A family renowned in American naval history, five of whose members gave especially distinguished service in the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.
The first three, all sons of Joseph and Hannah Scott Nicholson, were born in Chestertown, Md.: James in 1737, Samuel in 1743, and John in 1756. James Nicholson served in the colonial Navy with the British in the assault on Havana in 1762, and was commissioned Captain in the Continental Navy 10 October 1776. He commanded Defense, Trumbull, and Virginia, and when blockaded at Baltimore, took his men to join Washington at Trenton to aid in that key victory. He died 2 September 1804 at his home in New York City.
Samuel Nicholson was a Lieutenant in Bon Homme Richard under John Paul Jones; then, in command of Deane, captured three British sloops-of-war. Appointed Captain upon the reorganization of the Navy in 1794, he superintended the construction of frigate Constitution and commanded her during her first commission. He died at Charlestown, Mass., 29 December 1811.
John Nicholson entered the Continental Navy as Lieutenant in October 1776 and the next month was promoted to Captain to command sloop Hornet. After the war he was active in public affairs in Maryland, where he died in the summer of 1844.
In the next generation, John’s son William Carmichael Nicholson, born 1800 in Maryland, entered as a midshipman in 1812 and served in President under Stephen Decatur during the War of 1812. Commissioned Captain in 1855, he commanded steam frigate Roanoake from May 1861. Appointed Commodore on the Retired List in July 1862, he served a year on the Retiring Board. He died 25 July 1872 at the Naval Asylum, Philadelphia.
In the third generation, Samuel’s grandson James William Augustus Nicholson, born 10 March 1821 in Dedham, Mass., carried on the family tradition, entering the Navy as a midshipman in February 1838. As a Lieutenant, he served in Vandalia in Commodore Matthew G. Perry’s Japanese Expedition (1853–55). During the Civil War he served in Pocahontas and Pensacola, and commanded Isaac Smith, Shamrock, Manhattan, and Mohongo. Commodore from August 1873 and Rear Admiral from October 1881, he commanded the European Station 16 September 1881 to February 1883. When the British bombarded Alexandria, Egypt, in 1882, he rescued the records of the American Consulate and took American and other refugees aboard his flagship, Lancaster. Commendation from the Navy Department and awards of gratitude from European governments followed. He retired 10 March 1883 and died at his home in New York 28 October 1887.
(DD–52: dp. 1,050; l. 305’3”; b. 29’10”; d. 9’3”; s. 29 k.; cpl. 112; a. 4 4”, 13”, 4 21” tt.; cl. O’Brien)
The second Nicholson (DD–52) was laid down 8 September 1913 by William Cramp and Sons Shipyard, Philadelphia; launched 19 August 1914; sponsored by Mrs. Charles T. Taylor; and commissioned 30 April 1915, Lt. Comdr. A. E. Watson in command.
After shakedown in the North Atlantic, Nicholson operated in the Caribbean and along the east coast until the United States entered World War I. Nicholson sailed from New York 15 May 1917, arrived Queenstown, Ireland, 24 May, and began escorting convoys in the Irish Sea. Her aid to SS J. L. Luckenbach after the merchantman had been shelled by a U-boat enabled the damaged ship to rejoin the convoy and enter port safely.
From February to November 1918, Nicholson escorted convoys along the French coast from her base at Brest. She arrived New York 10 January 1919 for east coast operations until going into reserve at Philadelphia 27 November 1919.
From May 1921 to 26 May 1922, Nicholson was reactivated with a reduced complement, then decommissioned at Philadelphia. Struck from the Navy List 7 January 1936, she was sold for scrapping 30 June 1936.