A Rocky Mountain Sailor in Teddy Roosevelt's Navy: The Letters of Petty Officer Charles Fowler from the Asiatic Station, 1905-1910

A Rocky Mountain Sailor in Teddy Roosevelt's Navy: The Letters of Petty Officer Charles Fowler from the Asiatic Station, 1905-1910

A Rocky Mountain Sailor in Teddy Roosevelt's Navy: The Letters of Petty Officer Charles Fowler from the Asiatic Station, 1905-1910

A Rocky Mountain Sailor in Teddy Roosevelt's Navy: The Letters of Petty Officer Charles Fowler from the Asiatic Station, 1905-1910

Synopsis

Given that enlisted personnel are the forgotten men of naval history, it is difficult to find intimate portraits of sailors as persons, & not just as crew members. Charles Smith Fowler's story would have been lost had it not been for his older sister who kept the letters he had written her. With the help of the Fowler family, Rodney Tomlinson collected & edited over 200 pages of Charlie's writings to his sister, Clare, & presents them here for the first time. Charlie's tales of bluejacket life in Teddy Roosevelt's emerging modern navy are arguably the longest & most articulate single personal exposition ever written by a U.S. sailor. His words shed new light on navy life from a sailor's perspective at the turn of the century.

Excerpt

In January of 1906, after a hiatus of fifteen months, Charlie writes Clare, now a faculty member of the University of South Dakota at Vermilion. Charlie begins writing on January 24, 1906 in Cavite, Philippine Islands (PI), while he is attached to the battleship Oregon. He will finish on February 18, in Canton, China, after he transfers to the USS Monadnock, a harbor defense monitor showing the flag along the river. The letter extends through 206 pages of clear, compact, handwritten script spanning his recruit training and first year of his assignment to the Asiatic Squadron. Recalling Fred Harrod's observations about sailors' writing skills, it could well be the longest, most articulate, and comprehensive letter about enlisted life and times ever written by an American sailor. Aside from minor punctuation changes to enhance clarity, no changes have been made to Charlie's writing style and grammar. What you see is precisely as Charlie wrote it.

Charlie begins with family reminiscences and, ever the self-critic, bares his soul and self-doubt about the adventure he has embarked upon, providing a remarkable window into the fears and feelings that must inhabit all of us as we launch into the unknown. Then he summarizes his adventures up to the time he writes the letter and then flashes back to his recruit experiences, which appear as Chapter 2. The final portion of the letter appears in Chapter 3 as Charlie describes his first year on the Asiatic station. Charlie and Clare undertake a lively correspondence, with Charlie's side appearing in Chapters 4 through 9.

USS Oregon, Cavite, PI, Jan. 24, 1906

Dear Clare:

In all probability it has seemed strange to you that I have not answered your letters or written to you for over a year, and I may say that it is only after a protracted struggle with my conscience, which at one time tells me to write and at another time bids me to stick to my resolution, that I have finally decided to write.

Even after so deciding, I have a feeling that perhaps I am making a mistake, but what matters one more mistake? I may say, before proceeding further, that this . . .

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