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Adapted from the biographical sketch for John Herbert Dent, ZB Files, Navy Department Library, Naval History and Heritage Command.

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  • Biography
Wars & Conflicts
  • Barbary Wars 1801-1805, 1815
  • War of 1812 1812-1815
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John Herbert Dent

22 February 1789 - 31 July 1823

Engraving of Captain John Herbert Dent, USN.

Born in Charles County, Maryland - 22 February 1789. Appointed from Maryland. Midshipman - 16 March 1798. Lieutenant - 11 July 1799. Commander - September 1804. Captain - 29 December 1811. Died 31 July 1823.

John Herbert Dent was appointed a Midshipman in the US Navy and ordered to the USS Constellation 16 March 1798. He accepted the appointment 25 March. He was given his Midshipman's warrant 11 December 1798, while attached to the Constellation.

He was attached to the Constellation when that vessel under command of Captain Thomas Truxtun captured in the West Indies the French frigate Insurgente of 40 guns and 400 men, 9 February 1799. The good conduct and gallantry of Captain Truxtun and his officers and crew were acknowledged by the Navy Department. The following is an extract from the letter, dated 13 March 1799:

'The President desired me to communicate to you, his high approbation of the whole of your able and judicious conduct in the West Indies; and to present to you, and through you to the officers and crew of the Constellation, his thanks for the good conduct, exact discipline, and bravery, displayed in the action with, and capture of, the French frigate Insurgente, on the 9th of February.'

On 1 and 2 February 1800, Lieutenant Dent participated in the engagement between the Constellation and the French National ship Vengeance of 54 guns. On list of the officers of the Constellation given in the Naval Chronicle he appears as 4th Lieutenant. The following is an extract from Captain Truxtun's journal:

'I should be wanting in common justice were I to omit here to journalize the steady attention to order, and the great exertion and bravery shown by all my officers, seamen and marines, in this action, many of whom I had sufficiently tried before, on a similar occasion, and all their names are recorded in the muster roll I sent to the Secretary of the Navy, dated 19th December last, signed by myself."

Lieutenant Dent was retained under the Peace Establishment and ordered on 11 May 1801 to New York for duty on the USS Essex, serving on her until 13 August 1802. On 23 August 1802, he was ordered to take passage for the Mediterranean, where he joined the USS John Adams on 4 April 1803. He was transferred to the Constitution, Commodore Preble's flagship in the Mediterranean on 25 September 1803, becoming her Acting Captain with rank of Lieutenant Commandant on 8 February 1804. On 24 April 1804, Preble gave him the command of the Brig Scourge, a captured vessel. On 29 May 1804, he was promoted to Lieutenant Commandant, his commission being dated 18 May 1804. He appears to have been again attached to the Constitution from 3 July to 18 August 1804. He commanded a bomb vessel assigned to the Constitution in the attack on Tripoli of 3 August 1804, again commanded it in subsequent attacks of 7 and 24 August, and 3 September. He was highly commended for skill and gallantry, for his success in managing the bomb vessel and throwing shells into the town. On 30 April 1808, an impression of the medal presented to Commodore Preble by Resolution of Congress of 3 March 1805 was transmitted to him as one of the officers who honorably participated in gallant action in attacks on Tripoli, 1804.

On 4 September 1804, on the death of Lieutenant Richard Somers, Commodore Preble placed Lieutenant Dent in command of the Schooner Nautilus. While in command of this vessel he participated in the capture of the town of Derne, 27 April 1805. He was detached from the Nautilus in August 1805, with permission to return to the United States.

On 18 February 1806, he was ordered to the command of the brig Hornet, and sailed from New York 29 March, carrying Mr. Skipwith, American Minister to France, to that country, thence proceeding to join the squadron in the Mediterranean. On his return to the United States in November 1807, he was ordered to take the Hornet to Charleston, SC, where he remained as senior naval officer until 29 May 1809, when he was detached from the Hornet and granted 3 months' furlough. Just before the close of his period of command at Charleston he carried General Wilkinson and suite to New Orleans in the Hornet.

On 6 February 1810, he was ordered to Norfolk to take command of the John Adams, his orders being the protection of American vessels on the coast of South Carolina and Georgia from foreign aggression and keeping watch for vessels suspected of piracy or filibustering.

In January 1811 he was ordered to Newport, RI, to receive the American Minister to Denmark on board, and left in March with the John Adams with the minister and Mr. Archibald Hamilton on board, the latter bearing dispatches to London and Paris.

In October 1811 he was again in Charleston, SC investigating the possibility of the establishment of a Navy Yard there. On 28 March 1812 he was ordered to take charge of the Naval Stations at Charleston, SC and Wilmington, NC. He remained in command at Charleston until the close of the war, when he requested to be relieved on account of his health, which required a change of climate, and ordered to active service or to a northern station. On 29 June 1813, he was informed that Wilmington was now a distinct station. Permission was granted him on 29 March 1813 to leave Charleston and repair to any northern port and await further orders.

