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William Bainbridge, U. S. N.

William Bainbridge, U. S. N. Engraving
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Biographical Sketch of William Bainbridge

William Bainbridge (1774-1833) referred to himself as a "child of adversity." Few could argue with the captain. The  son of a Tory family from New Jersey, he went to sea in 1789 and for nearly ten years he sailed in the merchant service. In 1798 he took a commission in the new United States navy. He sailed in command of the schooner Retaliation which, soon after her arrival in the West Indies, was captured by the French. Promoted to captain in 1801, Bainbridge took the USS George Washington to Algiers, carrying tribute for the Dey, who forced Bainbridge to carry him and his suite to Constantinople for a visit with the Sultan. After this unhappy voyage, he took command of the ill-fated Philadelphia. The one bright spot in Bainbridge's career occurred early in the War of 1812 when, in command of USS Constitution, he captured the HMS Java. The officer corps of the early navy was riven with jealousies, none more famous than that which divided Stephen Decatur and Bainbridge, who was a central figure in arranging the fatal duel between Decatur and James Barron. Bainbridge completed his career as commandant of the Charlestown Navy Yard.