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Briarcliff Man Writes Book About Civil War Hero

Briarcliff resident James Malanowski recently wrote a book about a Civil War hero.
Briarcliff resident James Malanowski recently wrote a book about a Civil War hero. Photo Credit: Sam Barron

BRIARCLIFF, N.Y. -- James Malanowski, a Briarcliff resident, has written a new book about a Civil War maverick.

Malanowski's new book "Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War," was recently published by W.W. Norton.

Cushing was a complex individual who was expelled from the Naval Academy because of "a talent for buffoonery." 

Despite being expelled, Cushing enlisted during the Civil War where, at just 21 years old in October 1864, he sank a Confederate ironclad warship while standing in an open boat. Cushing was thanked by Congress for his heroics.

"He was pretty famous in the 19th century though his reputation has faded over the years," Malanowski said. "I thought it be worthwhile to revive his story. There hasn't been a biography about him in 50 years."

Malanowski said Cushing was an innovator in warfare and was the prototype of the modern-day Navy SEAL. "He was like Johnny Manziel. He would get himself into trouble but then he would figure out a way to get himself out of trouble very quickly. People will be astounded by his exploits and by his personality."

Malanowski has written for Time Magazine and did a series on the Civil War for the New York Times. He said he has been interested in the Civil War since he was a boy growing up in Baltimore.

He became fascinated by Cushing when he saw an illustration of Cushing sinking the Confederate ironclad.

Writing the book involved a lot of reading, including Cushing's own memoir. Many of Cushing's family letters were collected by the Wisconsin Historical Society and his naval documents are in the National Archives. 

"It might have been harder to research a less colorful person," Malanowski said. 

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