In 2001 a sea shell was offered for sale that seemed to make no sense. Carved on the shell was a likeness of the iron steamship “Great Eastern,” the largest, most advanced ship of the 19th century. Just above the steamship was a carving of a gate described on the shell as the tomb of Abraham Lincoln. No known connection existed between the ship, launched in London in 1858, and Lincoln whose body was interred in May 1865 in Springfield, Illinois. Believing that the shell had been used to record some heretofore unknown event, Paul Stack began 15 years of research, collecting and organizing thousands of documents from libraries and universities in the US and the UK. What emerged was a story of a daring attempt by the Confederacy to break the blockade in September 1861 and an equally daring attempt by the Union to prevent this attempt. Inspired by true events, the story is one of treason, espionage, and a family ripped apart by the Civil War. A complementary website, www.september1861.com, sets forth pictures of the ship and persons involved, and original research documents.