Deep inside the iron bowels of the USS Carondelet, Thomas thought about all the things he missed from before the war. His mother’s cooking, running with his dog, the sense of satisfaction at the end of a day’s work.
A shell exploded against the metal hull of the gunboat, sending a deafening shockwave roaring through the confined space. Flecks of red-hot metal cut through a porthole. A man screamed as they slashed across his cheek.
It had been months since they’d cast off their tether at Carondelet, Missouri to join the war. Since then, he’d lost track of time in the steam clouds that rolled out from the Carondelet’s massive boilers. They were his charge. So long as he kept them pumping, the ship kept moving and everyone stayed alive another day.
Most of all, though, he missed her. Her long, straw colored hair, the way the wind and sun could pass so beautifully through it. And how her fingers were always cold, even on the hottest of days. They felt so amazing when she touched them against his neck and brow.
Here, in the midst of the steam and metal and death, he longed to feel them again.
The USS Carondelet was one of four City class ironclad gunboats that participated in the first Battle of Memphis. They’d been working their way down from the north, eliminating or passing by key Confederate forts for several months. At Memphis, they were challenged by half again as many Confederate ram boats. However, the battle was entirely one-sided in favor of the Union. All of the Confederate boats were destroyed, with only minor casualties on the Union side, effectively breaking the hold the Confederacy had on the Mississippi River.