Commander William Bainbridge
William Bainbridge was born in Princeton, New Jersey on May 7, 1774 to Dr. Absalom Bainbridge (a loyalist during the American Revolution) and Mary Taylor Bainbridge.
After spending time in the merchant marine, Bainbridge accepted a lieutenant’s commission in the United States Navy in 1798. He commanded the schooner Retaliation during the Quasi-War with France, though his ship was captured by two French frigates. Despite the capture, Bainbridge was promoted to master commandant and then to captain. Later, while in command of the frigate Philadelphia in 1803, Bainbridge and his crew ran aground in Tripoli and were taken prisoner. He was released in 1805 and spent the next several years supervising naval facilities and serving again in the merchant marine.
Despite having lost two U.S. Navy vessels in the two previous wars, Bainbridge was assigned command of USS Constitution on September 15, 1812 and sailed on the ship’s second cruise of the War of 1812. While off the coast of Brazil on December 29, 1812, USS Constitution fought and defeated HMS Java. Bainbridge was wounded twice during the battle but remained in command. Java was scuttled and Constitution returned to Boston for repairs. Bainbridge received several honors for his valor, including a Congressional gold medal. He detached from the ship on July 18, 1813
Later in his career, Bainbridge served as commandant of the Boston Navy Yard, naval commissioner in Washington, and then commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard. He died on July 27, 1833 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.Read More