Thomas ap Catesby Jones was one of the most controversial officers in the U.S. Navy during the first half of the nineteenth century. A fascinating representative of a period of tumultuous change for both the navy and the country, he was a firebrand with a desire for reform and willingness to experiment. This biography explores his colorful career that spanned five decades and places it within the context of his changing times, as the navy moved into an age of iron and steam and a young nation struggled for recognition. It is the story of a complex figure known for his mistaken seizure of Monterey, California, in 1842 when the United States and Mexico were not formally at war. At the time Jones seemed to have created a national crisis, yet that episode, like Jones himself, was more complicated and had far greater ramifications than appeared on the surface. Historian Gene Smith's enlightening study not only chronicles important events in Jones's life but also explores how they helped shape the character and backbone of the navy during its formative years. He describes Jones's early career fighting smugglers, pirates, slave traders, and the British, evaluates his actions in the Battle of New Orleans, explains how he carried the stars and stripes to Hawaii in the 1820s, and how he helped incorporate California into the United States.
The embodiment of the nationalistic spirit that gripped the United States following the War of 1812, Jones was determined that his country would never again be subservient to the British, and as this biography clearly indicates, his actions and those of the nation's were influenced by that determination for the next forty years.