Thornton A. Jenkins -- born in Orange Court House, Va., on 11 December 1811 -- entered the Navy as a midshipman on 1 November 1828 and served in the West Indies in an expedition against pirates and slavers. After examining for a commission as a lieutenant, he placed first among 82 candidates. In August 1831 he assisted in suppressing Nat Turner's Rebellion in Southampton County, Va. From 1834 to 1842, Jenkins was assigned as an assistant to Professor Ferdinand R. Hassler on the Coast Survey.
In 1845 Jenkins was sent to Europe in order to examine lighthouse systems and other aids to navigation, but he returned to prevent being detained in case war should occur with Great Britain. In 1846 he made an elaborate report of the illuminants, towers, light-ships, buoys, beacons, and other adjuncts of the light-house service in England, France and other European countries.
Prior to the Mexican War (1846-1848), Jenkins served with the Brazilian and Mediterranean Squadrons. During the war with Mexico, as executive officer of the sloop-of-war Germantown, he led landing parties from his ship at Tuxpan and Tabasco. Later, he commanded the hospital ship Relief and the supply station at Salmedena Island. In the interval between the wars, he served in the receiving ship at Baltimore, returned to the Coast Survey and was Secretary of the Lighthouse Board.
From 1848 to 1851, when Professor Alexander D. Bache was superintendent of the Coast Survey, Jenkins was engaged, while in command of the schooner John Y. Mason and the steamers Jefferson and Corwin, in meteorological and hydrographic observations and in taking deep-sea temperatures in the Gulf Stream. The latter vessel was built from his designs and under his superintendence.
In October 1852, Jenkins was appointed Naval Secretary to the Light House Board, having for two years previous served as secretary to the temporary board. He was promoted to commander on 14 September 1855 and commanded the sloop Preble in the Paraguayan expedition of 1858-1859. Immediately upon his return, he was ordered to the Caribbean in search of William Walker, the American physician, lawyer, journalist and mercenary who organized several private military expeditions into Latin America with the intention of establishing English-speaking colonies under his personal control.
Since the Mexican War of Independence ended on 27 September 1821, Mexican liberals and the rebel conservatives warred constantly, the friction leading to a major civil war known as the Reform War (1858-1860). During the Second Siege of Veracruz in 1860, a Mexican officer named Thomas M. Marin of the Mexican Navy mutinied and escaped to Havana with several of his crewmen. There he armed and equipped five vessels to sail back to Veracruz to assist and supply conservative General Miramon's siege of the federal held city. The Mexican government declared Marin's fleet to be pirates, so ships of the Home Squadron were ordered to intervene and arrest Marin. Two of Marin's ships, the steamer General Miramon and the sloop-of-war Marquis of Havana, arrived at their rendezvous off Anton Lizardo soon afterwards. They were spotted by Commodore Thomas Turner’s frigate Savannah and he ordered Jenkin’s sloop Saratoga to intervene. As the U.S. ships approached and fired warning shots, the Mexicans attempted to escape, but were closely pursued until forced to engage. A short but bloody engagement resulted in the capture of the two conservative ships and over 30 casualties on both sides. Jenkins then convoyed General Miramon and Marquis of Havana to New Orleans.
In February 1861, Jenkins was again appointed Secretary to the Light House Board. He was promoted to captain on 16 July 1862 and was the senior officer at Coggins Point S.C., the James River, Va. action and at the attack on the Union forces at City Point, Va. in August 1862. Later that fall, he was engaged in blockading Mobile, Ala. and its approaches while in command of the screw sloop Oneida of the Western Gulf Blockading Squadron. He was fleet-captain and chief of staff of Farragut's squadron in the Mississippi, commanding the steam sloop Hartford at the passing of the Port Hudson and Grand Gulf batteries. He had encounters with Confederate forces at various points on the river and at the surrender of Port Hudson on 9 July 1863, was in chief command of the naval forces. During the blockade of Mobile in 1864, he commanded the sloop Richmond and the second division of Rear Adm. David G. Farragut's fleet and was left in command in Mobile Bay until February 1865 when he was ordered to the James River. He remained there until after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee on 9 April 1865.
Jenkins was Chief of the Bureau of Navigation from 1865 to 1869 and was promoted to commodore on 25 July 1866 and rear-admiral on 13 July 1870. He commanded the Asiatic Station from 1870 until his retirement on 12 December 1873. Rear Adm. Jenkins was President of the Naval Institute from 1883 to 1885. He died on 9 August 1893 and is interred in Section 1 of Arlington National Cemetery.
(Destroyer No. 42: displacement 742; length 293'11"; beam 27'; draft 8'4"; speed 30 knots; complement 86; armament 5 3-inch, 6 18-inch torpedo tubes; class Paulding)
The first Jenkins (Destroyer No. 42) was laid down on 24 March 1911 at Bath, Maine, by Bath Iron Works; launched on 29 April 1912; sponsored by Alice Jenkins, daughter of the late Rear Adm. Jenkins; and commissioned on 15 June 1912, Lt. Cmdr. Edwin H. DeLany in command.
In the years that preceded World War I, Jenkins, based at Newport, R.I., trained with the Atlantic Fleet, sailing to the Caribbean for winter maneuvers and operating along the east coast in the summer. In addition, she sailed to Tampico, Mexico in mid-April 1914 to support the U.S. occupation of Vera Cruz.
