USS Monitor's cat mystery

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Was there a black cat aboard the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, placed inside a cannon by a superstitious but desperate sailor as the vessel was sinking? Conservators had hoped to verify the legend as they worked this month to extract concrete-like sediment from two cast iron, smooth-bore cannons salvaged from the ship's turret.

A crewman who had survived the sinking off the North Carolina coast more than 140 years ago maintained that he stuffed the feline into one of the 11-inch-wide, 17,000-pound barrels.

And did he stuff his new wool coat and boots into the carriage of the other cannon, as he said? The answer is leaning toward "No" on both counts.

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