Better known as a journalist and correspondent during the American Civil War, George Alfred Townsend was also an author of fiction. Townsend combined the two, fiction and journalism, in The Entailed Hat, or Patty Cannon's Times: A Romance. This novel provides readers with an account of the life and crimes of Martha "Patty" Cannon.
Patty Cannon was a criminal leader who lived in the Delmarva Peninsula region of the United States. The gang that she led was responsible for the kidnapping and sale of slaves and free blacks from the area to plantation owners in the South. Told from the perspective of a newsman decades after the crimes were committed, the story is a semi-fictionalized account of Cannon's crimes and the racial prejudice that made them possible. It is a tragic story of the failure of humanity that includes a romantic storyline. While the historical accuracy of Townsend's book is unproven, it remains one of the most detailed accounts of this period in history.
Townsend was a gifted writer, and the author brings his experience as a war correspondent to this book. While presented as a novel, the book is ripe with factual details. Townsend builds an engaging romance story to further the narrative, but remains always focused on the terrible actions of Patty Cannon and her gang of criminals.
As both a fictionalized story of romance and an account of a dark period in history, The Entailed Hat, or Patty Cannon's Times is a fascinating read. The historical significance of the subject matter makes Townsend's novel affecting in a way few novels are and readers interested in a novel rooted in truth will find this to be a highly engrossing book.