On 8 October 1916, Jenkins proceeded to sea in order to answer distress signals from Nantucket Shoals Lightship. As she steamed, the ship learned that a German submarine (U-53 , Kapitänleutnant Hans Rose, commanding) had sunk several merchant vessels nearby the lightship, but all of the crews were safely on board. When Jenkins arrived, she found a large Dutch steamer, Blommersdijk with a life boat alongside 500 yards southwest of the lightship. Another vessel, the British passenger liner Stephano, had also been torpedoed, 2,000 yards to the south east.
Jenkins then received a radio call from the lightship to pick up survivors and as she steered in that direction, she crossed the bow of U-53 that displayed no flag and quickly disappeared as Jenkins continued on to the lightship where she took on board the captain and nine crewmen of the schooner Victor & Ethan of Boston that had been sunk in a collision with the steamer Harry Luckenbach two days earlier.
As the war raged in Europe, Jenkins continued patrol operations along the North American coast in search of possible German U-boats. On 1 May 1917, she was ordered to Boston to prepare for distant service. On 21 May, her repairs complete, Jenkins steamed for St. Johns, Newfoundland, and arrived four days later. She sailed for Queenstown [Cobh], Ireland, on 26 May and voyage repairs following her arrival, stood out for patrol on 5 June.
On 10 June 1917, Jenkins collided with the British sloop HMS Laburnun, necessitating the destroyer’s return to the Cork Harbor’s Haulbowline dry dock for repair. By 7 July, with work completed, the destroyer got underway for further patrol duty. Ten days later, while on convoy duty on 17 July, Jenkins sighted a submarine running on the surface. She worked up to full speed, sounded general quarters, and headed for the U-boat which quickly submerged. After searching for two hours, she found no sign of the boat and carried on with her duties.
On 28 September 1917, Jenkins stood out in company with Ericsson (Destroyer No. 56) bound for a rendezvous with the American steamer Philadelphia. She received a report soon afterwards from HMS Cullist that a damaged submarine was approximately 30 miles to the eastward. Jenkins immediately changed course and worked up to 20 knots to give chase. When she sighted the U-boat, Jenkins engaged her with gunfire, but had to stop the pursuit after 15 minutes because of darkness.
Jenkins along with Shaw (Destroyer No. 68) was convoying the American Line Mail steamship New York on 16 January 1918 through the Irish Sea west of Beardsley Island. During daylight, the destroyers patrolled ahead with one on each side of the bow of New York. After nightfall, Jenkins dropped back astern while Shaw stayed ahead. At 1940 New York opened fire with her stern guns at an object on her port quarter. Shaw went to general quarters and proceeded at full speed around the bow of New York and headed for the direction of the firing. Shaw arrived in time to see the tracer and last shot fired from New York clearly aimed at Jenkins. As the firing ceased, Jenkins turned on all of her running lights.
Soon afterwards, Jenkins informed Shaw that one man (Sea2c William Lusso) had been killed and three injured and that they needed medical assistance. Shaw then lay alongside and transferred Assistant Surgeon Thomas D. Baxter and CPhM Orvil Driver with medical instruments and bandages so that they could render whatever aid was needed. Later, Jenkins was ordered to proceed to Queenstown if she was able to, so she got underway as ordered. Shaw proceeded at top speed to catch up with New York and continued to escort her as best she could by herself in the darkness.
On 8 July 1918, Jenkins was escorting Convoy HH-59 consisting of 34 merchant ships in company with Sampson (Destroyer No. 63), Downes (Destroyer No. 45), Terry (Destroyer No. 25), Sterrett (Destroyer No. 27) and McCall (Destroyer No. 28), augmented by two newer destroyers: Stockton (Destroyer No. 73) and Stevens (Destroyer No. 86). One of the British steamships, Mars, en route for Le Havre, was straggling two miles astern of the convoy when she was struck by two torpedoes from U-92 (Kapitänleutnant Günther Ehrlich). Jenkins, patrolling the starboard quarter of the convoy, went hard left rudder, rang up emergency full power, went to general quarters and steamed towards the stricken ship. When she arrived, Mars was settling rapidly by the stern and turning slowly to the right. Jenkins dropped three depth charges 1,000 yards out at ten second intervals. Mars then slipped beneath the waves as her survivors in two lifeboats pulled clear of the wreckage. While Sterrett, Terry and Sampson continued to drop depth charges and search for the U-boat, Jenkins circled the wreckage, stopped to windward and picked up the 28 survivors.
Based on Queenstown, Jenkins continued escort and patrol duty for the duration of the World War. Following the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, Jenkins sailed for home, arriving at Boston on 3 January 1919. She operated along the Atlantic coast until arriving at Philadelphia on 20 July. The destroyer remained there until she was decommissioned on 31 October 1919 and berthed with the reserve fleet.
Jenkins was stricken from the Navy Register on 8 March 1935 in accordance with the London Naval Treaty and sold to Michael Flynn of Brooklyn, N.Y. on 23 April 1935 for scrap.
|Date Assumed Command
|Lt. Cmdr. Edwin H. DeLany
|15 June 1912
|Lt. John P. Jackson
|4 October 1913
|Lt. Frederick V. McNair, Jr.
|26 July 1914
|Lt. Arthur W. Sears
|4 August 1915
|Lt. William H. Lee
|17 May 1916
|Lt. Cmdr. James L. Kauffman
|26 November 1916
|Cmdr. Henry D. Cooke, Jr.
|15 August 1917
|Lt. Cmdr. Timothy J. Keleher
|2 January 1918
|Lt. Cmdr. James L. Kauffman
|12 September 1918
|Cmdr. Henry G. Shonerd
|29 August 1918
|Lt. Cmdr. John H. Holt Jr.
|24 January 1919
|Lt. Cmdr. Hamilton Harlow
|14 June 1919
Paul J. Marcello
2 February 2017