Friday, April 11, 2014

Lloyd J. Matthews's GENERAL HENRY LOCKWOOD OF DELAWARE is published! Here's my blurb and Amazon review.

My Dust-Jacket blurb:
Lloyd J. Matthews’ meticulously researched and magisterially told nineteenth-century history will be welcomed by military historians as well as by the hundreds of Delaware and Chesapeake Bay families who will find here a prodigious record of long-lived members of a notable regional clan. By focusing on Henry Lockwood (with due attention to his brother, John Alexander), Matthews rewrites standard histories of the founding of the Naval Academy, tells for the first time how the slave-holding Delmarva Peninsula was pacified during the Civil War, and amends the prevailing orthodoxy concerning the battles of Gettysburg and Cold Harbor. In this far-ranging study the young ordinary seaman Herman Melville scrutinizes Henry Lockwood in the Pacific and Atlantic then much later seeks out John Alexander Lockwood as a boon companion in the Mediterranean. Melville said of a marvelous invention, the 'revolving Drummond light,' that 'everything is lit by it.' Like that Drummond light, Matthews’ monumental study illuminates both broad tracts and odd corners of nineteenth-century American life. This is a momentous achievement. (author of Herman Melville: A Biography, Hershel Parker, author of Herman Melville: A Biography)

Because this is not as bodice-ripper, I decided to give it an extra push today when the book went on sale:

By Hershel Parker (Morro Bay, California United States)
This review is from: General Henry Lockwood of Delaware: Shipmate of Melville, Co-builder of the Naval Academy, Civil War Commander (Hardcover)
Here is a more extended version of my dust-jacket blurb quoted here on Amazon. This book about Henry Lockwood (and his brother John Alexander Lockwood) is a prodigious record of an important clan which will be extraordinarily interesting to military historians and to hundreds of Chesapeake Bay families. Admirers of John A. Munroe’s biography of Louis McLane will relish seeing more of the history of great Delaware families, including a McLane daughter. Historians and history-addicts everywhere will read it with astonishment and delight, for Lloyd J. Matthews tells important new stories, some of which I specified in the blurb. Melvilleans will love it, for the book intersects with the life and writings of Herman Melville, who observed Henry Lockwood from his vantage as ordinary seaman in the Pacific and who sought out the older brother John Alexander Lockwood as a boon companion in 1857.

This is a brilliantly researched contribution to the history of the American army and navy. Because the Lockwood brothers were in the right places at the right time and lived so long and because they were remarkable men, this book provides insiders’ histories on an astonishing range of American experience such as the early years of West Point, the Florida War (which by coincidence I have just been researching in newspapers, so I know how thorough Matthews is!), the founding of the Naval Academy, the strategic importance of the Pacific, and the history of major Civil War campaigns and battles. This is not an exhaustive list by any means.

GENERAL HENRY LOCKWOOD OF DELAWARE is a long book. That is not a fault. In this book Matthews expatiates at times, but every time the expatiating is justified by his demonstrating how one or another of the brothers’ experiences directly or indirectly affected an episode of history. To expatiate as Matthews does is not to digress. He never gives background details without a fresh payout. An impatient reader could object that the book is leisurely. Well, Matthews takes the space he needs, but he is never lax, never self-indulgent. This is a man with a big story to tell, one he has done the research on all by himself most of the time, including newly-available Lockwood family records and interviews with living Lockwoods. He has not just mastered the standard historical sources and cited them properly. Because he is himself a noted military historian, he regularly supplements those sources with new and highly relevant information. Regularly he enriches what had been accepted as a standard historical account, He never leaves any previously-known episode unimproved and surprisingly often writes what amounts to a whole new episode of history. Superficial reviewers like to say (they think wittily) that long books are “exhaustive and exhausting.” Not in this case. This is an exhaustive and steadily enthralling book. Its value lies in its comprehensiveness. No one else could have told this story, and as teller of it Matthews is masterful in deploying its parts. Terms from successful military strategy are called for! Outside Maryland and Delaware this book may not be a runaway bestseller, but it's big, important, masterfully told--a great success.

1 comment:

  1. You are right on target with that review and addition to it.
    It has not escaped notice that the biographer has much in common with the subject. The more obvious ones being that both were graduates of the United States Military Academy at West point. Both were teachers. Both wore many hats that included army service during times of hostilities. The list of similarities most certainly extend beyond those.
    A biography of Henry Hayes Lockwood could only be properly approached by another military man with similar service, although separated by over one hundred fifty years. If this were the only plus to be mentioned, it would be adequate, but the author covers a time in the subject's personal history, that lights up a period of American history seldom illuminated as well. As a historian, he did the research, and the book is readable, as only one with his ability and background could make it.