William Bainbridge bigraphy, stories - United States Navy officer

William Bainbridge : biography

May 7, 1774 - July 28, 1833

William Bainbridge (May 7, 1774 – July 27, 1833) was a Commodore in the United States Navy. During his long career in the young American Navy he served under six presidents beginning with John Adams and is notable for his many victories at sea. He commanded several famous naval ships, including the USS Constitution and saw service in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. Bainbridge was also in command of the USS Philadelphia when it grounded off the shores of Tripoli in North Africa, resulting in his capture and imprisonment for many months. In the latter part of his career he became the U.S. Naval Commissioner.

Early life

William Bainbridge was born in Princeton, New Jersey, eldest son of Dr. Absalom Bainbridge and Mary (Taylor) Bainbridge.Harris, 1837 p.18 His father, a loyalist during the American Revolution, served as a surgeon in the British Army and was convicted of high treason by the State of New Jersey and successfully filed for damages with the American Loyalist Claims Commission. He had two brothers: Joseph, who also became a Navy captain, and John T.; and a sister, Mary. He was raised by his maternal grandfather, John Taylor, Esq., of Middleton, New Jersey as his father left for England in 1783 and his mother remained behind due to her ill health (though his father returned to the United States and died in New York City in 1807).Deats, 1904, The Jerseyman, Vol x, P.20Jones, 1972, The Loyalists of New Jersey, pp.15-16

Pre naval service

In his teens William Bainbridge was already of athletic and manly build and had an energetic and adventurous spirit. He was trained as a seaman in ships in the Delaware river, then considered the best 'school' for seamanship because of the great skill required to navigate that river.Cooper, 1846 pp.10-11

Bainbridge served aboard the small merchant ship Cantor in 1792.Barnes, 1897 pp.9-10

In 1796 after returning from Brazil, Bainbridge served aboard the merchant ship Hope, a small vessel of 140 tons with four nine-pound guns. While in port in the Garonne river at Bordeaux preparing for his fourth voyage, Bainbridge, after being hailed for help from a nearby ship, put down a mutiny while outnumbered by seven seaman. In the effort Bainbridge was badly wounded nearly losing his life. For his courage and in recognition of his navigational and seaman skills he was made commander of that ship in 1796 at the age of nineteen.

After leaving France that same year he sailed to the Caribbean. While in port at St. Johns, Bainbridge was hailed by an English schooner, but refused to stop. The English vessel fired guns in response where Bainbridge and his crack crew quickly turned about and with only two guns to a broadside, inflicted enough damage that forced the enemy ship to strike colors and surrender.Barnes, 1896 pp.73-74Barnes, 1897 pp.19-21Harris, 1837 pp.19-20

Service in US Navy

Bainbridge saw service in several wars and commanded a number of famous early U.S. Navy vessels including the USS George Washington, the USS Philadelphia and the USS Constitution, ultimately becoming a member of the board of naval commissioners during the latter part of his long naval career.

Quasi war

With the organization of the United States Navy in 1798, Bainbridge was included in the naval officer corps and in September 1798 was appointed commanding Lieutenant of the schooner USS Retaliation. He was ordered to patrol the waters in the West Indies along with Captain Williams of the Norfolk, both of whom were under the command of Murray who was in command of the frigate Montezuma.Harris, 1837 p.25 On November 20, 1798, Lt. Bainbridge surrendered the Retaliation without resistance to two French frigates, the Le Volontier, with 44 guns and l'Insurgente bearing 40 guns, after he mistook them for British warships and approached them without identifying them.Barnes, 1897 pp.45-46 Bainbridge and his crew were taken aboard the Volontier where the two French frigates continued in their pursuit of other nearby American vessels. During the flight to capture the Americans, Bainbridge offered words of caution to the French commander of L' Insurgente, Captain St. Laurent, about American strength; this made St. Laurent wait for his consorts far behind him.Cooper, 1846 pp.15-17

Living octopus

Living octopus

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