Commodore John Rodgers
Paragon of the Early American Navy

John H. Schroeder

Foreword by James C. Bradford and Gene A. Smith, Series Editors
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"Lets us see Rodgers 'warts and all' as both an example of the best of naval leadership and as a reactionary in an era of rapid technological change. Readers will be intrigued by the insights into the commodore's relationship with his wife, that enlightens our understanding of what it means to be a navy wife."--David Curtis Skaggs, Bowling Green State University

"This splendidly written short biography by a distinguished naval historian amply demonstrates why [Rodgers] was one of the most important figures in the early sailing navy."--Spencer C. Tucker, Virginia Military Institute

Schroeder's interpretive biography restores Rodgers to his rightful place in history as the preeminent and most influential naval officer during America's Age of Sail. Between 1798 and 1815, Rodgers fought with distinction in the Naval War with France, the Barbary War, and the War of 1812. He shaped the postwar development of the navy as president of the Board of Navy Commissioners from 1815 to 1835, and he led a major diplomatic mission to the Mediterranean in the mid 1820s. Drawing on extensive manuscript sources--including the voluminous Rodgers family papers--and the wealth of articles, essays, and monographs on American naval history in recent years, Schroeder provides a candid appraisal of Rodgers' personal strengths and weaknesses, professional successes and failures.

Resented for his gruff exterior but celebrated for his determination to build a navy of the highest professional standards, Rodgers never revealed to his naval contemporaries the passionate and emotional dimension of his character that is evident in his correspondence with his wife, Minerva, who bore him 11 children. Their letters represent a rare and remarkably detailed account of family life in the 19th century.

Schroeder's thorough analysis of official documents offers a fresh perspective on the dramatic events of Rodgers' long career, including his personal involvement in the capture of the French frigate L'Insurgente in 1799, the war with Tripoli, the testing of Robert Fulton's experimental torpedoes in 1810, the Little Belt affair in 1811, the escape of the British frigate Belvidera in 1812, the defense of Baltimore in 1814, the deadly duel between Stephen Decatur and James Barron in 1820, and the introduction of steam power to the U.S. Navy.

This first modern biography of Rodgers since Charles O. Paullin's work in 1910 will be of special interest to scholars and devotees of early American naval, political, and diplomatic history, especially the Age of Fighting Sail.

John H. Schroeder is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

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Honorable Mention, John Lyman Book Award - 2007
John Lyman Book Award -

Carefully researched and gracefully written, Schroeder has used John Rodgers as a prism through which we might view the early history of the navy.
--Nautical Research Journal

Schroeder's biography gives readers a compelling reason to include Rodgers's name in the pantheon of U.S. naval heroes…Schroeder's examination of his career gives us a better understanding of the challenges that face the fledgling American navy and the contributions of those officers charting its early course.
--H-Net Book Review

…a worthy and important addition to the shelf of American naval biographies.
--International Journal of Maritime History

…a splendid biography…

Schroeder has done a fine and credible job with this biography, a welcome addition to any bookshelf. …a pleasure to read.
--Sea History

Schroeder's examination of his career gives us a better understanding of the challenges that face the fledgling American navy and the contributions of those officers charting its early course.

A good read.
--The New York Military Affairs Symposium Review

" Schroeder demonstrates excellent writing style, making use of primary material effectively. Commendable and worthwhile for all students of the period and anyone who admires the Age of Fighting Sail"
--The Journal of Military History

" A lively and informative account of the life of Commodore John Rodgers. Few will dispute his contention that Rodgers was the dominant figure of the early American Navy."
--The Northern Mariner

"Schroeder has done an excellent job of research, writes well, and reveals little-known aspects of Rodgers's character and the nature of his relationship with his wife and family."
--Journal of the Early Republic

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