This book offers original insights into a quirky quintet of naval heroes of the American Revolution. In ""Captains Contentious"" accomplished maritime historian Louis Arthur Norton observes that many of the captains of the Continental Navy were quite obstinate as compared to their British counterparts. In doing so Norton surveys the lives and military accomplishments of five captains in the nascent Continental Navy, investigating how their personality flaws both hindered their careers and enhanced their heroics in Revolutionary War combat. This psychohistorical approach brings to life the idiosyncratic personalities of John Manley, Silas Talbot, Dudley Saltonstall, Joshua Barney, and that most quarrelsome of characters, John Paul Jones. Norton's fast-paced account of intertwining naval actions also serves as a maritime history of the war as experienced by these men. Norton draws from a wealth of primary and secondary sources to present biographical sketches that illustrate the five captains' reckless bravado and frequent antagonism toward their fellow officers. Representing different colonies and originating from diverse social and economic backgrounds, this dysfunctional band of fractious mariners shared a common lust for glory and penchant for infighting as they pursued favor and rank at the expense of civility and cooperation. They were often at odds with the Continental Congress and Marine Committee that commanded them and openly feuded among themselves. Yet they still managed to achieve notable victories against superior British naval forces. To understand better how these naval heroes turned dysfunction into derring-do, Norton reads their distinctive personalities against the contrasting demeanor of their adversaries in the British ranks. He concludes with psychological inferences about the leadership qualities displayed by these captains, which proved to be strikingly valuable in sea combat. Norton's study offers new insights into the maritime history of the American Revolution as well as an original hypothesis about the psychological traits useful to good naval command.
A native of the old seaport of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Louis Arthur Norton is a professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut. Norton writes frequently on maritime history topics, and he was awarded the 2002 and 2006 Gerald E. Morris Prizes for maritime historiography for articles published in the Log of Mystic Seaport. His previous books are Joshua Barney: Hero of the Revolution and 1812, Sailors' Folk Art under Glass: A Story of Ships-in-Bottles, and the children's book New England's Stormalong.