The U.S. Navy’s real-life “Jack Aubrey”


A Call to the Sea

Captain Charles Stewart of the USS Constitution

320 pages; 6" x 9" ; 29 B&Wphotos & paintings

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Available: July 2005
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$22.95   $18.36
Available: November 2006
Online ordering is unavailable at this time. Please call Longleaf Services at
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Charles Stewart’s life of sailing and combat on the high seas rivals that of Patrick O’Brien’s fictional hero, Jack Aubrey. Stewart held more sea commands (11) than any other U.S. Navy captain and served longer (63 years) than any officer in American naval history. He commanded every type of warship, from sloop to ship-of-the-line, and served every president from John Adams to Abraham Lincoln.

Born in Philadelphia during the American Revolution, Stewart met President Washington and went to sea as a cabin boy on a merchantman before age thirteen. In March 1798, at age nineteen, he received a naval commission one month before the Department of the Navy was established. Stewart went on to an illustrious naval career: Thomas Jefferson recognized his Mediterranean exploits during the Barbary Wars, Stewart advised James Madison at the outset of the War of 1812, and Stewart trained many future senior naval officers—including David Porter, David Dixon Porter, and David G. Farragut—in three wars. He served as a pallbearer at President Lincoln’s funeral.

Stewart cemented his reputation as commander of the Navy’s most powerful frigate, the USS Constitution. No other captain commanded this ship for a longer wartime period or through more naval engagements. Undefeated in battle, including defeating the British warships Cyane and Levant simultaneously, both ship and captain came to be known as “Old Ironsides.”

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)

Claude Berube is a Brookings Institution LEGIS Fellow and a reserve officer in the U.S. Navy. His articles have appeared in Maine History, Naval History, and the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. He has worked in the U.S. Senate and for the Department of the Navy. He is currently an instructor in the Political Science Department at the U.S. Naval Academy. He lives in Annapolis, MD.

John Rodgaard has twenty years' experience as an intelligence analyst and is a captain and reserve intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy. A contributor to Proceedings and Naval History magazine, he also lives in the Washington D.C., area.


“In this important work of naval history, Claude Berube and John Rodgaard have combined the fast-paced thrill of fiction with the reality of history in their biography of Captain Charles Stewart.”
Jim Farley in Journal of the Early Republic

"The strength of A Call to the Sea, the first and long-overdue full-scale biography of Charles Stewart, is the balanced treatment it gives to every period of this influential naval officer’s distinguished career, from his commissioning as lieutenant during the presidency of John Adams to his death as rear admiral during that of Ulysses S. Grant--while giving due attention to his command of USS Constitution during one of her famous victories in the War of 1812, for which he is best known. Berube and Rodgaard have limned a revealing portrait of a fascinating man in his private as well as public life."
Michael J. Crawford, naval historian and editor of The Autobiography of a Yankee Mariner: Christopher Prince and the American Revolution

"No naval officer has served the nation longer or more faithfully than Charles Stewart. His biography is a virtual history of the Navy, from its founding in the Age of Sail to steam power in the Civil War. For more than six decades, this extraordinary officer served his nation, living in the lee of his more famous contemporaries. Finally, Claude Berube and John Rodgaard have given this hero his due. His epic battle against Cyane and Levant, during which he skillfully maneuvered Constitution as if the great frigate was a sailboat on a pond, is a classic in naval history."
William Fowler, coauthor of America and the Sea: A Maritime History

"Readers of O'Brien, Forester, and Pope who are unfamiliar with the lives of the great sailors whose lives inspired those novels have much to look forward to. They could well start with Berube and Rodgaard's life of Charles Stewart, an American naval hero whose battles and political dramas spanned the French, Barbary, 1812, and Civil wars.The authors have done the research yet not lost the spirit of a great tale of adventure."
The Hon. John F. Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy

"[The authors'] description of Stewart's command of the USS Constitution is essential to understanding the man and the development of the U.S. Navy."
Reference & Research Book News

"The book is well written and takes a 'life and times' approach. Not only is there a detailed treatment of Stewart's service in several wars and sea fights--and he was in a remarkable number of both, including the most celebrated of fights of the frigate Constitution--but it also provides an excellent look at the naval service from the age of fighting sail to the onset of ironclad warships. . . . A valuable book for anyone interested in the history of the Navy and America's wars, from the Quasi-War with France to the Civil War."
The NYMAS Review

"Authors Claude Berube and John A. Rodgaard are to be highly commended for this splendid book tracing Stewart's life and accomplishments. It is both thoroughly researched and engagingly presented. . . . a major accomplishment . . . An important addition to the literature of the U.S. age of saiI, A Call to the Sea will appeal to all those with an interest in the U.S. sailing navy and, one would hope, to professional naval officers. It belongs in all scholarly collections."
The Journal of Military History

"The neglect shown to [Stewart's] story has been resolved with the publication of this fine volume. . . . Berube and Rodgaard's competent biography does Stewart proud. . . . The authors make effective use of primary sources and they judiciously avoid the unnecessary aggrandizement of a worthy figure, a stylistic, old fault still to be found in biographies. . . . A treatment of the book's main subject is long overdue, and historians and other readers will be pleased to have this biography on their shelves."
International Journal of Maritime History