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Thomas Tingey
11 September 1750 - 23 February 1829

Portrait of Thomas Tingey.

Portrait of Thomas Tingey
NHHC Art Gallery Collection.




Related Documents in the Navy Department Library

Tingey House



Thomas Tingey was born in London, England, 11 September 1750, the son of a clergyman of the Church of England.

In his youth he served as an officer in the British Navy, as shown by an order to him dated 31 July 1771, from Commander-in-Chief of the British Squadron off Newfoundland to take command of a blockhouse on Chateaux Bay, Coast of Labrador. He left the British service, however, and commanded merchant vessels trading with the West Indies. Prior to the Revolutionary War he is said to have come to the United States, marrying an American girl in 1777. No record of service in the Continental Navy (the branch directly under control of the Continental Congress) has been found, but the Navy of the Revolution was made up of many elements, and the records are far from complete, and it is quite possible that he may have served the cause of the Colonies in some capacity. Following the War he engaged in the American merchant service.

The United States Navy was established in 1794, and Thomas Tingey was commissioned a captain in it September 3, 1798. During the War with France (1798-1801) he commanded the ship Ganges of 24 guns, which with the brig Pinckney and the revenue cutter South Carolina, formed a squadron to guard the Windward Passage. During the summer and autumn of 1799, after the departure of Commodores Barry and Truxtun, Commodore Tingey was ranking naval officer in the West Indies, commanding all vessels on what was called the Guadeloupe Station. Numerous prizes were captured, four by the Ganges while under his command.

On 22 January 1800, Commodore Tingey was appointed to lay out and command the new Navy Yard at Washington, D.C. He was discharged from the Navy under the Peace Establishment Act of 3 March, 1801, but was retained as superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard. On November 23, 1804, he was recommissioned a Captain in the Navy and made Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard and naval agent, which posts he held until his death.

When the British invaded the capital in the summer of 1814, the Secretary of the Navy ordered Commodore Tingey to fire the Navy Yard. He wrote to his daughter under date of 17 September 1814, "I was the last officer who quitted the city after the enemy had possession of it, having fully performed all orders received, in which was included that myself retiring, and not to fall into their possession. I was also the first who returned and the only one who ventured in on the day on which they were peaceably masters of it".

Commodore Tingey died on 23 February 1829, in Washington, and was buried with "unusual military honors" in the Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

The title of Commodore was a courtesy title, given to a Captain (the highest rank in the Navy until 1862).

A Torpedo Boat (No. 34) and two Destroyers (No. 272 and DD-539) were named for Commodore Tingey.

Source: Adapted from "Thomas Tingey" [biography] in Thomas Tingey file, box 220, ZB files, Navy Department Library.


American National Biography. Vol. 21. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Dudley, William S. The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History. 2 vols. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, 1985-. [See the forthcoming third volume for Tingey's activities during the British attack on Washington in 1814.].

"Ghosts and Rogues in Naval Gun Factory." Washington Post and Times Herald (19 March 1958): A16.

Hackett, Frank W. "Captain Thomas Tingey, U.S.N." United States Naval Institute Proceedings 33, no.1 (Mar. 1907): 119-123.

Hibben, Henry B. Navy Yard, Washington: History from Organization, 1799 to Present Date. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1890.

Knox, Dudley W. Naval Documents Related to the Quasi-War With France. 7 vols. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1935-1938.

McKee, Christopher. A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession: The Creation of the U.S. Naval Officer Corps, 1794-1815. Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991.

Marolda, Edward J. The Washington Navy Yard: An Illustrated History. Washington: Naval Historical Center, 1999.

Palmer, Michael A. Stoddert's War: Naval Operations During the Quasi-War With France, 1798-1801. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1987.

Peck, Taylor. Round-Shot to Rockets: A History of the Washington Navy Yard and U.S. Naval Gun Factory. Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Institute, 1949.

Pitch, Anthony. The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1998.

Votaw, Henry C. "The Sloop-of-War Ganges." United States Naval Institute Proceedings 98, no.7 (Jul. 1972): 82-84.

Related Documents in the Navy Department Library

DS dated 2 May 1795. "Proof of ownership of a ship or vessel." Certifying ownership of the ship Ganges. Signed twice by Tingey.

DS dated 21 November 1801. Acknowledging receipt of $4,000 from the Navy Department.

LS dated 10 December 1817, Navy Yard, Washington. To John Rose. Regarding grape shot.

ALS dated 20 June 1822, Navy Yard, Washington. To Purser Thomas Chew. Reporting the shipment of a barrel of "old Columbia" to his friend Captain Macdonough. With integral address sheet.

DS date 9 January 1823, Navy Yard, Washington. Receipt for 100 lbs. of cut nails.

LS dated 15 January1827, Navy Yard, Washington. Regarding difficulties with a shipment of powder to James Beatty, Navy Agent, Baltimore.

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