After his short career as a merchant seaman and later as a midshipman in the United States Navy, Cooper found himself Possessed of a store of knowledge about the sea and seamen that was to be of incalculable benefit to him when he began to write his romances of the sea. His Pilot, Red Rover, Wing-and-Wing, Two Admirals, Miles Wallingford, and the Sea Lions were the direct result of his youthful contacts with ships and seamen, and are in part the basis of his literary fame. For Cooper was the first writer to set the scene his story on an American ship, the nautical technique of which he handled like a born sailor.
The Naval Career of James Fenimore Cooper
By Louis H. Bolander
No officer ever resigned from the United States Navy and won such a distinguished place for himself in American literature as James Fenimore Cooper. Though Cooper’s period of service in the Navy amounted to no more than 2 years and 5 months, though as a naval officer he never sailed on salt water, and though in rank he never rose above the grade of midshipman, his brief naval experience made a definite and ineffaceable impression on his mind and altered the course of his entire life.