Iron Thunder: The Battle Between the Monitor and the Merrimac


When his father is killed fighting for the Union in the War Between the States, thirteen-year-old Tom Carroll must take a job to help support his family. He manages to find work at a bustling ironworks in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, where dozens of men are frantically pounding together the strangest ship Tom has ever seen. A ship made of iron.

Tom becomes assistant to the ship's inventor, a gruff, boastful man named Captain John Ericsson. He soon learns that the Union ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$7.99 price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (16) from $1.99   
  • New (9) from $1.99   
  • Used (7) from $1.99   
Note: Kids' Club Eligible. See More Details.
Sending request ...


When his father is killed fighting for the Union in the War Between the States, thirteen-year-old Tom Carroll must take a job to help support his family. He manages to find work at a bustling ironworks in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, where dozens of men are frantically pounding together the strangest ship Tom has ever seen. A ship made of iron.

Tom becomes assistant to the ship's inventor, a gruff, boastful man named Captain John Ericsson. He soon learns that the Union army has very important plans for this iron ship called the Monitor. It is supposed to fight the Confederate "sea monster"—another ironclad—the Merrimac. But Ericsson is practically the only person who believes the Monitor will float. Everyone else calls it "Ericsson's Folly" or "the iron coffin."

Meanwhile, Tom's position as Ericsson's assistant has made him a target of Confederate spies, who offer him money for information about the ship. Tom finds himself caught between two certain dangers: an encounter with murderous spies and a battle at sea in an iron coffin

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
In this first of the “I Witness” series, Avi takes his young readers into the heart of a family during the Civil War. Tom Carroll is devastated by the death of his father in battle and worried about his mother and older sister. Determined to help the family, he goes to the Navy Yard and finds himself working for the strange Captain Ericsson on the strangest ship Tom has ever seen--a ship made of iron. Even many of those working for Ericsson consider the ship doomed to fail and nickname it “Ericsson’s Folly” and “The Iron Coffin.” But 13-year-old Tom believes in the Monitor and recognizes its importance to the outcome of the war. Throughout, Tom faces external dangers and an internal battle as he struggles to do what is “right,” but is not sure whether that means being loyal to a cause he blames for the death of his father or willingness to sell information for money that would put food on the table. The author includes historic documents and drawings throughout the text to bring the history to life. There is also a glossary, a report on the Monitor today, and an extensive bibliography for additional study. Reviewer: Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger
School Library Journal

Gr 4-8
Early in 1862, 13-year-old Tom Carroll must go to work when his father is killed in a Maryland battle. He finds a job at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he is put to work on "Ericsson's Folly," the ironclad that will become the Monitor . He works closely with Captain Ericsson and becomes fascinated with this odd "raft." The floating battery is scoffed at by many, but the "Copperheads," Northerners who sympathize with the Southern cause, are distinctly interested. Tom is approached by Confederate spies but cleverly escapes them with the help of his friends. To stay clear of these dangerous men, he moves onboard the Monitor and lives there until its completion. Tom is an eyewitness to history as the ship travels to join the Union blockade fleet and enters into its fateful battle with the Merrimac . He takes pride in the vessel, and his part in her construction is evident in his firsthand telling of the story. Factual information and historical terms are woven smoothly into the narrative. Period photographs, engravings, and newspaper headlines are strategically placed throughout the text to further bring history to life. A glossary provides added clarity, and an author's note explains that although Tom Carroll really existed, the boy in this story is a compilation of several people on the ship and the author's imagination. This exciting, fast-paced historical adventure will add a bit of drama to Civil War units. Even reluctant readers will appreciate it.
—Carolyn JanssenCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
The Confederacy has built a monster ship to break the Union's blockade of the Atlantic coast, and 13-year-old Tom Carroll has a new job at Rowland's Continental Iron Works in Brooklyn helping to build its opponent. The Monitor, Captain John Ericsson's invention, is being called "Ericsson's Folly" and "the iron coffin," and Tom will sail with Ericsson and his crew into one of the greatest naval battles in history. Tom is the eyewitness in this entry in the I Witness series, so the volume is strong on firsthand observations and intelligent commentary, but short on historical background and context. Period illustrations, engravings, photographs and maps provide additional information. The bibliography is limited, but readers may find themselves so absorbed in Tom's exciting narrative that they will seek out for themselves other good works on the Civil War. (glossary, author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423105183
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 8/11/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 70,701
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Avi's books are loved by kids and adults everywhere. He has written more than 50 books, several of which have garnered prestigious awards, including the Newbery Medal and two Newbery Honors. His titles with Hyperion include Crispin: The Cross of Lead, Crispin at the Edge of the World, and The Book Without Words. He lives with his family in Colorado.

Read More Show Less
    1. Also Known As:
      Avi Wortis (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 23, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Iron Thunder

    Iron Thunder is the fictional story of thirteen year old Tom Carroll's adventures on the ironclad USS Monitor from its construction to famous battle with the CSS Merrimac during the Civil War. By January 1862 Tom is an angry young man, two weeks earlier Tom's family received news that his father who had enlisted in the Union army had died in battle in Maryland. Tom is angry at the war, the Union, and President Lincoln for causing the death of his father. His mother needing more money than Tom's paycheck as a newspaper seller finds Tom a job at the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York. Tom is assigned to work for Captain Ericsson creator of the USS Monitor the navy's first ironclad vessel which will change his life and set of a series of adventures that conclude with the famous naval battle. This is a good Civil War fiction and is original in its plot and illustrations. The author includes a number of original and period illustrations to accompany the text.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 29, 2008

    Great historical read for Civil War enthusiasts

    This was an interesting and entertaining story about the secret construction of an iron clad ship and a boy who had to keep the secret. The boy deals with issues of secrecy, loyalty, and poverty. It was a book that was difficult to put down because it kept my attention and I never knew what would happen next. Would the ship be built in time for battle? Would it stay afloat? Would the rebel spies find out? What would happen to Tom? These are some of he questions that kept the story suspenseful. If you like historical fiction about the Civil War era, you will like this book. It was a great way to learn more about naval warfare of the Civil War. Again, it is a great read for those interested in the Civil War or naval history.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2008

    A VERY good read!

    I had to read this book for an eigth grade History assinment. At first i was very skeptical on this book but as soon as i started to read it i was hooked. The combining of real historical facts and enjoying fictional facts was amazing. Dont be afraid to read this book just because its about the past, it is quite exciting.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)