Excerpt from That Anvil of Our Souls by David Poyer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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That Anvil of Our Souls

A Novel of the Monitor and the Merrimack

by David Poyer

That Anvil of Our Souls
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2005, 438 pages
    Jul 2006, 432 pages

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-- Really?

-- Yes sir. I only arrived in the City today. I was preparing to report to Captain Ericsson this evening when your note arrived.

Barnes said, -- And so you shall; we shall not keep you. We wish you the best of luck in your new post, sir. And to assist you in your efforts...

The envelope was of heavy, calendared, expensive paper. Theo accepted it with raised eyebrows. -- What is this, sir?

Old Eaker murmured, -- A letter of credit, sir, on Eaker and Callowell -- my firm -- for the sum of two thousand dollars. The Union is in peril, sir. While young stalwarts like my son defend her with their lives, it is only meet we older patriots defend her with our purses. You may draw on it for any expenditure you think fit to advance the cause or make your own efforts easier.

Theo found himself stammering. -- I must say...as I think fit...You will require an accounting?

-- I do not think that will be necessary, Eaker said gravely.

-- Only a word of caution, Bushnell put in.

-- A caution, sir? Theo fingered the envelope, still in shock. Two thousand was what a first engineer drew a year.

-- Rather let us call it advice. Barnes glanced at the others. -- Well-meant counsel from those inclined to be your friends. That is, if you have any brief from the chief engineer or the chief constructor or any other quarter to frustrate Captain Ericsson's efforts in the country's defense, you may find your career prospects shortened. If, on the other hand, you lend him your full assistance, and he meets with the success we expect, you will find them much enhanced. Other opportunities will beckon after the insurrection is put down next summer. Aid him with your seagoing expertise. And let us know -- confidentially, of course -- if you should foresee any problems.

Theo stood with gloves in one hand, the envelope in the other. Should he tell them he didn't need threats or rewards to do his duty? Or simply bow and withdraw? One would give him a moment's satisfaction. The other, not only two thousand dollars to spend as he wished, but preferment in business when peace returned. These were powerful men. The sort he'd always planned to serve...and to become.

He said quietly, -- My orders are to assist Mister Ericsson in any way possible. Of course I will give him the benefit of my experience, such as it is.

And that must have struck just the right note, for all three nodded.

-- Quite so, quite so, old Eaker said. He raised his voice. -- Parkinson! Show our new friend to the door.

A locofoco flared in the dark, then was applied to a short pipe. Theo gazed up at the shadows of great brick chimneys, brewing with a woolen tangle of smoke and steam; serrated factory rooves; a great crane that flung its arms wide above the gray North River, an iron scarecrow loftier than the highest steeple in Hartford. The lamp at the gate lit a red pennant that flapped endlessly in the breeze.

The Cornelius H. Delamater Ironworks was the largest steam engine manufactory in the New World. It had provided the propeller and boilers for the first screw-propelled warship, Princeton, and dominated the growing market for screw-propelled merchant ships. They'd built Ericsson's radical caloric-propelled ship, driven not by steam but by heated air. It hadn't worked very well, but only a genius could conceive of replacing steam itself. Hubbard was standing on Thirteenth; the works spanned six hundred feet all the way to Fourteenth.

A steam whistle shrieked, and hundreds of men hurried toward him, grease-stained, exhausted-looking, thoughts intent no doubt on beef and potatoes and beer. Quitting time, and well after dark. Delamater must be laying on extra hours.

Inquiring where he might find John Ericsson, he was told the engineer wasn't there. He maintained an office at his home, 95 Franklin Street.

From That Anvil of Our Souls by David Poyer. Copyright © 2005 by David Poyer. All rights reserved.

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