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BOOK REVIEW – General Henry Lockwood of Delaware; Shipmate of Melville, Co-builder of the Naval Academy, Civil War Commander

HEnry Lockwood of DelawareBy Lloyd J. Matthews, University of Delaware Press, Newark, DE (2014)

Reviewed by Nathan D. Wells

Those who watch the annual Army-Navy football game and be not a bit awestruck by the competing corps of cadets and midshipmen might not realize that these two friendly rival institutions have an interesting connection. Henry Lockwood was an alumnus of the US Military Academy at West Point, NY, who then went on to help found the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, and served on its faculty for over two decades. That alone would mark him as a remarkable man of the 19th century; but his service to the nation and connections to other notable political, military and reformist-minded individuals lead the reader to someone more. Neither Henry Lockwood nor his equally prodigious elder brother John, are well-known individuals in popular history. Lloyd Matthews has set out to amend this. In many ways, this volume is a labor of love to bring the Lockwood brothers to a notoriety that they deserve.

While he was the younger brother, Henry Lockwood is the main subject of Matthew’s volume; although John Lockwood appears throughout as their lives intersected. The elder brother is covered in the final two chapters, as well. With their mother’s death at a young age, the siblings were primarily raised by their father, Colonel William Lockwood, though their maternal grandfather Manlove Hayes was also a strong paternal influence. William Lockwood would prove to be a professional inspiration to both of his sons. Serving as a midshipman and militiaman for Delaware during the War of 1812, his long service to the state would see him raised to a Colonelcy of the Fifth Regiment, and when his younger received his brigadier general’s star, it doubtless filled him with pride (and maybe a bit of jealousy). While the father served primarily the Maryland Armed Forces, the sons would seek federal service. Henry Lockwood was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York; graduating with the class of 1836, and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in Artillery. His first (and only unit) was the Second Artillery Regiment, which had weathered the British bombardment at Fort McHenry.  He served for just over one year, but that would be one of long-term importance. The Second Seminole War was a costly, dirty affair; and must have been a shock going from learning about fighting wars by the book, to seeing an unconventional conflict up close. His Civil War record would illustrate that he learned both methods very well; and quite quickly.

After his initial military service, Lockwood resigned his commission and spent four years as a farmer in Illinois. His elder brother John indicated that his schooling military experience might be better spent elsewhere. John was serving as an assistant surgeon in the Navy, and suggested that branch of service might have opportunities for the younger sibling. John was correct in this regard, for Henry would dedicate more than two decades to the junior service. The first part of this naval service would be as a professor on board the frigate USS United States flagship of the Navy’s Pacific Squadron. The United States was a storied vessel. Stephen Decatur had captained her during the War of 1812; defeating His Majesty’s frigate Macedonian, and she would serve in one way or another for nearly seven decades. Under Captain Thomas ap Catesby Jones, the vessel would crisscross the great ocean protecting and enforcing American interests.

The most dramatic example of this was the seizure of the Mexican town of Monterey under the mistaken belief that the United States and Mexico were at war. (Catesby Jones was just a few years premature). While embarrassing for all concerned in the short-term, most careers would not be affected, or would prosper. This was true of Catesby Jones and Lockwood. His time on the United States would be exceedingly important for three major reasons. The first was that his exemplary service on board (including leading one of the landing parties into Monterey) would make his name a familiar one on naval circles. The same would be true for his brother. His time as a floating professor of Midshipmen led him to believe that a more traditional educational approach, akin to his own alma mater be embraced by the Navy. Finally, it is important, because Lockwood was immortalized by a lowly seaman on board. This was none other than Herman Melville, who put Lockwood (with some modifications) into his novel White-Jacket. One of the issues Melville remarks on in this work is the Navy’s use of flogging as a means of punishment. Within a decade this practice would be ended via Congressional action, thanks in no small part to Melville and his good friend who was the most vocal uniformed opponent to flogging, none other than Naval Surgeon John Lockwood. Whether or not Lockwood knew of this caricature Matthews is unsure of.

The greater part of this volume deals with Lockwood’s efforts to create a naval equivalent to West Point; and his military service during the Civil War. The effort to make this happen might be the most important in Lockwood’s long career. While still friendly rivals to this day, there was no love lost between the Departments of War and Navy during the nineteenth century. The American military was a step-child of its former colonial overlord Great British. This was advantageous for the Sea Services, as the Royal Navy and Marines were thoroughly professional forces. The performance of the US Army in the American Revolution and War of 1812 was in many ways lackluster. Attempts to fight the war cheaply by relying on a militia meant that both conflicts nearly took disastrous turns. The War of 1812, especially the burning of Washington, D.C. and the White House had shown that the nation’s defense would require a more professional force. The Navy and Marines had acquitted themselves well, and the Army would spend the greater part of the ensuing century to bring itself up to par. While the militia system would be retired, the “volunteers” that replaced it was the same problem under a different name. The Mexican War allowed the U.S. Army to gain experience against a lesser opponent.

