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Adapted from "Bainbridge, William, U.S. Navy," produced by Office of Naval Records and Library, not dated, located in William Bainbridge ZB file, Navy Department Library.

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  • Barbary Wars 1801-1805, 1815
  • War of 1812 1812-1815
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William Bainbridge

7 May 1774 - 27 July 1833

Commodore William Bainbridge, USN (1774-1833). Oil on wood, 30" by 21", by John Wesley Jarvis (1780-1840). Painted circa 1814.Painting in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection. Transferred from the U.S. Naval Lyceum, 1892. Official U.S. Navy P...
Caption: Commodore William Bainbridge, USN

USS Bainbridge histories:


Born in Princeton, New Jersey, 7 May 1774. Appointed Lieutenant, 3 August 1798: Master Commandant (Commander), 29 March 1799: Captain, 20 May 1800. Died 27 July 1833.

At the age of 15 he entered the merchant service where he made an unusual and distinguished record.

Upon his appointment as lieutenant in the Navy he was ordered to command the schooner or galley Retaliation, cruising in the West Indies. November 1798 - after a brave resistance, she was captured by the French frigates Volontier and Insurgente and carried into Guadeloupe. While here Bainbridge secured the release of a number of American prisoners and the Retaliation was restored to him by order of the Governor, that he might take them to the United States. Upon his return he was given command of Norfolk and during the years 1799-1800 made a number of captures of French privateers. May 1800 - he was ordered to the frigate George Washington to carry “tribute” from the United States to the Dey of Algiers. He was employed by the Dey of Algiers to carry his ambassador and gifts to the Sultan of Turkey and was instrumental in securing an order from the Sultan to the Dey obliging him to release 400 prisoners.

He returned to the United States and on 2 May 1801 was ordered to Essex, one of the vessels of the squadron of Commodore Richard Dale fitted out to cruise against the Barbary Powers.

March 1803 he was superintending the building of vessels for the US Navy at Philadelphia and Baltimore.

21 May 1803 ordered to command the Philadelphia, 44-gun frigate, of Commodore Edward Preble’s Squadron, to cruise against Tripolitan cruisers in the Mediterranean. 13 July 1803 ordered by the Department to sail in advance of the squadron. 26 August 1803 off Cape de Gatt, captured the Moorish ship Meshboha and recaptured from the Moors the American brig Cecelia.

31 October 1803 while in chase of a Tripolitan cruiser, the Philadelphia struck on a rock in the harbor of Tripoli, struck fast in the sands, was surrounded by Tripolitan gunboats and captured. Captain Bainbridge, his officers and men were taken on shore and imprisoned in the castle overlooking the harbor for 19 months. Upon the establishment of a treaty of peace with Tripoli, 3 June 1805, Captain Bainbridge returned to the United States in the frigate President. He was granted furlough during the years 1806-1807 and made a voyage in a merchant vessel. 1809-1810 again on duty in the Navy commanding the President. 1810-1811 on furlough and made voyages in merchant vessels to India and Russia, where hearing rumors of trouble with England he gave up his ship and returned home.

28 July 1812 he was ordered to command the Constitution and sailed on a cruise 28 October 1812. 9 November 1812 captured the brig South Carolina. 29 Dec 1812 after an engagement of 1 hour and 45 minutes captured the British frigate, Java, of 49 guns and 400 men. During this fight Bainbridge was twice wounded.

Captain William Bainbridge, USN, Commanding Officer of USS Constitution. Engraving of the medal authorized by the United States Congress in honor of Captain Bainbridge's 29 December 1812 victory in the battle between USS Constitution and HMS Java...
Caption: Engraving of the medal authorized by the United States Congress in honor of Captain Bainbridge's 29 December 1812 victory in the battle between USS Constitution and HMS Java.

His next duty was in command of the Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts. July-December 1815 commanded the Independence, Mediterranean Squadron. 1816-1819 on shore duty at various stations. 1819-1821 commanding the Columbus, flagship Mediterranean Squadron. 1821-1823 commanding first the Philadelphia, then the Boston Stations. December 24, 1824 - June 1827 Naval Commissioner. 1829-1831 commanding Philadelphia Station. He was again in command of the Charlestown Navy Yard until 19 November 1832, when he was granted leave. His health failed and his death occurred at Philadelphia in 1833. He was buried in the churchyard of Christ Church that city.

