A troubled country, a courageous heart, and the struggle for freedom. In May 1862, Robert Smalls, a slave and ship’s pilot in Charleston, South Carolina, crafts a daring plan to steal the steamship Planter and deliver it along with the crew and their families to the Union blockade. After risking his life to escape slavery, Robert faces an even more difficult challenge: convincing Abraham Lincoln to enlist black troops. Based on a true story, Steering to Freedom tells the powerful and inspirational story of a young man who becomes the first black captain of a US military ship, while struggling to navigate a path to freedom for himself, his family, and his people.
Now published by Penmore Press, you can order a copy of Steering to Freedom from your local bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or many other booksellers. It’s available both in paperback and as an ebook.
Author Gabridge weaves a tight, suspenseful tale that is a valuable addition to the ever-growing library of books that recount the contributions African-Americans made to the war effort. The novel is meticulously researched; by the time the reader finishes the book, he may be able to pilot a riverboat. The research is never pedantic, however, and it never gets in the way of an entertaining story. This book is highly recommended.
And Marina Julia Neary, on her CT Commie Tiger Mommy blog wrote a terrific post about the book, including:
Patrick Gabridge’s Steering to Freedom is an absolute must-read for all history majors focusing on American Civil War. This novel is an authentic account of one man’s rise to heroism and assumption of a task that’s nothing short of apostolic. It’s also a must-read for anyone contemplating getting involved in social activism around the delicate and volatile issue of interracial relations.
I did doing a virtual book tour for Steering to Freedom on 16 different blogs last October. Here are links to some of the reviews and guest posts.
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Review at Book Nerd:
“Steering to Freedom” was a fantastic read. Gabridge painted a vivid image of life during the Civil War. Robert Small was a memorable character. I really enjoyed this story and was pulled into the horrors that recurred during this time. The pace of the story kept me engaged and interested. I really appreciated that the author presented a very original story and reflected on the struggles of slaves. Robert was ingenious and brave.
Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog:
This was a truly inspiring read. Gabridge’s style is very readable and his characters are multi-dimensional. I enjoy reading about the Civil War era, and this story deserves to be told. Smalls’ quest for freedom for his family and then his work to allow Black troops in the Union forces should not be overlooked. I’d love to see this book used in classrooms and/or made into a movie.
Review at Carole’s Ramblings:
The author did an excellent job with not only bringing the world to life, but the characters to life as well. I felt so bad for Robert, but he was so brave. Kuddos to him for not only stealing a Confederate ship and freeing himself, his family, and others, but for enlisting as the first black captain of a US military ship as well.
I’m thankful to all the bloggers for hosting me for reviewing and discussing the book.
If you’re interested in seeing actual historic photographs of Robert Smalls and the Planter and some of the historical characters in the novel, check out my Pinterest Board for Steering to Freedom.
Advance Praise for Steering to Freedom:
“Steering to Freedom sweeps back the curtain on an extraordinary story of heroism and sacrifice. Escape is only the beginning. Robert Smalls doesn’t just save himself: he brings out his family, his friends and his mates — and then he goes back, fighting not just the navies of the South but the deep-rooted prejudices and ignorance of the North. With a sure touch for historical detail and a mastery of the human condition, Patrick Gabridge brilliantly evokes the spirit of a time, a country in struggle, and the heart of a man at its center”.— Mike Cooper, author of Clawback and Full Ratchet.
“In Patrick Gabridge’s meticulously crafted new novel Steering to Freedom, we’re treated to the gripping true tale of Captain Robert Smalls, a South Carolina slave who, after seizing his freedom, risked his life in a series of nautical adventures to win freedom for all of his enchained brothers and sisters. This powerful and inspirational story is skillfully and dramatically rendered by a writer who not only knows how to steer a good story, but who does so without losing sight of the heart-breaking humanity of his players.” — Mark Dunn, author of Ella Minnow Pea and Under the Harrow.
“Engaging characters and captivating storytelling make this inspiring historical adventure a must-read. For readers who enjoy seeing history through the lens of imagination. ” — Sophie Littlefield, author A Bad Day for Sorry and A Garden for Stones.
“Steering to Freedom brings to life the extraordinary true story of Captain Robert Smalls, an important figure in American Civil War history who should not be overlooked. This is an inspiring story of a hero: a slave who steals a steamship and navigates treacherous waters to lead his crew and their families to freedom. Yet in the hands of novelist Patrick Gabridge, Robert Smalls is entirely human, real, and relatable. Gabridge shows us a man whose highest ambitions are fueled by the important personal relationships in his life, especially his wife and children. With its cinematic scope, action-packed adventure, historical detail and emotional heft, Steering to Freedom will appeal to many audiences. ” — Diana Renn author of Blue Voyage, and Latitude Zero.
“Patrick Gabridge’s Steering to Freedom is a swashbuckling, page-turning epic set against the immaculately detailed backdrop of Charleston Harbor during the Civil War. Robert Smalls, a brilliant, resourceful slave, makes a daring and audacious bid for freedom. The story, based on actual events, reads with the freshness of fiction and the authenticity of truth. The characters from every walk of life earn your respect and then your admiration and finally your love. Patrick Gabridge has given us a whole new lens on the Civil War by bringing a previously unknown chapter to vivid, deeply moving, unforgettable life. — Laura Harrington, award winning author of Alice Bliss and selected for Barnes & Noble’s “Discover Great New Writers” program, and as an Entertainment Weekly “Best Reads of the Summer,” and a Publishers Weekly First Fiction title.
In Steering to Freedom, Patrick Gabridge has intertwined history with a meticulous and moving narrative of Robert Smalls—Confederate steamboat pilot, family man, and slave—whose daring vision to claim freedom against all odds will grab the reader from the first page. —Jessica Maria Tuccelli, author of Glow.