On the European side of the Atlantic Uriah Phillips Levy is not a name that springs to mind when thinking of famous American naval officers, in deed I had never heard of him. That is a deficiency I have now rectified by reading Commodore Levy: A Novel of Early America in the Age of Sail, a fictionalised biography of his life.
Brought up in the Jewish faith Levy went to sea as a cabin boy aged ten and quickly rose to be an officer. A patriot he joined the Navy during the War of 1812 as a Master on the Argus until he was captured. He was promoted Lieutenant in 1817 which saw the start of his problems. As a ‘tarpaulin’ officer and a Jew many officers took it upon themselves to try and end his career, a thread that was to continue as he rose through the ranks. He fought many court martial’s but eventually achieved an appointment commanding the Mediterranean squadron.
As a respected member of the New York Jewish community he also invested in property amassing a personal fortune and becoming a noted philanthropist.
At over 600 pages this is a large book for a novel but I found it very engaging and hard to put down. The standard is such that it could easily be used as a scholarly work for those interested in Levy’s life and career and his story was so interesting that the book is highly recommended reading.