From the very beginning, the U.S. Navy would be a much more professional organization than the militia-based Army. The nineteenth century would illustrate that while the Army might get the funding; the Navy would often do more with less. The one area that the Army led the way in was in its officer corps education. Like its British forebear, junior officers would now be taught at college institutions rather than the Navies’ on-the-job training of midshipmen. Founded during Thomas Jefferson’s first term in office; the United States Military Academy at West Point seems an unlikely action by America’s third President. Known for his desire to shrink the size of the government as a whole; and especially the military, creating a federally funded school to staff a large professional military does not seem to fit in with the policies of a President who believed that the nation’s defense would be handled by state militias; but the USMA was envisioned as something far different from what it became. Heavily inspired by the École Polytechnique; founded in Paris in 1794, Jefferson saw West Point as an institution that could provide an excellent education to upstanding young men who would focus on the enlightened subjects of Science, Engineering and Cartography. While new graduates would initially serve as junior officers in the US Army, the Army’s small size in relation with the militia meant these men would eventually turn to service as militia officers, civic leaders and follow in the footsteps of men like Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Zebulon Pike. This explains how Lockwood could leave military service after only one-quarter of the time that it took to commission him.  It would also potentially rival institutions like Harvard, Yale and Columbia which lay in the still heavily Federalist Northeast. In the wake of the militia’s disastrous performance in the War of 1812, and the growing call for a more professional military force by men such as Winfield Scott and Jacob Brown, West Point would need to reflect these changes; which took place after Sylvanus Thayer took over the position of Superintendent in 1817. His predecessor Alden Partridge actually left the service to found the first private military academy in Norwich, Vermont in 1819. Whereas Thayer and his successors would strive to model an officer corps for an evolving professional force; Partridge and his successors would retain something of the Jeffersonian ideal of a short-term citizen officer. Lockwood’s matriculation overlapped that of Thayer’s time in office; so the influence was there. Lockwood was not alone in his fight (his old Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones was part of the review board that expanded the old Naval Training Schools into the modern incarnation of a Naval Academy), but his efforts and long tenure on the faculty mark him out for special attention. His brother John was also a founding faculty member.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Lockwood’s home state of Delaware (as well as the neighboring state of Maryland) chose to remain in the Union, despite slavery being legal. Commissioned Brigadier General of Delaware volunteers, Lockwood would bloodlessly pacify what Matthews calls the “Delmarva” Peninsula. There were counties bordering the Chesapeake in the states of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Despite the latter state’s secession into the Confederacy there was very little violence during the occupation. Lockwood’s ability to do this with a small force meant that additional units could be deployed to the front line. Brigadier General Lockwood did see fighting service. His independent brigade was part of the defense of “Pickett’s Charge” at Gettysburg, and saw action at Cold Harbor, where Lockwood was relieved of his command (unjustly as Matthews defends quite effectively) by former subordinate Gouveneur Warren.

The last three chapters focus on the General’s later years as well as a more thorough look at his brother John’s professional and personal life.

This is a fine book. There are only three slight criticisms. All of the photos are at the end of the book, as opposed to the chapters on Lockwood’s formative years, and his later years. This might have helped with the impact of certain family members; especially his father. The other issue is in regards to Lockwood’s alma mater, and that of Sylvanus Thayer. I am writing this less than a mile from Thayer’s birthplace (Matthew’s volume has a bookmark from the Thayer Public Library sticking out of it); and while the old general did help transform West Point into a true military academy, he did not begin its status as an engineering institution. This was part of Jefferson’s original design for it. Arguably the most important action of Sylvanus Thayer’s stint as West Point Superintendent was to bring Dennis Hart Mahan onto the faculty as Professor of Military Science and Engineering Methodology.  Ironically, Mahan’s son Alfred Thayer Mahan was a midshipman at Annapolis under Lockwood, and the younger Mahan unfairly mocked him for his stuttering. Many of the textbooks that Mahan required had the phrase “Translated from the French” on their title pages. His term came to an end in 1871, the same year France suffered defeat at the hands of Prussia. The campaigns of Napoleon and the writings of the Swiss staff officer Antoine-Henri Jomini were studied in detail; leading to the comment that officers in the Civil War charged into battle with a sword in one hand, and Jomini in the other. Finally, Matthews ignores the white elephant in the room that inspired most nations during the nineteenth century to create fully accredited Naval Academies: the Industrial Revolution. While it would be used as a building material for some time; as the century wore on, it was becoming glaringly apparent that the age of “Wooden ships and Iron men” was being replaced by the age of “Complicated Steam-driven ships and literate men”. I highly recommend the volume to anyone interested in the evolution of the modern US Navy, and Naval affairs in general.


Nathan D. Wells is an adjunct instructor of History and Government at Quincy College in Quincy, MA.




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