Commodore Robert F. Stockton, 1795-1866 (Google eBook)

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Cambria Press
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This review concerns only the first 110 pages (those available as a preview) of the 622 total pages.
Anyone who has seriously researched the Stockton's of Morven (Princeton, N.J.), from the signer
Richard through Commodore Robert F., must be aware of the limitations of documentation on them, and the consequent paucity of reliable secondary information. This can readily be ascertained by consultation of the Dictionary of National Biography ([DAB] which now shows its age), and the DAB's authoritative replacement, the American National Biography (ANB). The Stockton biographies in the ANB are the most accessible secondary sources with reliable information.
It is clear, even from just the preview, that Brockmann's book stands heads and shoulders above any other secondary source on Commander Robert F. Stockton. Unfortunately, the preview stops when the commodore is on the cusp of the two things for which he is today mostly remembered-- 1) the explosion of the gun of the USS Princeton, the first American steam naval vessel with a screw propeller, which killed two members of the cabinet, but spared the president; 2) his command in California in which he was involved with John C. Fremont's Bear Flag Republic. Yet only the latter of these were among Stockton's most notable achievements.
Brockmann writes confidently about technological and naval matters, and his accounts of Stockton's early service afloat and his involvement with a canal/ railroad company benefits from his knowledge.
But this knowledge is most important in the narrative of the development of Ameican steam war vessels, his bringing of the great John Ericsson to the United States, and his competition with Perry to develope such ships. Almost anyone interested in early American naval history, other than the most supremely read, will find this book of value.
I am convinced that the book captures the personality of the man better than it has been set down before, especially in relating aspects of his life to the Nelsonian concept of "creative disobedience." The man thirsted for glory, was brave, impulsive, and always looking out for the main chance. And the contradictions are there, too. For example, the man who established the site of Monrovia, Liberia also had a plantation and slaves in South Carolina.
If the quality of the first part of the book holds for the rest, the book is a notable contribution to many area of American history, not just to naval history. The writing is not elegant, but motly does the job.
The illustrations are exceptionally well chosen.
Melburn D. Thurman
 

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