Thomas Scott Fillebrown was born in Washington, District of Columbia, on August 13, 1824. He was appointed Midshipman in the U.S. Navy on October 19, 1841, and on November 2 reported to the receiving ship at Boston, Massachusetts. On April 2, 1842, he was transferred to the Congress, in which he served for a year.
Warranted Midshipman, from October 19, 1841, he entered the second class of the newly established Navy Academy on May 3, 1843, on appointment from Maine, and completed the four-year course, with warrant as Passed Midshipman, from August 10, 1847. During that period he made a summer cruise in the steamer Mississippi in 1845. After graduation, he served in the Fredonia in 1847, and in July 1848 was ordered to the St. Lawrence for further sea duty. On November 8, 1850, he reported to the Naval Observatory, Washington, for a tour of shore duty where he assumed after a year on board the Lexington, in 1851-1852.
He was appointed Acting Master on December 18, 1852, was warranted in that rank from September 14, 1855, and subsequently was promoted as follows: Lieutenant, September 15, 1855; Lieutenant Commander, July 16, 1862; Commander July 25, 1866; Captain, January 6, 1874; and Commodore, to date from March 31, 1884.
With rank of Master (Acting), reported on December 18, 1852, to the sloop Vincennes, and after detachment on July 14, 1856, and there months leave, he returned to the Naval Observatory where he served until January 11, 1858. He then joined Release, store ship preparing for sea at Boston, to carry stores to the Mediterranean Squadron, remaining on board until June 1859. On July 9, he was ordered to command of the Anacostia, and following two years in that command, was assigned to USS Roanoke on May 20, 1861.
During the Civil War period, he served at the Navy Yard, New York; in command of the steam gunboat Chenango from November 1863 to April 1864; in command of the Passaic, a unit of the South Atlantic Squadron; until June 1865; then again had duty at the Naval Observatory, Washington, DC. On July 30, 1866, he was detached for duty at the Hydrographic Office, Navy Department, as Officer in Charge, and served in that capacity from August, that year, until July 1868. He remained on duty in the Hydrographic Office until January 1869, when he assumed command of the Narragansett, operating with the North Squadron, Pacific Fleet. After detachment in July 1869, he became a member of the Board of Examiners, and on September 8, 1870, was transferred to duty in the Bureau of Equipment, Navy Department.
Leaving the Bureau of Equipment two years later for duty afloat, he took command of the Wachusett, assigned to European Station, on September 28, 1872. In January 1874 he was ordered detached and to command the Shenandoah, also on European Station, where he remained for three months longer. He then returned to the United States and served for two years as Executive Officer of the Norfolk, Virginia, Navy Yard, in the rank of Captain.
He commanded the Powhatan from March 4 to August 22, 1876, and after temporary duty at temporary duty at the Navy Yard, Norfolk, again assumed command of the Powhatan, on March 20, 1877. That vessel served as flagship of Rear Admiral Robert H. Wyman, Commander in Chief, North Atlantic Station, during the period of Captain Fillebrown’s command, ending October 2, 1879. He next had special duty at the Navy Department, Washington, D.C., from January 5, 1880, until October 1, 1882.
On May 10, 1883, while awaiting orders, he received his letter of promotion to Commodore, and on October 16, 1883, was ordered to duty on board the Hartford, flagship of the Commander in Chief, Asiatic Station, Rear Admiral John Lee Davis, USN. He reached the Hartford by steamer on October 20, and having returned on November 17, was ordered home to wait orders. On February 20, 1884, he was designated President of the Naval Examining Board, to continue until July 1, 1884; however, on March 25,1884, he was ordered to New York, where he served as Commandant of the Navy Yard from March 31, until his death ( while on active duty) in New York on September 26, 1884.