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Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy: A Civil War Odyssey

Peter Carlson, Public Affairs,  2013, $26.99

Albert Richardson and Junius Browne concocted a few whoppers during their years as Civil War correspondents for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, but nothing they made up seemed as far-fetched as their own amazing adventures during the war. Both were 27 when the war began, and were ardent abolitionists who shared a love of art, theater and literature—Browne carried a copy of the Divine Comedy with him to the war. Both became members of the “Bohemian Brigade” of Northern war correspondents.

They marched with Ulysses Grant’s soldiers through swamps and snow, eating what they ate and sleeping where they slept. While following the Union army in the Vicksburg Campaign, their tugboat was blown up by a Confederate shell, and Richardson and Browne were captured while floating down the Mississippi on bales of hay. They expected to be quickly paroled and sent north. Neither man had an inkling that it would be the better part of two years before they would see home again. Their eventual escape and journey home (in which they were abetted by numerous slaves—“God bless the Negroes!” as Browne put it) is worth a book in itself.

Peter Carlson, a former reporter and columnist for The Washington Post, has a sharp eye for fascinating peripheral characters such as the seemingly hard-edged Confederate prison clerk whose inmates kept disappearing—it turned out he was a Union spy who was heading his captives north. Carlson also has a flair for the ironic details that illuminate the story, such as the Richmond newspaper that, after announcing a resounding victory in the most celebrated battle of the war, admitted a couple of days later, “We were not entirely victorious at Gettysburg.” And, when Browne, after 20 grueling months of captivity, finally escaped and trudged 300 miles over snow-covered mountains to rejoin the Tribune, his name was misspelled in his own newspaper.

After the war, Richardson and Browne both put their version of their story in print. The books were instant bestsellers but are forgotten today. No matter—Carlson has revived and ensured their place in Civil War history.


Originally published in the November 2013 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.