1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Truxtun, Thomas

19470291911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 27 — Truxtun, Thomas

TRUXTUN, THOMAS (1755–1822), American naval officer, was born at Jamaica, Long Island, on the 17th of February 1755. He went young to sea, and during the War of Independence was first persuaded to serve in a royal ship. But having been wounded in an action with a privateer manned by his countrymen, it is said that he declared he would never fight them again. Henceforth he commanded a succession of privateers sent out to cruise against British trade and transports—the “St. James,” the “Mars,” the “Independence.” He had the reputation of being uniformly successful in all engagements with British vessels. When the independence of the United States was recognized he returned to trade with a high reputation as a seaman. He was the author of a treatise on longitude and latitude, of a “System of masting a 44-gun frigate,” and was an advocate for the foundation of a national navy. When the United States navy was reconstituted in 1798 he was one of the original corps of six captains. During the last years of the 18th and first of the 19th century American commerce was subject to much intolerable interference on the part of the French as well as of the British naval officers. It was against the first that Truxtun rendered the services which have made him a prominent personage in the history of the United States navy. In February 1799 he was captain of the United States “Constellation” (36) and on the 19th of that month he captured the French “L’Insurgente” (36). In the following year, and while still in command of the “Constellation,” he fought the French “Vengeance” (40), and drove her into Curaçao. The crippled state of his own ship, which had lost her mainmast, prevented him from taking possession of the enemy. In 1802 he was to have sailed in command of the squadron sent against the Barbary pirates, but a difference having occurred between him and the navy department in regard to the appointment of a captain to his flagship, his remonstrance against the official decision of the authorities was treated as a resignation, which it was apparently not meant to be, and he was not employed any further. He died at Philadelphia on the 5th of May 1822.