William Thomas Sampson, born on 9 February 1840 in Palmyra, N.Y., entered the United States Naval Academy on 24 September 1857. After graduating 1st in his class four years later, he served as an instructor at the Academy. In 1864, he became the executive officer of the monitor Patapsco of the South Atlantic Blockading Station and engaged in sweeping torpedoes off Charleston. He survived the loss of that ironclad on 15 January 1865, when she struck a torpedo, exploded, and sank with a loss of 75 lives. Following duty in the steam frigate, Colorado, on the European Station, another tour as instructor at the Naval Academy, and in the Bureau of Navigation of the Navy Department, he served in the screw sloop, Congress. He then commanded.
Alert, practice ship Mayflower, and Swatara while on duty at the Naval Academy. During the next years, he was Assistant to the Superintendent of the Naval Observatory, then Officer-in-Charge of the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I. On 9 September 1886, he became Superintendent of the Naval Academy. He was promoted to Captain on 9 April 1889, reported to the Mare Island Navy Yard to fit out San Francisco, and assumed command when that protected cruiser was commissioned on 15 November 1889. He was detached in June 1892 to serve as Inspector of Ordnance in the Washington Navy Yard and was appointed Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance on 28 January 1893. He assumed command of battleship, Iowa, on 15 June 1897. On 17 February 1898, he was made President of the Board of Inquiry to investigate the destruction of battleship, Maine. On 26 March 1898, he assumed command of the North Atlantic Station, with the temporary rank of Rear Admiral. The United States declared war against Spain on 21 April 1898; and, eight days later, Admiral Cervera's fleet sailed from the Cape Verde Islands for an uncertain destination. Admiral Sampson, in flagship New York, put to sea from Key West in search of the Spanish Fleet and established a close and efficient blockade on that fleet in the harbor of Santiago on 1 June 1898. On the morning of 3 July 1898, Cervera's fleet came out of the harbor and was completely destroyed in a running sea battle lasting five hours. The next day, Rear Admiral Sampson sent his famous message: “The Fleet under my command offers the nation as a Fourth of July present, the whole of Cervera's Fleet!” He was appointed Cuban Commissioner on 20 August 1898 but resumed command of the North Atlantic Fleet in December. He became Commandant of the Boston Navy Yard in October 1899 and transferred to the Retired List on 9 February 1902. Rear Admiral Sampson died in Washington, D.C., on 6 May 1902 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
(DD-63: dp. 1,225 (f.) ; l. 315'3"; b. 30'7"; dr. 9'6"; s. 29 k.; cpl. 99; a. 4 4", 2 1-pdrs., 2 .30 cal. mg., 12 21" tt.; cl. Sampson)
The first Sampson (DD-63) was laid down on 21 April 1915 by the Fore River Shipbuilding Co. of Quincy, Mass.; launched on 4 March 1916; sponsored by Miss Marjorie Sampson Smith; and commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on 27 June 1916, Comdr. B. C. Allen in command.
Torpedo-boat destroyer Sampson was assigned to Division 9 of the Atlantic Destroyer Force and conducted shakedown training out of Narragansett Bay. After war games off Provincetown, Mass., she cleared Tompkinsville on 15 May 1917 to join the escort screen of a convoy which touched at Halifax and reached Queenstown, Ireland, on 25 May 1917. She reported for duty with the United States Naval Forces operating in European waters and was assigned to convoy escort duty in the approaches to the British Isles, basing her operations from Queenstown. Two British-type depth charge projectors were installed on her stern; and, on 29 May, she commenced escort duty and protected the troop transports and merchant convoys from hostile submarines throughout the remainder of World War I.
On 18 June 1917, Sampson rescued two small boat loads of survivors of the SS English Monarch and the captain and 13 sailors from the torpedoed SS Elele. The next morning, she picked up 17 other survivors of the SS Elele; and, on the 20th, she landed all at Queenstown. Sampson answered other distress calls before the end of the war, and she made several attacks to drive off submarines reported or seen near her convoys. She steamed from France with the Queenstown division of destroyers on 29 November 1918 and stood out from Brest Harbor on 12 December to escort President Woodrow Wilson on board George Washington into the harbor. Returning to Queenstown on 14 December, she sailed for home on the 26th and arrived at the New York Navy Yard on 7 January 1919.
After repairs in the New York Navy Yard, Sampson was assigned to the 4th Division, 2d Flotilla, of the Destroyer Force and sailed on 22 March 1919 to base her operations from the Naval Torpedo Station at Newport, R. I. She reported to the Inspector of Ordnance for experimental testing of torpedoes and mines, but interrupted this duty in May 1919 to assist in guarding the route of the NC-4 during that Navy seaplane's crossing over the Atlantic, the world's first successful trans-oceanic flight. She entered the New York Navy Yard on 1 December 1919 for deactivation overhaul which was completed on 14 February 1921. Towed to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Sampson was decommissioned on 15 June 1921. She remained inactive during the years that followed; and, on 17 July 1935, was ordered scrapped in accordance with the London Treaty for the reduction of naval armaments. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 7 January 1936, and she was sold for scrap on 8 September 1936 to Boston Iron and Metal Co., Inc., Baltimore, Md.
The fourth Choctaw (YT-114) (q.v.), formerly called Sampson, was acquired from the USSB on 22 June 1926 and was placed in service the following day.