Thomas Anderson Conover
Dates of Service: 9/18/1849 - 1/16/1851
Birth Date: 4/17/1791
Death Date: 9/25/1864
Thomas Anderson Conover (from the Dutch “Van Kouwenhoven,” one of the original five “head families” in New Amsterdam in 1625) was born at Middletown Point, Monmouth, New Jersey on April 17, 1791. He was warranted a midshipman in January 1812 and first ordered to duty in the frigate Essex. Shortly after the start of the War of 1812, the ship captured the British sloop-of-war Alert on August 13, 1812. Two months later, Essex sailed to the Pacific where she decimated British whaling interests before her capture at Valparaiso, Chile by a superior British force in February 1814. Soon exchanged as a prisoner of war, Conover, still a midshipman, was sent to the Lake Champlain Squadron, where he commanded the gunboat Borer in a victory over the British in September 1814. Conover’s performance earned him a ceremonial sword from Congress. At war’s end, he served on the new frigate Guerriere, Stephen Decatur’s flagship, in which the Americans swiftly defeated Algerine warships in the second Barbary War. The Algerines sued for peace in June 1815. Conover was promoted to lieutenant in 1817 and then to commander in 1838, by which time he was commanding the light frigate John Adams. In October 1848 he was promoted to captain and ordered to command the razee (a ship-of-the-line, cut down to a frigate) Independence, flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron.
Independence was at Naples when the frigate Constitution appeared, under the command of Lieutenant James H. Rowan, with the news that her captain, John Gwinn, had recently died at Palermo, Sicily. Commodore Charles Morgan ordered Conover to take command of Constitution, which he did on September 18, 1849. For the next 14 months, the ship sailed between La Spezzia, Leghorn and Genoa, Italy, protecting American interests. The ship arrived back in the U.S. in January 1851 and was placed in ordinary.
In 1857, Conover was given the new temporary rank of flag officer and ordered to command the African Squadron with the frigate Cumberland as his flagship. In 26 months on station, he spent less than 26 days on patrol and arrested but one slaver. On July 16, 1862, he was promoted to the rank of commodore on the retired list. Nearly 25 years of his career had been spent on leave or awaiting orders. Thomas Conover died suddenly on September 25, 1864 at South Amboy, New Jersey.