Robert F. Stockton
name = Robert F. Stockton
order = flagicon|USA
office = Military Governor of California
term_start = 1846
term_end = 1847
John Drake Sloat
John C. Frémont
20 August 1795
Princeton, New Jersey
death_date = Death date and age|1866|10|7|1795|8|20|df=yes
Princeton, New Jersey
religion = Roman Catholic
Robert Field Stockton (
20 August 1795ndash 7 October 1866) was an United Statesnaval commodore, notable in the capture of Californiaduring the Mexican-American War. Stockton was from a notable political family and also served as a U.S. Senatorfrom New Jersey.
He was born at
Princeton, New Jerseyinto a political family; his father Richard Stockton was a U.S. Senator and Representative, and his grandfather, another Richard Stockton, signed the Declaration of Independence.
Stockton was appointed a
midshipmanin the U.S. Navy at the age of 16, serving at sea and ashore during the War of 1812. After that conflict, Lieutenant Stockton was assigned to ships operating in the Mediterranean, in the Caribbean and off the coast of West Africa. He was the first naval officer to act against the slave trade and captured several slave ships. Stockton along with Dr. Eli Ayersof the American Colonization Societynegotiated a treaty that led to the founding of the state of Liberia. During the later 1820s and into the 1830s, he primarily devoted his attention to business affairs in New Jersey. The birth of his son John P. Stockton, later also a U.S. Senator representing New Jersey, occurred during this time.
In 1838, Stockton resumed active naval service as a captain. He served in the European area, but took leave in 1840 to undertake political work. Offered the post of
U.S. Secretary of the Navyby President John Tylerin 1841, he declined the offer, but worked successfully to gain support for the construction of an advanced steam warship with a battery of very heavy guns.
This ship became USS "Princeton", the Navy's first screw-propelled steamer. The ship was designed by
John Ericsson. Stockton commanded her when she was completed in 1843. Although he was the deviser of a defective gun, Captain Stockton was absolved of responsibility for the February 1844 explosion of the gun, the "Peacemaker," on board the ship. The explosion killed two cabinet officers and several others. [ [http://www.military.com/NewContent/0,13190,NH_0905_Cruise-P1,00.html Fatal Cruise of the Princeton - Page 1 ] ]
He had so much power that he managed to get the whole blame put on Ericsson, even though it was not Ericsson's gun that had missfired.Cleared by the court of any wrongdoing in the explosion incident, Stockton was sent by President
James K. Polkto Texas. Stockton carried with him Polk's offer to annex Texas, sailing on the "Princeton" and arriving in Galveston. Stockton's observations while in Texas made him aware of the looming war with Mexico, a fact he communicated directly to Polk once he arrived back in Washington. [A Sketch of the Life of Com. Robert F. Stockton, by Derby & Jackson, 1856. See http://books.google.com/books?id=CIKa7URH05UC]
In 1846, with the appointed title of Commodore, Stockton commanded U.S. naval forces in the eastern
Pacific Ocean, and was instrumental in taking Alta Californiafrom Mexicoduring the outset of the Mexican-American war. After his command suffered initial defeats at the Siege of Los Angeles, the Battle of Dominguez Ranchoand the Battle of San Pascualby the Southern Californiomilitia, his American forces were victorious at the Battle of Rio San Gabrieland the Battle of La Mesa, resulting in the Treaty of Cahuenga, which ending fighting in Alta California. He served as the first military governor of California.
Stockton resigned from the Navy in May 1850 and returned to business and political pursuits. In 1851 he was elected as a Democrat from New Jersey to the
United States Senate, where he sponsored a bill to abolish floggingas a Navy punishment. He resigned on January 10, 1853to serve as president of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Company, a position he held until 1866.
In 1861 he was a delegate to the unsuccessful conference that attempted to settle the secession crisis. In 1863, he was appointed to command the New Jersey militia when the Confederate Army invaded Pennsylvania. Captain Robert F. Stockton died at
Princeton, New Jersey, and is buried in the Princeton Cemetery.
Four U.S. Navy ships have been named USS "Stockton" in honor of Robert F. Stockton. The cities of
Stockton, Californiaand Fort Stockton, Texasare named in his honor, as is Stockton Streetin San Francisco, Californiaand Fort Stockton, San Diego, California, which is now a ruin, but was occupied during the Mexican-American War.
References and notes
"The United States Navy: A 200-year History". pp 196-221. Houghton Mifflin Company.C 1986
*Bancroft, Hubert Howe (1882). The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft. San Francisco: A.L. Bancroft & Co. ISBN 2539133.
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