Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander Paperback – 16 Sep 2008
Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Offers a portrait of Thomas Cochrane, the hero who served as a model for fictional characters drawing on previously unpublished sources to document his exploits against the French navy and in the liberation of South America. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
The book was delivered in near pristine condition. Thank you!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Cochrane was an extraordinary man, his genuine history perhaps more amazing than any of the fiction inspired by his real-world activities, this is a biography that does him justice, lauding his good qualities and achievements without hiding his flaws and failures.
Lord Thomas Cochrane executed such stunningly audacious feats - successfully attacking much larger ships with his small sloop Speedy, leading an attack of fireships on the French fleet at Basque Roads, and helping Chile and Brazil establish their independence - that one might cry `what pitiful stuff' if one read it in a work of historical fiction. But it really happened.
Cochrane was a flawed man who could not restrain himself from reckless attacks on powerful forces in the navy and the government generally. When he found himself entangled in an infamous stock exchange fraud (the leaders spread false rumors that Napoleon had died and then sold their shares when the market predictably spiked), he discovered that powerful men were only too happy to see him convicted and drummed out of the navy. Cordingly judiciously sifts the evidence of Cochrane's guilt or innocence from our vantage point nearly 200 years later.
In addition to his naval feats Cochrane also fought for reform causes as a member of parliament. His intemperate tactics and language did him little good. Of course, he was quite right in insisting that either the electoral system would be reformed from within or reformed with a vengeance from without.
After several years in the `wilderness', Cochrane sailed to South America and successfully aided the rebellion against Spain and Portugal. He eventually wore out his welcome there as well, in part due to fights over prize money. From there he went to the Greek Fiasco, as Cordingly aptly names it. He spent his remaining years fighting with some success to restore honor to his name. A sad dwindling away for this remarkable man.
A must read for fans of Age of Sail historical fiction and an excellent histroical biography.
That's what I thought. Don't worry, David Cordingly's Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander has got you covered.
The best biographies illuminate not only their title character but the time and place in which that character lives, and this book does that in spades, with some eye-opening revelations. For one thing, I had no idea that the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars were on the whole, well, pirates.
Oh yes, they were, and I'll tell you why. The British Navy was essentially a money-making proposition in those days. Whenever a British ship caught an enemy ship, it would be sent back to England where it would be assessed by the Admiralty and assigned a value, one-eighth of which was then shared among the officers and crew of the capturing ship. The more enemy ships they captured, the more prize money they made, and Cochrane, whose improvident father had cost the family the hereditary estate, was forever in a row with whoever was in charge about getting full value for the ships he captured.
An eye ever to the main chance Cochrane may have had, but he was also by everyone's account, even his enemies', of which he made many, a master mariner. Cordingly writes that some of Cochrane's actions, described in full in you-are-there prose, are still cited by naval historians as the best of their kind. He was his own worst enemy on land but at sea he was unsurpassed. He wreaked havoc with Napoleon's navy up and down the coasts of France and Spain, and not for nothing did the French call him "le loup de mer," or the Seawolf.
Ashore, though, he involved himself in radical politics and made enemies of people in power, especially in the Navy. He was intemperate and mouthy, which, allied with a burning and fatal desire to achieve better pay and conditions for his officers and men, started the downward spiral. The British Admiralty just wasn't there yet. When, inevitably, he made England too hot to hold him, he went to South America, where as, sequentially, chief of naval operations for both countries he assisted immeasurably in Chile and Brazil's wars of independence with Spain, and later and less gloriously in Greece's war of independence with Turkey.
He had a keen scientific curiosity and the patience for experimentation which caused him to spend a great portion of his aforesaid prize money on experimenting with, among other things, lamps, steam engines and bitumin (aka asphalt). He was a passionate and faithful husband to his not always worthy wife, and what money he didn't spend on scientific experimentation and petitions for reinstatement in the British Navy was employed to bail their worthless children out of hock.
This book is beautifully produced, with many detailed maps, marvelous cutaway illustrations of two of Cochrane's ships so you can practically walk the decks right next to him, three sections of contemporary paintings of friends and colleagues, including many portraits of Cochrane himself at every age, ships of his time, seascapes of sea battles and ports of call and scenes of engagement. There is even a glossary at the back to teach you the difference between bombarde and bumboat, and more illustrations throughout, such as a reproduction of the recruiting poster Cochrane had made up to entice a ship's crew to the Pallas. "My lads," says the poster, "The rest of the GALLEONS with the Treasure from LA PLATA are waiting half loaded at CARTAGENA...Such a Chance perhaps will never occur again."
That was appealing to their better natures, all right.
Cordingly's Cochrane is a rousing tale, all the more astonishing because it's all absolutely true. A wonderful read.