Robert Field Stockton, born on 20 August 1795 at Princeton, N.J., entered the United States Navy as a midshipman in 1811. During the War of 1812, he served with distinction on board a frigate, President, and later ashore defending Washington and Baltimore. After the war, Stockton served in the Mediterranean Squadron, operating against Barbary pirates in waters off the west coast of Africa, suppressing the slave trade, and in the Caribbean fighting buccaneers. He commanded Erie and Alligator between 1820 and 1822. Stockton left active duty in 1828 to become involved in the Delaware & Raritan Canal Co.
Returning to active duty in 1838 with the rank of captain, Stockton assumed command of ship-of-the-line Ohio. He declined President Tyler's offer to appoint him Secretary of the Navy in 1841 and instead worked with John Ericsson on the construction of the Navy's first screw warship Princeton; and, in 1843, he became her first commander. In 1845, he was chosen by the President to convey the United States government's annexation resolution to the government of Texas.
After relieving Commodore Sloat in command of the Pacific Squadron on 23 July 1847, Commodore Stockton directed operations which captured California and added other territory to the nation. He resigned from the Navy on 28 May 1850; and, in the following year, was sent to the United States Senate by New Jersey. During his term as Senator, Stockton introduced a bill providing for abolition of flogging in the Navy; and he was energetic in urging adequate coastal defenses. From 1853 until his death, Commodore Stockton was president of the Delaware & Raritan Canal Co. He died on 7 October 1866 at Princeton, N.J.
(Destroyer No. 73: dp. 1,125 (n.) ;l. 315'6"; b. 31'2˝ "; dr. 8'V2"; s. 30.12 k. (tl.) ; cpl. 128;. a. 4 4", 2 1-pdr., 12 21" tt.; cl. Caldwell)
The second Stockton (Destroyer No. 73), a torpedo boat destroyer, was laid down on 16 October 1916 by William Cramp & Sons at Philadelphia, Pa.; launched on 17 July 1917; sponsored by Miss Ellen Emelie De Martelly; and commissioned on 26 November 1917, Comdr. H. A. Baldridge in command.
Stockton spent the last year of World War I assigned to convoy escort and antisubmarine duty, operating out of Queenstown, Ireland. During that time, she engaged an enemy U-boat on at least one occasion. On 30 March 1918, she and Ericsson (Destroyer No. 56) were escorting the troopship St. Paul on the Queenstown-Liverpool circuit, when Ericsson opened fire on a German submarine. The submerged enemy launched a torpedo at Stockton almost immediately thereafter, and the destroyer narrowly evaded the “fish.” The two destroyers dropped patterns of depth charges, but the U-boat managed to evade their attack and escaped. Later that night, Stockton collided with SS Slieve Bloom near South Sark Light. The destroyer had to put into Liverpool for repairs and the merchantman sank.
Stockton returned to the United States in 1919 and for three years continued to serve with the fleet. On 26 June 1922, she was placed out of commission and laid up at Philadelphia, Pa. Stockton was recommissioned on 16 August 1940 and shuttled to Halifax, where she was decommissioned on the 23d and turned over to the United Kingdom under the provisions of the Lend-Lease agreement. She served the Royal Navy as HMS Ludlow. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 8 January 1941.
The name Stockton was assigned on 22 January 1941 to DD-504, an experimental 900-ton destroyer ordered on 9 September 1940 from the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Kearny, N.J. However, the contract was cancelled on 10 February 1941 and replaced by a contract for a 1,630-ton destroyer of the Gleaves class, Stockton (DD-646).