Jonathan Mayford wants to join the Patriot Cause because he wants to prove that he’s a man. Despite his parents’ misgivings, they allow him to join his father’s privateer, the American Elizabeth.
Jonathan befriends an old sea cook, Finis Henderson who teaches him about the sea. Later, he also becomes friend with a young African American boy.
Jonathan’s young friend, James Forten, though born a freedman, does not realize what freedom means until he experiences it as a privateer. He, also, did not realize the treachery of slavery until sees individuals of his own color in chains on the auction block.
The relationship that takes Jonathan from boyhood to manhood began when he met the red-headed Lowri Howell, a daughter of Welsh nobleman. Jonathan dreams of the day that he will become worthy of her affections. He hoped that in winning this war, he might have a chance at capturing her heart, his greatest prize of all.
Both Jonathan and James discover fighting in the war is not what makes a man. They learn that becoming a real man requires integrity and character.