Documents in the Navy Department Library:

1) ALS dated 26 February 1794, Scarborough, Tobago. To Messrs. Jones and Clark in Charleston, South Carolina. Describing market and naval dispositions in the West Indies.
2) DS dated 30 June 1818. To Lieutenant Josiah Tattnall. Orders to report for duty on board the U.S. frigate Macedonian.
3) ALS dated 21 December 1820. Order convening a General Court Martial aboard USS Columbus, signed by Commo. Bainbridge.
4) LS dated 29 September 1825, Washington City. Thanking Thomas Chew, Purser, USN, for his assistance.
5) LS dated 26 May 1827, Washington City. Vis-a-vis plans for British dock yards.

Commodore William Bainbridge, USN (1774-1833). Engraving by W. Wellstood after a painting by Alonzo Chappel, published by Johnson Fry & Company, New York, during the later 1850s. A facsimile of Bainbridge's signature is included in the print. Nav...

Record of the service of Captain William Bainbridge, US Navy

1798 August 3 - Appointed to command the galley Retaliation.
1798 August 15 - Accepted appointment.
1798 August 18 - Sent commission dated 3 August 1798.
1799 March 29 - Commission as master commandant dated this date.
1799 March 30 - Commission delivered.
1800 May 20 - Promoted to captain.
1800 November 27 - Commission dated, letter sent, and to take rank from 20 May 1800.
1801 April 22 - Retained and ordered for Essex.
1803 February 22 - Ordered to Washington.
1803 March 7 - Ordered to superintendent building of 16 Gun Ship at Philadelphia.
1803 March 21 - Ordered to superintendent building of schooner at Baltimore.
1803 May 21 - Ordered to take command of Philadelphia.
1803 May 24 - Released from superintendence of the brig.
1803 June 19 - Ordered to recruit a crew for Philadelphia. Command of Philadelphia on the Mediterranean Station.
1803 October 31 - Taken prisoner by the Tripolitans.
1805 June 3 - Liberated.
1805 September - Returned home in the President.
1805 June 29 - Court of Enquiry held on conduct in the loss of Philadelphia – acquitted with honor.
1806 June 7 - Furloughed for merchant service.
1807 March 26 - Furloughed for 12 months.
1807 October 30 - Ordered to survey a part of the Delaware River a little below Mud Island.
1807 December 7 - Appointed member of a Court Martial and ordered to Norfolk.
1808 November 22 - Ordered to Washington as a member of Court of Enquiry.
1809 January 25 - Ordered from Philadelphia to Washington prepared for service.
1809 March 30 - Ordered to Philadelphia to arrange a recruiting.
1809 June 1- Send an officer to Baltimore with Captain Evans’s men.
1809 August 11 - On arrival at Hampton to be senior officer and to have general command.
1809 December 6 - Authorized to keep on board the President, Mr. Bennett, pilot, with pay of master.
1810 May 8 - Furloughed to go to India.
1811 March 14 - Furloughed to go to Russia.
1812 March 2 - Ordered to command Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts.
1812 July 28 - Ordered to command Constitution.
1817 February 3 - Ordered from Boston to Washington.
1818 November 4 - Ordered from Boston to Washington.
1819 July 7 - Permitted to be absent from Boston six weeks.
1819 October 29 - Ordered from Boston to Columbus.
1820 April 28 - Sailed for Mediterranean, arriving at Gibraltar, 4 June 1820.
1821 November 9 - Ordered from Boston to Philadelphia to command.
1822 January 7 - Permitted to go to Boston.
1823 February 5 - Permitted to come to Washington.
1823 August 1 Ordered to Navy Yard, Charlestown.
1825 December 23 - Appointment of Naval Commissioner confirmed this date.
1829 June 21 - To command Philadelphia Station.
1831 March 11 - Detached from command of Philadelphia Yard.
1831 June 27 - Leave two months.
1832 July 13 - To command of the Charlestown Yard.
1832 November 19 - Leave two months from 10th next month.

Published: Fri Jan 31 09:42:11 EST 2020