I particularly enjoyed the amount of detail that was found in the stories. Because of the authors skilled writing, these fun stories lend quite a bit of insight without the reader even trying to learn. This is truly the mark of a teacher!

This book is highly recommended for:
- Anyone with an interest in details surrounding the Civil war
- Anyone with an interest in war reporting and journalism
- Anyone who enjoys a well-told story

*This book was well formatted for my Gen4 Kindle and had a linked TOC*
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I will confess upfront that I do not read "war books", but like a vineyard book that I read for a book club, I presumed I'd learn something. I was right: I learned that in 1862 the Confederates started the first war draft in the US, with exceptions granted to men owning 20 slaves and to men who could afford to hire substitutes -- often drunken Irish were recruited. The first draft inspired the phrase, "A rich man's war but a poor man's fight." So some things never change. False bravado doesn't seem to change either, evidenced by, "We will die in the last ditch!" I sympathized wholeheartedly with Junius Browne when he said he'd rather run guns in Vicksburg than listen to persistent idiots. Having grown up in the East as a Yankee, we were given the impression that the South were all pro-slavery, but this is not the case. Pro-Slavery was a rich man's concern. The poor were forced to take sides and absorbed great risk to help Yankees get back North. Some men signed up & then went AWOL, some went rogue and helped the underground transit. In general, slave owners were despised as "hateful aristocracy" and 'arrogating themselves to decency, talent and respectability'. I was very disturbed by Richardson's separation from his wife and children and I am glad the book addressed the matter. I was saddened that he made the choice to be a better journalist and good buddy to his friend, rather than a father to his kids and husband to his wife; the untold part of this story is their lives and how they must have suffered as well. This is a very sad part of Richardson's life, although he made the best of it in prison, tending to the sick and dying.Read more ›
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Not quite a rollicking odyssey, but one, as you would expect for prisoners of war during the Civil War, that was filled with misery. That said, and without giving any spoilers, Junius & Albert we imprisoned as non-combatants, but as journalists who incidentally worked for one of the North's most anti-Confederate newspapers. So you can imagine how they were singled out from others. In all my reading on the Civil War I'd never come across any threads of this story or it's two main players, so it was nice to pick up new history. Carlson does a great job of bringing the characters to life and pulling in all the relevant details, with a narrative that keeps you engaged in their story. One of the thoughts that kept playing in my mind as I read this was how today's journalist are treated when captured by the enemy - in most cases that's a story whose end is mostly not a good one. Anyway, this was a nice find and a good addition to my Civil War library.
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A vivid and enveloping account of the experiences of two journalist buddies from the New York Tribune, who are captured and imprisoned by the Confederacy. Despite the detailed and horrifying descriptions of the prisons and the state the prisoners endured, author Peter Carlson manages to keep the story moving forward, with occasional humorous asides, without getting bogged down. A good read (and another book that would make a great movie).
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I am drawn to books about the Civil War, but this one wasn't just a re-hash of history, it was an immensely readable story about the experiences of two young journalists. The one thing I find regrettable is the title -- I think it has a light-hearted ring, whereas the story is anything but that. Yes, there are a few smile-worthy moments, a few places where we might shake our head at the wit and antics of these two young men; but the majority of the story is pretty grim. This was wartime; men were being killed by the thousands on battlefields in more than a dozen states. What these two men and several other of their "Bohemian" friends endured in rebel prisons is beyond my imagination. I can't imagine the feel of the bitter, icy cold, the gnawing hunger, weary with fatigue and having to sleep on a stone floor with no blankets, fighting to survive typhus and pneumonia, enduring brutality by sadistic prison guards, dead bodies stacked up all around me, knowing that rebel journalists in Union prisons were being returned to their homes while the same treatment was denied to me, then escaping after almost two years and walking hundreds of miles, sick/filthy/hungry/cold, to safety and freedom in Union-occupied territory. This is not a textbook, it's not an academic work of history, but it's a very good story and I found it hard to put down. For an interesting and different take on the Civil War, I recommend this book.
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