It is estimated that as many as 18,000 African American men (and some women) served in the American Navy during the Civil War. In addition to fighting along side their white shipmates, they performed many duties necessary to the operation of the navy both on and off ships e.g., cooks, guards, carpenters, workers, wagon drivers, scouts, spies, and medical aides. This book is a fictionalized account of one of those African American's adventures on the ironclad USS Monitor - one of the most famous ships of that war. In 1862, an escaping slave crossed the James River and encountered the USS Monitor that had anchored for the night. Siah Carter was then made a member of the crew and assigned the duties of assistant to the ship's cook. During the next nine months, the young escaped slave experienced one of the most historic naval battles of all time and the sinking of the navy's first iron ship.
But on this day only the smells of a morning meal would reach the men's senses, for just as Siah began dishing out the food, the Virginia was spotted steaming towards the Minnesota.
"Open the gun port shudders," ordered the gun crew's captain. At that same moment the ship jolted forward and out from its hiding place.
"But sir, I've got to get back to the kitchen," Siah pleaded with the captain.
"Too late son, we're on the attack, just stay outta the way." As the Monitor cleared the cover of the Minnesota, Siah could see the Virginia through the gun ports. It looked just as Feeny had described the night before - like a big iron tent on the water with many guns. The Monitor quickly fired on the Virginia as it closed on the Minnesota. The Virginia was now forced to turn its attack on the Monitor. As cannon balls pounded the sides of both ships, the men inside stumbled and struggled to keep their footing. For Siah this was no problem because, for as the captain had ordered, he was staying out of the way - squatting low against the turret wall.