Made a survey of USS Java at Baltimore, MD for the Board of Navy Commissioners. This was Captain Dent's last duty. In October 1815, he returned to Charleston, where he continued to reside. He died 31 July 1823 in South Carolina and was buried at Jacksonboro, SC in Bethel Cemetery.

Dates of Service


1798 16 March Appointed Midshipman and ordered to USS Constellation.
  25 March Accepted appointment.
  11 December Warranted Midshipman while serving on USS Constellation.
1799 9 February On USS Constellation under command of Captain Thomas Truxtun, participated in the capture in the West Indies of the French frigate Insurgente of 40 guns and 400 men. The good conduct and gallantry of Captain Truxtun and his officers and crew were acknowledged by the Navy Department in a letter dated 13 March 1799, conveying to them the thanks of the President.
  11 July Promoted to Lieutenant.
1800 1 February Participated in engagement between the Constellation and the French national ship Vengeance of 54 guns. On list of officers of Constellation given in Naval Chronicle as 4th Lieutenant. All the officers and enlisted men highly commended by Captain Truxtun in his journal.
1801 11 May Retained under Peace Establishment and ordered to New York immediately for duty on USS Essex.
  26 May Appearance on board USS Essex at Hampton Roads, VA.
1802 15 August Detached from USS Essex at Washington, DC.
  23 August Ordered to take passage in the New York for the Mediterranean, there to join such ship as the Commodore of the station should order.
  25 August Ordered for the USS John Adams.
1803 4 April Turned over to the John Adams in the Mediterranean.
  6 July Ordered to join USS Constitution.
  25 September Appearance on board USS Constitution, Commodore Preble's flagship in Mediterranean.
1804 6 January Left in charge of Constitution at Syracuse by Commodore Preble when called to Malta on business.
  8 February Appears as Lieutenant Commandant on pay rolls of Constitution to 16 April 1804.
  10 February Sent to Messina with US Schooner Enterprise to ascertain what gunboats and mortar boats might be purchased or chartered for use of squadron.
  19 February Ordered to rejoin Constitution immediately.
  17 April Ordered to take command of US Brig Scourge (captured English privateer Transfer) and fit her for a cruise with all possible expedition.
  24 April Ordered to proceed off Tripoli with Scourge as soon as ready.
  29 May Promoted to Lieutenant Commandant. Commission dated 18 May 1804.
  3 July On board Constitution to 18 August 1804.
  3 August
3 September
Commanded a bomb vessel in attack on Tripoli, 3 August. Also commanded bomb vessel in subsequent attacks of 7 and 24 August and 3 September. In attack of 26 August, as bomb vessel was disabled, took charge on quarter deck of Constitution. In these actions commended by Commodore Preble for gallantry and for skill in handling bomb vessel. Resolutions of thanks, etc. to Preble and the officers and enlisted men of his squadron passed by Congress 3 March 1805.
  4 September Detached from command of Scourge and appointed to command of US Schooner Nautilus on death of Lieutenant Richard Somers that date.
1805 14 March Promoted to Master Commandant (Commander), to take rank from 5 September 1804.
  27 April Participated in capture of town of Derna, while in command of Nautilus.
  20 August Detached from Nautilus, permission to return to United States having been granted him.
  November Returned to United States in John Adams.
1806 18 February Ordered to take command of US Brig Hornet at New York.
  29 March Sailed from New York in Hornet, carrying Mr. Skipwith to France, thence to proceed to join Commodore Rodger's squadron in Mediterranean.
  29 April Landed Mr. Skipwith at L'Orient, France.
  25 May Joined Commodore Rodger's squadron.
1807 November Returned to United States in Hornet, and ordered to Charleston, SC with vessel.
1808 25 January Instructed to consider himself Senior Officer at Charleston until otherwise ordered.
  30 April Impression of medal presented to Commodore Preble by Resolution of Congress of 3 March 1805 transmitted to him as one of the officers who honorably participated in gallant action in attack on Tripoli, 1804.
1809 9 January Ordered to prepare Hornet immediately to carry General Wilkinson and suite to New Orleans. Informed he would probably be ordered to stop at Havana and Florida en route. Latter information confidential.
  8 February Ordered to sail when ready, stopping at such intermediate ports as General Wilkinson should direct.
  9 March Reported that he was waiting a favorable wind to cross the bar and proceed on his mission.
  3 May Reported return from trip, after executing orders of 8 February. Had stopped at Havana and Pensacola.
  20 May Furloughed for 3 months.
  29 May Detached from at Charleston, SC.
1810 6 February Wrote from Charleston requesting orders to join a ship.
  16 August Ordered to Norfolk to take command of USS John Adams.
