Blubber Book


“Bluejackets in the Blubber Room: A Biography of the William Badger, 1828-1865″

I recently completed my first nonfiction book.  It’s about a 19-century sailing ship that had several interesting careers.  I wrote it due to my endless fascination with history and the sea.  Here’s a very basic description (courtesy University of Alabama Press):

“Bluejackets in the Blubber Room” explores key events in U.S. maritime history from the 1820s to the end of the Civil War through the biography of the sailing ship WILLIAM BADGER.

The author begins by exploring early American shipbuilding and shipbuilders in the Piscataqua region of Maine and New Hampshire and the kinds of raw materials harvested and used in making the wooden sailing ships of the time. After its construction, the BADGER became part of the key economic trade between New England, the southern U.S., and Europe. She carried raw materials such as timber from New England to New Orleans and subsequently cotton from New Orleans to Spain and Liverpool, England.

Following service as a merchant ship, the BADGER became a whaling ship, carrying its New England-based crew as far as the South Pacific. Using logbooks and sailor journals, the author presents a colorful story of life aboard a whaling ship and in the whaling towns ranging from Lynn, Massachusetts, to Cape Leeuwin, Australia. The third career in the BADGER’s life was service as a supply ship in the Union Navy’s blockade effort. Although not the most dramatic duty a sailor could have, blockade supply nevertheless was critical to the United States’ prosecution of the Civil War and eventual victory. This book delves into the decision-making involved in procuring such ships and their crew, notably escaped slaves known as “contrabands.”


“An interesting, well-researched and well-written book. It is surprising how much original material about the vessel the author was able to uncover…highly recommended.” – Joseph A. Derie, “Civil War News: The Monthly Current Events Newspaper”

“Fascinating story” – David Madden, “Civil War Talk (Forum)”

“Excellent use of primary source materials…Bluejackets in the Blubber Room is a fascinating look at the life of a small ship which reinvented herself as the United States did the same.” – Ryan P. Semmes,  H-War on H-Net, “Humanities and Social Sciences Online”

“The book is a dual and diverse history that will be of interest to Civil War historians and those interested in whaling.” – Robert M. Browning, Jr., Chief Historian of the United States Coast Guard and author of From Cape Charles to Cape Fear: The North Atlantic Blockading Squadron during the Civil War

“Kurtz has skillfully placed the story of this vessel in a much broader context, both as a whaler and later as a store ship during the Civil War.” – William N. Still, author of Confederate Shipbuilding


If you’d like to order a copy, here are some good links:

And a link to an article describing why I wrote the book, the research/writing, and the publication process:


16 thoughts on “Blubber Book

  1. Hi Peter, I am a huge history fan; especially whaling and the Civil War so your book is ‘the perfect storm.’ The Badger seems to be just like Herman Melville who started out on a merchant, then a whaler and finally a naval frigate!

  2. Hi Scott, thanks for your comment! How did you hear about the book? Sounds like we have much in common, as I’m obsessed with Melville too – his books and his life. I mention “Redburn,” “White Jacket,” and of course “MD” in my modest nonfiction attempt. I’m a field mouse compared to the mighty Melville, but I hope you enjoy the book anyway!

  3. Peter, hi
    A note to say that I have just bought your book Bluejackets etc, and loved it! I am a retired journalist in Sydney who grew up in Busselton (on Geographe Bay) and am three quarters the way through what I hope will be a book on US whalers operating off the WA coast between say 1830 and 1870.
    Your book and its references on the Majestic gives me another insight to develop. I shall be chasing a copy of the Bonney journal and logbook from Mystic, in the hope that I can work some of it into my stuff, without looking too close to yours!
    Again, congratulations!
    Tim Blue

  4. Tim, thanks so much for your kind words. I’m really glad you liked the “blubber book.” It’s nice to hear from someone from the great continent of Australia! I wish you all the best on your own book, and I look forward to reading it. You’ll enjoy the library at Mystic Seaport… it’s very “homey,” and the staff is both friendly and knowledgable.


  5. Peter, I enjoyed reading your article on the Jacob Stamler ship in the Gotham History. My 3rd great grandfather was Jacob Stamler, so I guess we are related! I would like to connect and share some notes on our family history.
    Regards, Craig Hamilton

    • Wow, thanks for connecting, Craig! Would love to share notes. I have you in my ancestry database, courtesy of our cousin Annette Jones, whom I think you might know. I just sent a Facebook friend request (hopefully to the right Craig Hamilton!). Thanks again!

  6. OK, I made it through your takes. Enjoyed them. Lots of reminders, food for thought, leads and just some good reading. I seen your book when i first checked out your site. I will be picking it up for a few reasons, one being I like the topic. Another, I like to support people that are doing it for the love. I’m in a similar boat. Your last post on the pipeline hit on the subject I’m working on. Pete if your interested I will contact you via email and share a couple things that I’ve done. You might find it interesting. In the meantime I guess i’m going on a sea cruise with William Badger. CB

    • I’ve enjoyed our “conversations,” CB. I hope you like the book. A little dry in places – especially for a book about the sea (wink, wink) – but maybe you’ll be entertained a little.

      Yes, the Dakota Access pipeline. First Keystone, now this. The battle never ends. But the bastards don’t always win, so maybe we’ll prevail again. Thanks much!

      • I’ll be darned. That’s quite an achievement! I will definitely have to check out “Down Here.” Maybe you can help me with my own detective story. I’m about 5 chapters into it. I’m not a fiction writer, so it’s a struggle!

      • Thanks. I don’t know how much help I would be. I have worked with a couple other professional writers (friends). I come at it from a different angle. I’m a real image guy and think visual because of the medium. Both cases were screenplays. If you are thinking something might pop by a different take sure we could throw it around. How do we connect?

      • Not sure if my email is on “longitudes,” but you can contact me at Maybe down the road we could assist each other (you never know). With your musical (good) taste, you might be interested in a musician I know in Montana. He’s totally unknown, but I always thought his songs would be great for a film soundtrack. Anyway… thanks for all the encouraging feedback, CB, and talk to you later!

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