Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor
Frémont’s Private Navy: The 1846 Journal of Captain William Dane Phelps
Edited by Briton Cooper Busch. Glendale: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1987. Index. 79 Pages. $36.00 Hardback.
With the publication of Captain Phelps’ 1846 journal, the Arthur H. Clark Company is maintaining its standing as one of the major purveyor’s of quality sources for California and western history. This book is the journal of a New England sea captain and merchant for the year 1846-the year when Fremont, Stockton, Sloan and others were trying to secure California for the United States. The journal gives good information on many of the events of the time and insights into a number of the major and minor personalities of both sides. Although Phelps had contacts and did business with people on both sides, his Anglo-American prejudices and his loyalty to the United States dominate. There is not a great deal of information on San Diego in this journal, although there are a number of references. Combined with Alta California 1840-1842: The Journal and Observations of William Dane Phelps, Master of the Ship “Alert” (also edited by Busch and published by the Arthur H. Clark Company); and Phelps’ 1871 memoir (published as Fore & Aft: Or Leaves From the Life of an Old Sailor, by “Webfoot”), Frémont’s Private Navy is among the more valuable sources for the history of California in the 1840s.