Captain John and Mrs. Caroline Gwinn
John Gwinn, III was born in Maryland on June 11, 1791 and was warranted a midshipman in 1809 at age 18. He served during the War of 1812 and became a prisoner of war when the sloop-of-war Frolic was captured by the British Royal Navy in 1814. Gwinn was promoted to lieutenant in 1816 and saw duty at the U.S. Navy Yards in Charlestown, Massachusetts and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Caroline Salles Lynch was born in 1803. She and John Gwinn married on December 22, 1823, while John was a lieutenant at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The couple had four children, three of whom survived to adulthood.
Gwinn was promoted to captain in 1842. Though ailing, he took command of USS Constitution in 1848 and sailed for the Mediterranean. At Algiers, he took aboard U.S. Consul General Daniel Smith McCauley and his family for transfer to Egypt. As they entered the port of Alexandria on February 24, 1849, McCauley’s wife, Frances Ann Jones McCauley, gave birth to a son named Constitution Stewart McCauley. From there, the ship traveled west to Italian waters and eventually anchored off Gaeta, Italy, where Gwinn invited Pope Pius IX aboard as the first pontiff to set foot on sovereign American territory. Shortly thereafter, Gwinn’s health deteriorated. He died on September 4, 1849, becoming the first captain to die while in command of USS Constitution.
Caroline learned of her husband’ death in a letter from USS Constitution’s Assistant Surgeon P. J. Horwitz. Gwinn was buried with full military honors at Palermo, and in 1850 his remains were brought back to Philadelphia and interred at the Glenwood Cemetery. Caroline joined him upon her death in 1864. In 1931, both John and Caroline’s remains were relocated to Arlington National Cemetery.Read More