A story of the Barbary Pirates, this is based on the annals of a struggling young American navy as the adventures of Jim Murdock point up the sea life of the early 1800's and some of the historical events of the day. From the Ohio River country, but with a naval officer's heritage through his father and grandfather, Jim joins up at 16 in the fight to free ship from the tribute they must pay the Arabs. Sailing on the Liberty under Nicholas, Jim goes through his training and forms a touchy relationship with the mysteriously taciturn Lee, a fellow midshipman. As Africa and danger get closer, both Jim and Lee find themselves in the thick of an encounter at Tunis over the return of prisoners which Eaton, the consul, is trying to negotiate. Captivity follows for both boys. While it turns their animosity into friendship, it also introduces them to Arab ways and with their escape there is the promise of a final coming to terms. However the adventure is a pointed one, meant to show the virtue of the Navy rather than the situation as it actually was.