  23 August Ordered on reaching Norfolk to assume command of John Adams and proceed without delay to Charleston, SC. Report to Captain Campbell, receive from him men to complete his crew and proceed to the southward and on St. Mary's Station enforce the orders which would be transmitted to him at Norfolk. St. Mary's Station to attract his particular attention, but to visit the ports of Charleston and Savannah a few days at a time. his orders were, within a marine league from the coast, to defend American merchant vessels from British and French armed vessels, to seize private armed vessels suspected of piratical character or having been illegally fitted out or augmented in force with the United States or to have proceeded therefrom in pursuance of any military expedition or enterprise contrary to law, and to watch for American citizens suspected of giving aid to foreign armed vessels.
  15 September Reported arrival at Norfolk that day, where he had assumed command of John Adams as per orders of 16 August and received orders of 23 August.
  20 September Reported John Adams ready to proceed to Charleston as soon as wind would permit.
  23 September Left Hampton Roads.
  27 September Arrived at Charleston.
  5 November Reported return to Charleston from a cruise of 20 days to the southward. Had encountered no cruisers.
  12 November Acknowledged receipt of circular letter of 2 November, enclosing President's proclamation removing the interdiction with respect to entrance of French armed vessels into US harbors and waters.
1811 17 January Ordered to proceed with John Adams to Newport, RI where further orders would be sent him.
  30 January Ordered to receive Mr. Irving, American Minister to Denmark, on board, landing him at L'Orient or some other convenient French port on the Channel. Thence to proceed to the most convenient port in England with Mr. Archibald Hamilton, bearer of dispatches to London, wait for his return and proceed to Cherbourg, France, receive dispatches from Paris and return immediately to United States, making for Annapolis, Norfolk, Philadelphia or New York.
  23 February Directed not to proceed to Europe until further orders, as Congress would rise shortly.
  16 March Addressed at Newport. Commanding officer there had been instructed several days before to order him to proceed to sea immediately. If still there to leave at once. Wrote same day stating he expected to sail the next morning, thinking orders to do so must have been sent him but not received.
  28 August Wrote from Boston reporting return from mission. Ship in need of repairs. Desirous of going to Washington to make further report.
  3 September Ordered to proceed with John Adams to Washington.
  10 September Reported John Adams not in condition to proceed to sea. Stated he would resign rather than take her when he was unable to protect the flag.
  15 September Ordered to remain in Boston until ship was repaired unless she was in condition to repel any aggression.
  30 September Granted permission to go to Charleston, SC where he would shortly receive further instructions. Addressed at Boston.
  16 October Wrote from Charleston relative to land and buildings that might be rented there. Had no information to give as to condition of gunboats or relative to affairs there.
  21 October Wrote again from Charleston relative to site for Navy Yard and condition of gunboats.
  26 November Wrote from Charleston relative to establishment of a Navy Yard there.
  20 December Wrote from Charleston asking whether he was to consider himself under orders, and how far the Secretary meant to carry into execution the arrangements relative to the establishment of a Navy Yard there.
1812 14 February Wrote from Charleston requesting permission to come to Washington. Had been expecting orders for four months.
  28 March Ordered to take charge of Charleston, SC and Wilmington, NC Stations. To stop at Wilmington and proceed to Charleston, reporting exact state of each station.
  24 April Arrived at Charleston. Made report of conditions at Charleston 26 April and at Wilmington 17 April.
  16 June Commissioned Captain under confirmation of Senate.
  19 June Notice of declaration of war with Great Britain sent him.
  20 June Informed he might be called upon to cooperate with Army.
1813 29 June Informed that Wilmington is now a distinct station.
1815 16 March Wrote from Charleston requesting orders to active service or to a northern station, as peace had been declared and his services were no longer required there, stating that his health required a change of climate.
  29 March Granted permission to leave Charleston Station and repair to any northern port and await further orders.
  1 June Wrote from New York, stating he would proceed to Newport, RI in a few days, where orders would find him.
  July Made a survey on USS Java at Baltimore for Board of Navy Commissioners.
  21 September Wrote from Newport preparatory to leaving for Charleston, asking whether his services would probably be required the following winter, in order that he might make arrangements.
  26 October Wrote from New York stating he was leaving next morning for Charleston. Continued to reside in Charleston until summer of 1819.
1819 15 September Wrote from Philadelphia requesting a command. Apparently last duty that of July 1815.
1820 1 May Circular letter from Navy Department addressed to him at Charleston, SC.
1823 31 July Died in South Carolina and buried at Jacksonboro in Bethel Cemetery.

Source: Adapted from the biographical sketch for John Herbert Dent, ZB Files, Navy Department Library, Naval History and Heritage Command.


Published: Mon May 23 17:01:34 EDT 2022