Naval sharks will find this graphic recreation of the historic encounter of the Monitor and the Merrimack irresistible. Author of The Franklin Comes Home (1974) and other naval and military dramas, Hoehling does well by the two ironclad ships--the Merrimack converted, the Monitor custom-made--quoting from ships' logs, diaries, and contemporary newspaper accounts. Everyone from Navy Secretary Gideon Welles to the Monitor's paymaster Frederick Keeler is heard from. The Merrimack was the key to the South's naval strategy, guarding Norfolk and Richmond. The novel design and construction of the Monitor--a ""pygmy"" compared to the leviathan Confederate ship--did not inspire confidence. The rebels called her a ""black Yankee cheese box on a raft"" and a sailor pronounced her ""the worst craft for a man to live aboard that ever floated."" Yet the gallant little ship fought the Merrimack to a standstill in a four-hour battle on March 9, 1862. It was the ""marine boneyard"" off Cape Hatteras that did her in, after the Merrimack had been scuttled and burned by a panic-stricken Confederate commander. Hoehling covers everything: ships' measurements and design, naval logistics, guns and armor plates, costs, and human terror and wonderment. A final chapter relates how Duke University scientists discovered and photographed the Monitor 111 years after it sank. Despite the overflow of minutiae--or maybe because of it--the clash of the ""great rebel terror"" and the ""curious little craft"" is a gripping story.