Esek Hopkins, Commander in Chief of the Fleet, was born 26 April 1718, in what is now Scituate, R.I. Prior to the Revolutionary War he made voyages to nearly every quarter of the globe, commanded a privateer in the French and Indian War, and served as a deputy to the Rhode Island General Assembly. Appointed a brigadier general to command all the colony's military forces 4 October 1775, he immediately began to strengthen Rhode Island's defenses. A few months later, 22 December 1775, he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Fleet authorized by the Continental Congress to protect American commerce.
Hopkins took command of eight small merchant ships that had been hastily altered as men of war at Philadelphia, then sailed south 17 February 1776 for the first U.S. Fleet operation that took the fleet to Nassau in the Bahamas. The amphibious assault on the British colony there 3 March 1776 was also the first U.S. Amphibious Assault. Marines and sailors landed in "a bold stroke, worthy of an older and better trained service," capturing munitions desperately needed in the War of Independence. The little fleet returned to New London 8 April 1776, having also made prizes of two British merchantmen and a six-gun schooner. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, wrote Hopkins: "I beg leave to congratulate you on the success of your Expedition. Your account of the spirit and bravery shown by the men affords them [Congress] the greatest satisfaction . . ."
Hopkins' little fleet was blockaded in Narragansett Bay by the superior British seapower, but he never wavered in his loyalty to the cause of American independence. He continued to serve the Rhode Island General Assembly through 1786, then retired to his farm where he died 26 February 1802.
(DD-6: dp. 420; l. 248'8" ; b. 24'6" ; dr. 6'; s. 29 k.; cpl. 73; a. 2 3"-56 pdrs., 2 18" tt.; cl. Bainbridge)
The first Hopkins was launched by Harlin & Hollings-worth Co., Wilmington, Del., 24 April 1902; sponsored by Mrs. Alice Gould Hawes, great great granddaughter of Esek Hopkins; commissioned at Philadelphia Navy Yard 23 September 1903, Lt. M. M. Taylor commanding.
Hopkins sailed from Philadelphia 12 May 1904, and joined the Fleet at Norfolk. That summer the destroyer deployed with the Coast Squadron for the midshipmen at sea training. During the following 3 years she ranged into the Caribbean Sea, exercising with the Flotilla, engaging in torpedo practice, and Fleet problems. In September 1906, Hopkins was present for the Presidential Review off Oyster Bay. On 29 September she and Lawrence escorted the President in Mayflower to Cape Cod Bay to witness record target practice. In 1907-1908 Hopkins, as part of the Torpedo Flotilla, accompanied the Atlantic Fleet on a practice cruise to the Pacific. They sailed from Hampton Roads 2 December 1907, exchanging courtesies at various Mexican and South American ports en route. After target practice in Magdelena Bay, the Flotilla arrived at San Francisco 6 May 1908, in time for the review of the combined Atlantic and Pacific Fleets by the Secretary of the Navy.
On 1 June 1908. Hopkins joined the Pacific Torwedo Fleet for tactics along the West Coast, at sea training north to Alaskan waters, and south to the coast of Mexico. On 30 April 1917, after the United States entry into World War I, Hopkins departed San Diego for the Canal Zone. She performed patrol duty, convoyed submarines and assisted them in torpedo proving. On 3 August she arrived at Hampton Roads, Va., for escort and patrol ranging along the cost to Bermuda.
Hopkins entered the Philadelphia Navy Yard 29 January 1919, and decommissioned there 20 June. She was sold for scrapping 7 September 1920 to the Denton Shore Lumber Co.
USS Hopkins (DD-6) in 1908