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Powder monkey (left) on a Ship of the Line

A powder monkey on a Union vessel during the American Civil War, circa. 1864

A powder boy or powder monkey manned naval artillery guns as a member of a warship's crew, primarily during the Age of Sail. His chief role was to ferry gunpowder from the powder magazine in the ship's hold to the artillery pieces, either in bulk or as cartridges. The function was fulfilled by boy seamen 12 to 14 years of age. Powder monkeys were usually boys or young teens selected for the job for their speed and height — they were short and would be hidden behind the ship's gunwale, keeping them from being shot by enemy ships' sharp shooters. In recent times the term has been applied to a variety of workers who deploy explosives. The use of the term 'powder monkey' in English dates to the late 17th century.[1]

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