James Shepard Thorntonóborn on 25 February 1826 at Merrimack, N.H.ówas appointed midshipman in the United States Navy on 15 January 1841 and served in the sloop-of-war John Adams during the Mexican War. The outbreak of the Civil War found him serving on the Atlantic coast in brig Brainbridge. He later became executive officer in Farragut's flagship Hartford and was serving in her when she and other ships of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron dashed past Forts St. Philip and Jackson on 24 April 1862 to capture New Orleans. He continued to serve in Hartford, with great credit, during the engagement with the Confederate ram Arkansas, during duels with the Vicksburg batteries, and in other operations on the Mississippi River.
In August 1862, he assumed command of gunboat Winona which was stationed with the Union blockading force off Mobile Bay, Ala. On 13 September, the gunboat shelled and destroyed a Confederate steamer lying under the protection of the guns of Fort Gaines. He subsequently became executive officer of Kearsarge and received a vote of thanks from Congress for gallantry during the successful engagement with the Confederate raider Alabama off Cherbourg, France, on 20 June 1864.
After the Civil War, he commanded Kearsarge on the South Pacific Station. Thornton was commissioned captain on 24 May 1872. Captain Thornton died at German-town, Pa., almost three years later on 14 May 1875.
(Torpedo Boat No. 33: dp. 269 (f.); 1. 17B'0" (wl.); b. 17'6"; dr. 5'2"; s. 27.57 k. (tl.); cpl. 28; a. 3 1-pdrs. rf., 3 18" tt.; cl. Blakeley)
The first Thornton (Torpedo Boat No. 33) was laid down on 16 March 1899 at Richmond, Va., by the William R. Trigg Co.; lanched on 15 May 1900; sponsored by Miss Mary Thornton Davis; and commissioned on 9 June 1902, Ens. Samuel Brown Thomas in command.
Thornton participated in the summer maneuvers of the North Atlantic Fleet off the eastern coast of the United States. In November and December, the torpedo boat moved south to the West Indies for combined winter maneuvers. On 28 January 1903, she returned to Norfolk, and she was assigned to the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla on 16 February.
On 19 June 1905, Thornton was placed back in full commission; and, the following month, she made a brief visit to Annapolis, Md. On 21 July, she was again decommissioned and entered the Norfolk Navy Yard. Three months later, the torpedo boat rejoined the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla at Norfolk. Recommissioned on 19 June 1907, she was assigned to the 3d Torpedo Flotilla; and, over the next several years, she operated along the eastern seaboard and cruised the Gulf of Mexico. In the fall of 1909, she joined several other torpedo boats in ascending the Mississippi River as far as St. Louis. The following December, she entered Charleston, S.C., and, on the 22d, was decommissioned and assigned to the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla at Charleston.
Though the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla was abolished in 1914, Thornton remained inactive at Charleston until 1917,She was in reserve until 14 March 1914 when the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla was disbanded. After that, she was placed in commission, in ordinary, at the Charles ton Navy Yard until 1917.
With America's entry into World War I, Thornton was placed back in full commission on 7 April 1917. She was converted to a minesweeper and, on 22 May, departed Charleston for Norfolk. Attached to the 5th Naval District, she performed minesweeping operations in Hampton Roads and off Cape Henry. On 8 April she collided with Joseph F. Bellows (SP-323) in Hampton Roads. Because of exensive damage, Thornton was towed to the Norfolk Navy Yard where she was decommissioned on 11 May 1918. On 1 August 1918, she was† redesignated Coasta Torpedo Vessel No. 16 A board of inspection and survey examined her in March 1919 and recommended that she be sold. On 12 May her name was struck from the Navy list. Fifteen months later, near the end of August 1920, she was sold to the Southern Oil & Transport Corp., of New York City.