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General Henry Lockwood of Delaware: Shipmate of Melville, Co-builder of the Naval Academy, Civil War Commander

by Matthews, Lloyd
Publisher: University of Delaware Press
Retail Price: $120.00
Issue: Fall 2014
ISBN: 9781611494877

A Seagoing Professor Turned Army General

Some biographies claim to be the last word on the subject. Lloyd Matthews’ General Henry Lockwood of Delaware is not only the LAST word on the obscure General Lockwood—it’s likely to be EVERY word ever written on Lockwood.

Henry Hayes Lockwood of Delaware led a varied life. He graduated from West Point and served briefly in the US Army. Afflicted with bad health and a stutter, he resigned to farm in Illinois, but soon after was hired by the US Navy as a professor of mathematics. He saw duty on the US Navy frigate United States, figured importantly in a novel by shipmate Herman Melville, then helped found the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. During the Civil War he returned to the army, to lead a brigade pacifying Eastern Maryland. He led his brigade at Gettysburg, to mixed reviews. During the Wilderness Campaign he briefly led a division in the Vth Corps, but was relieved of duty by the hot-tempered Gouverneur Warren at Cold Harbor. After the war he resumed teaching at Annapolis. Lockwood has the distinction of being the only U.S. Army general buried at the naval academy.

This lengthy, 469-page book is the product of almost 32 years of research by the author. It is clearly a labor of love, and well written. The author tracked down seemingly every known event in Lockwood’s life. General Lockwood’s descendants generously helped with family letters and documents. The author, a retired army colonel, is particularly well-placed to analyze the military aspects of the general’s career.

For the casual reader, the book may suffer from its editing—or rather, its lack of editing. Footnotes, often digressive, run on interminably. The book contains 2 entire chapters, 55 pages, on General Lockwood’s older brother John, a navy surgeon. The author clearly delighted in presenting this book-within-a-book on Dr. Lockwood. However, these chapters might have been better placed in a separate book on the Lockwood family.

To this reviewer, the highlights of the book are the chapters on Lockwood’s Civil War service. Lockwood possessed some military abilities, notably judgment and courage. These qualities served him well when in 1861 he was ordered to pacify Eastern Maryland. A one-time slaveholder himself, he could readily understand the anti-abolitionist feelings many Marylanders possessed. He dispersed the one serious Confederate attempt to raise a regiment in the isolated “Delmarva” peninsula. During the Gettysburg Campaign Lockwood’s garrison brigade joined the XIIth Corps of the Army of the Potomac in time to save help defend Culp’s Hill from attack, performing some of the same flank-guard functions as Joshua Chamberlain’s more celebrated actions at Little Round Top.

In May of 1864 Lockwood led a division of reinforcements for Grant’s army and, thru seniority, was given command of a combat division in the Vth Corps. Author Matthews makes the case that General Warren, the Vth Corps commander and Lockwood’s one-time subordinate, thought Lockwood unfit to command a division, a bias exacerbated by Warren’s ragged temper and ongoing battle fatigue. Warren relieved the inexperienced Lockwood for mishandling his division’s move to fill an open space in the lines near Cold Harbor. Matthews makes the case that Warren’s orders were based on inaccurate maps, and thus impossible for anyone to execute; that while Lockwood was no Napoleon, he did his best to fulfil what he reasonably believed to be the spirit of the orders.

Fans of Herman Melville will enjoy the detailed look at Melville and how Melville depicted his shipmate, Lockwood, in Melville’s novel White Jacket. White Jacket is described in the book as a dress rehearsal for Melville’s masterpiece, Moby Dick. However, White Jacket possesses its own merits, among them Melville’s amusing portrayal of Lockwood as a pedant, a scholar who lectures on naval tactics but whose knowledge of the sea is derived solely from books!

In the words of Melville biographer Hershel Parker, “Matthews’ monumental study illuminates both broad tracts and odd corners of nineteenth-century American life.” The hefty price of the book may give the casual reader pause, but that aside, the book represents a great achievement.

Bruce S. Allardice is Professor of History at South Suburban College. He has authored or co-authored six books on Civil War history, including More Generals in Gray (LSU Press, 1995). He can be contacted at bsa1861@att.net.

Allardice, Bruce, review of General Henry Lockwood of Delaware: Shipmate of Melville, Co-builder of the Naval Academy, Civil War Commander, by Matthews, Lloyd, Civil War Book Review, (Fall 2014).