Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy

A Civil War Odyssey


By Peter Carlson

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Junius Browne and Albert Richardson covered the Civil War for the New York Tribune until Confederates captured them as they tried to sneak past Vicksburg on a hay barge. Shuffled from one Rebel prison to another, they escaped and trekked across the snow-covered Appalachians with the help of slaves and pro-Union bushwhackers. Their amazing, long-forgotten odyssey is one of the great escape stories in American history, packed with drama, courage, horrors and heroics, plus moments of antic comedy.

On their long, strange adventure, Junius and Albert encountered an astonishing variety of American characters — Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, Rebel con men and Union spies, a Confederate pirate-turned-playwright, a sadistic hangman nicknamed “the Anti-Christ,” a secret society called the Heroes of America, a Union guerrilla convinced that God protected him from Confederate bullets, and a mysterious teenage girl who rode to their rescue at just the right moment.

Peter Carlson, author of the critically acclaimed K Blows Top, has, in Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy, written a gripping story about the lifesaving power of friendship and a surreal voyage through the bloody battlefields, dark prisons, and cold mountains of the Civil War.
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  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • 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.”

On Sale
May 27, 2014
Page Count
288 pages

Peter Carlson

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.

Learn more about this author