Knickerbocker Commodore: The Life and Times of John Drake Sloat, 1781-1867
The early years of the US Navy would be unrecognizable to us, as we are used to large standing navies and armies in peace time. But that was not the case during the early years of the American republic when it had a much smaller standing army and navy. This book takes a look at one Commodore, John Drake Sloat, and puts his life amid the times of the day. We start out by following his early career as the War of 1812 breaks out. While he had been part of the Navy for awhile, this is when he really makes it a career. After the war ends, like many people looking for commissions, he struggles to stay in the Navy and move up the chain of command before being forced to retire. What might be interesting for California readers is Mr. Sloat’s role at the beginning of the war with Mexico in the 1840s.
The author does a good job, though he does get bogged down in details at times. Mr. Castleman could have written an excellent book on the early Navy, but we also get one of the early commanders as well.
Bruce A. Castleman
Excelsior Editions/State University of New York Press