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John Smith, Captain, US Navy, 1780-1815

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John Smith, Captain, US Navy, 1780-1815

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 6:55PM GMT
Classification: Query
John Smith, Captain US Navy 1780-1815

John Smith was born January 2, 1780, perhaps in Scotland or Ireland. (Note 1). He was
nominated a Lieutenant in the US Navy on Feb. 27, 1799, by the President
(from South Carolina) and confirmed by the Senate on March 1 in a group of nine.
(Note 2). He served on the USS Chesapeake, Captain Samuel Barron, which was
launched in Dec. 1799. The Frigate had uneventful cruises in 1800 and returned
to Norfolk in Feb.1801. (Note 3}

In April 1801 he was ordered from the Chesapeake to the USS President.
He was one of the 36 Lieutenants retained in the Navy under the Peace
Establishment Act of March 3, 1801. It is unclear whether he served on
President in the Mediterranean in 1801.

On June 7, 1803, Lt Smith was ordered to Baltimore to take command the USS
Vixen, a 12 gun Schooner, then being built. On August 11, the Vixen departed
for the Mediterranean to be part of Preble's Squadron. September 13, the
Vixen arrived at Gibraltar. In May 1804, he was one of the 8 Lieutenants
promoted to Master and Commandant. On August 2, 1804, the Vixen
supported the attach of the Gunboats on Tripoli. On July 25,1805, Smith
took command of the Brig Siren,14. The ship returned to the United States
arriving May 28, 1806. Smith had over two and a half years of service
in the Mediterranean.

He then commanded the Sloop of War Wasp, 18, which left on a
voyage to Europe on June 10, 1807 and returned October 14.
Smith then served as a member of the Court Martial board
which tried James Barron. On October 29, 1810 he was promoted
to Captain. He commanded the Frigate, USS Essex, 28 in 1811.
In 1812 and 1813 he commanded the Frigate USS Congress, 38
on her Atlantic cruises in the Squadron commanded by John Rodgers.

After spending a frustrating winter and spring of 1814 refitting Congress
for another cruise, Captain John Smith was given the option in late May
of the command of Java at Baltimore or the new frigate Mohawk,
building at Sackets Harbor. Smith chose service on the lakes but informed
Secretary of Navy Jones on 29 June that he was unable to assume his new
duties because of poor health,.Smith did not return to active command
for the remainder of the war.
{The Naval War of 1812:A Documentary History Volume III 1814–1815}

John Smith was at Philadelphia, superintending the construction of the
Ship of the Line, Franklin, 74, when he died August 6,1815 and
is buried in the Saint Peter's Episcopal Churchyard. There is a
memorial erected by his brother-in-law, Samuel Patterson.

Captain Smith did not have the opportunity to gain the recognition
that many of his peers received. His successive commands during
the 1803 to 1814 period are a sure indication that he was a skillful
war ship commander that had the trust of the administration.

Note 1 - The place of birth and his parents are unknown. He
was married, but details are unknown.
Note 2 - Appointed a Lieutenant at age 19 is an indication that
he had experience with merchant ships.
Note 3 - His service in 1799 and from 1801 to August 1803
is obscure and documentation has not been found.

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