By Peter Barratt
(246pp, Paperback: Size 156 x 234mm. ISBN 0-9548664-0-1 £12.00 Lulu Press. Also available via email@example.com)
'Circle of Fire' is more than the story of a Union warship during the Civil War. It is a glimpse into the inner workings of the blockade of the Confederacy as told through the career of one of the Union Navy's longest serving workhorses, the USS Susquehanna. Whether it be the opening operations at Hatteras Inlet, the capture of the vital Port Royal Sound, the bowing up of the CSS Virginia, the blockade of Charleston and Mobile, or the capture of Fort Fisher and the closure of the South's last major port at Wilmington, the USS Susquehanna was there; exchanging shots with forts and shore batteries, overhauling blockade runners and struggling against mountainous seas and mechanical breakdowns.
In every action in which the Susquehanna participated it received unstinting praise from the admiral in charge. Its gunnery played a significant role in destroying five Southern coastal installations. Landsmen will be grateful to the author for devoting a number of pages at the front of the book to a synopsis of the blockade and life at sea. The narrative itself is firmly based on contemporary official reports and is given a human face through the recollections of Lieutenant John Bartlett and marine Amos Burton. It reaches an appropriate climax when officers, sailors and marines from the Susquehanna take part in the desperate and bloody assault on Fort Fisher.
The text throughout is profusely adorned with photographs, lithographs and maps and there are appendices containing a crew roster and a plan of the ship with its technical specifications.