CLICK HERE TO BUY Thunder from a Clear Sky

written by Clarksville Roundtable President, Greg Biggs
December 17, 2006

Along with our good friends at Borders Books, we continue promoting the Clarksville Civil War Roundtable Book of the Month. This month's book is Thunder From A Clear Sky: Stovepipe Johnson's Confederate Raid on Newburgh, Indiana, by Ray Mulesky.

       First time author Ray Mulesky of Evansville, Indiana, has written a fine account of one of those gems of Civil War stories - the first Confederate raid across the Mason-Dixon Line in the war. A little known event outside of the Western Theater, Mulesky's book will certainly go a long way to changing that. This work will also expand the audience for Confederate raider Adam Rankin Johnson, certainly one of the most colorful characters of this era.
       Written in the style of a good novel, which perfectly suits this story, Mulesky details Johnson's pre-raid career as well as the importance of the Evansville-Newburg, Indiana, area on the Ohio River. Johnson was a native of Henderson, Kentucky, just across from these two Hoosier towns. It was this knowledge of the area and its people that would serve Johnson well in his planning. Seeking to recruit a new regiment of partisan cavalry, Johnson soon realized that the only way to draw men to his banner was by doing great deeds that would prove his mettle to any prospective followers. To this end, his raids on Henderson as well as the attack on a Pennsylvania cavalry unit, brought him the desired notoriety via the press along with new recruits. It was the desire for arms to equip his new recruits that led him to attack Newburg, a storage depot for Indiana Home Guard units.
       With about 27 men and two "Quaker" cannons, one made from a stovepipe (which would give Johnson his nickname), Johnson and his men rowed across the Ohio River and captured the town and its Union garrison of 100 convalescents. He brought off the arms safely to the Kentucky shore and then made good his escape just as reinforcements were arriving via river boats. Johnson's raid was a thunderclap that served to help in recruiting at least three new Indiana regiments for the war as well as to prove that the Ohio River shore was vulnerable to Confederate attacks. It was a galvanizing moment that went all the way to the Indiana governor's office. For Johnson, further and greater adventures were to come including the capture of Clarksville, Tennessee, from its Union garrison.
       The book is well-written and in an engaging style that makes it hard to put down. Mulesky took a bit of a risk by writing a debut book on such a little-known escapade, but he has made it his own and given the event the bigger spotlight that it deserves. He wisely keeps the book focused on the characters of importance and you not only get to know Johnson and his men but also Indiana Gov. Morton as well as area Union commanders. This reviewer's only quibble is that another map or two showing how the raid set up to compliment the text would have been helpful for those not familiar with Newburg and vicinity.
       If good Civil War yarns are your thing, then this book will more than satisfy your craving. Let's hope that this is the first of many books from Ray Mulesky, who has certainly put one out of the park with his first time at the writer's plate. For more information about the book as well as the author (who gives a great program on this raid) please visit

Our friends at Borders have this book in stock and it would be a fine Christmas present!