Archive for the 'Quasi War with France' Category

Aug 20

The Posterity of the Ganges

Thursday, August 20, 2015 6:00 AM
Portrait of Thomas Macdonough, who served aboard the Ganges. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Portrait of Thomas Macdonough, who served aboard the Ganges. Courtesy Library of Congress.

It is frequently the case that a ship is given the name of an individual as a honorarium. Names such as Campbell, Fletcher, Porter, and many, many others are accepted in kind. So when individuals are given the name of a ship, suddenly we take notice that something very remarkable is afoot. Such is the case of the surname Ganges. The story of how a family came to be named after a 26-gun sloop-of-war is one that upholds the finest traditions of the U.S. Navy.

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Jan 23

Thomas Tingey’s Lasting Legacy: The Washington Navy Yard

Friday, January 23, 2015 11:10 AM

By Joshua L. Wick, Naval History and Heritage Command

From Commander-in-Chief of the British Squadron off Newfoundland to architect and superintendent of the Navy Yard in Washington D.C., Commodore Thomas Tingey might not have had a gallant naval career but his experiences and knowledge of the sea surely set him up to become a distinguished and notable leader in our Navy’s history. This is especially true today at the Washington Navy Yard on the 215th anniversary of its establishment.

Long-time superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard -- Commodore Thomas Tingey. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

Long-time superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard — Commodore Thomas Tingey.
Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

With the establishment of the United States Navy in 1794, Tingey started his naval career with his commissioning as a captain on Sept. 3, 1798. This, however, isn’t where his seafaring career began.

Born Sept. 11, 1750, the London native joined the British navy as a midshipman in 1771. He rose through the ranks and held several commands before leaving the Royal Navy for a career as a merchant trader commanding ships in the West Indies. Just prior to the Revolutionary War, Tingey immigrated to the British colony calling itself the United States. He was married in 1777.

His 1798 commission was signed by President John Adams and shortly thereafter, Tingey fought in the Quasi-War with France and Spain.

Tingey’s legacy in the U.S. Navy wasn’t made on the sea, but instead on land – the shores of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, to be exact.

On Jan. 22, 1800, Tingey was appointed superintendent of the newly-purchased Navy Yard at Washington, D.C. Among his jobs was to lay out and command the first naval base for the new republic.

This project became almost a labor of love for Tingey. At the age of 51, Tingey was discharged from the Navy in 1801, but not from the Navy Yard. He remained as superintendent.

Four years later he was recommissioned, again a captain, and gained the title of commandant of the Navy Yard. After 14 years building his beloved yard, Tingey was ordered to burn it in 1814 to keep the British from using it when they invaded Washington during the War of 1812.

Reluctantly he followed the order.

“I was the last officer who quitted the city after the enemy had possession of it, having fully performed all orders received, in which was included that myself retiring, and not to fall into their possession. I was also the first who returned and the only one who ventured in on the day on which they were peaceably masters of it”. – Letter to his daughter Sept. 17, 1814.  

WASHINGTON An aerial photograph taken in July 2006 of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

WASHINGTON An aerial photograph taken in July 2006 of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

His home had been spared from the flames, and he once again took up residence in Quarters A (now known as Tingey House and home to the Chief of Naval Operations). Within a few years, the Navy Yard was rebuilt and Tingey commanded it until his death Feb. 23, 1829.

Commodore Tingey was buried in what was described as with “unusual military honors” in the Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

Although the Washington Navy Yard never regained its prominence as a shipbuilding facility after its burning in 1812, the facility was revived as the Naval Gun Factory in the 1900s through World War II. Today it is the headquarters for numerous commands, including the Naval Sea Systems Command, Commander, Navy Installations Command, Military Sealift Command, U.S. Navy Band, and the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Tingey’s service to the Navy did not go unnoticed by his progeny. A grandson and a great-grandson, both named Thomas Tingey Craven, each rose to the rank of admiral, one in the Civil War and the other during World I and World War II. Tingey himself had three ships carry his name: USS Tingey (TB 34) (DD 272) and (DD 539).

May 11

Cutting Out Sandwich on May 11, 1800

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 12:01 AM

Constitution’s “Trojan Horse”

Of all the “forgotten wars” in the history of the United States, the undeclared Quasi-War with France (1797-1801) likely ranks at the top of the list. A sea war, the young United States put its untested, brand-new war ships into the Caribbean to protect American merchant shipping from the depredations of French privateers. USS Constitution, commanded by Captain Silas Talbot and first Lieutenant Isaac Hull, sailed for the West Indies in September, 1799. April 1800, found Talbot sailing Constitution near Puerto Plata harbor, observing the British Sandwich, now a French letter of marquee, loading. Talbot aimed to capture the vessel and prevent her cargo from going to France. Constitution was too big to enter the harbor but the lucky capture of the Sally, an illegal American trader, gave Talbot the “Trojan horse” he needed to cut-out the Sandwich.

On May 10th, LT Hull took command of the Sally and sailed with Marine Captain Carmick and Lieutenant Amory and about 90 men. At noon the next day, Hull and crew – a few were on deck, disguised as common sailors (as was Hull), the rest, crammed below awaiting their orders to attack – approached the Sandwich. Laying the Sally’s starboard bow alongside, Hull let go the anchor and gave the order to board. According to Capt. Carmick, the crew “went on board like devils, and it was as much as the first lieutenant and myself could do to prevent blood being spilt.” Capt. Talbot of Constitution commended all involved: “They ran alongside the ship, and boarded her, sword in hand, without the loss of a man…At the moment the ship was boarded, Agreeably to my plan, captain Carmick and lieutenant Amory landed with the marines, up to their necks in water, and spiked all the cannon in the fort, before the commanding officer had time to recollect and prepare himself for defence.” The land and sea action was carried off in 30 minutes. By that evening, the Sandwich, which had been down-rigged, was re-rigged and ready to sail from the harbor.

Unfortunately, the Sandwich was later deemed an unlawful prize for Constitution as she had been taken in the neutral Spanish harbor of Puerto Plata. But it was not a total loss – two important events had occurred with the expedition. The cutting out of the Sandwich was the earliest land/sea joint operation between the new United States Navy and the newly re-established United States Marine Corps. This campaign, although of short duration, would set the stage for the next 200+ years for highly efficient and successful joint operations of the Navy and Marines all over the world. Capturing the Sandwich was also considered by Isaac Hull, in his long and successful Navy career, to be his first glorious adventure. He had succeeded in replicating his father’s exploit in the American Revolution – to board and capture an armed vessel. He was so proud of this achievement that he had Capt. Talbot’s commendatory letter printed into broadside format and when, later in life, someone asked for a souvenir or biographical information, Hull provided a copy of the broadside. He also had the moment captured on canvas by the esteemed Boston painter, Robert Salmon in the oil “Cutting out of the privateer Sandwich at Puerto Plata, 11 May 1800”, which today hangs in the Boston Athenaeum.