In Seahawk Hunting Rafael Semmes abandons his broken raider, the Sumter, which is penned in by the Federals near Gibraltar. In the meantime, he has the Brits build him a new ship in Liverpool. Called the 290, it is the fastest commercial raider designed for its time, and it is waiting for Semmes in the Azores.
After taking command of the ship he sets out seizing and burning whalers at the rate of one a day, sails back across the North Atlantic against the gulf stream where he picks off another dozen merchant ships headed to Europe.
Then, after a thwarted attempt to sneak attack New York City, Semmes makes a beeline for Martinique in the Caribbean during the course of which he has to put down a mutiny on board and evade the USS San Jacinto which has come to destroy him. Finally, Semmes makes it to Galveston where he has an epic gun battle with the USS Hatteras.
Capt. Raphael Semmes of the Confederate navy continues his daring exploits at sea, covering vast tracts of the Atlantic between late 1861 and early 1863, in Peffer's engaging second book in his Seahawk trilogy (after Southern Seahawk). Seamanship and battles receive scant attention as the narrative dwells on a host of mostly land-bound historical characters, including President Abraham Lincoln; Gideon Welles, secretary of the navy; spymaster Allan Pinkerton; and Jefferson Davis's wife, Varina, as well as Semmes's fictional lover, Maude Galway. Peffer paints a convincing portrait of the destruction and desperation felt on both sides and of the many small, heroic actions (or inactions) that might turn the tide of war. Semmes emerges as a bloodied and battered warrior of epic stature in a losing cause, a Hector yet to meet his Achilles.