Thomas Truxtun was born 17 February 1755 near Hemptstead, Long Island, New York. He was impressed into the British Navy at the age of 15 where he declined a midshipman's commission. By the age of twenty he had his first command, the merchant sloop CHARMING POLLY. This ship was captured by the British Privateersman and as a result Truxtun's next four commands were privateers.
During the Revolution, Truxtun saw action in both the Caribbean and Eastern Atlantic. He captured four prizes in INDEPENDENCE and five in MARS. After a severe action with ST. JAMES where he defeated the British Privateer GOODRICH and captured the most valuable cargo of the war, General Washington declared his service worth a regiment dinner in Truxtun's honor. His final command during the war was COMMERCE.
Following the war Truxtun bought the merchant trader LONDON PACKET, which he commanded and later renamed CANTON for his trip to Canton, China. One of his first voyages found him entrusted with the task of returning Benjamin Franklin to the United States from a tour as Ambassador to France. The CANTON was one of a very few ships bold enough to risk the trip to China, doing it twice.
When the threat of war with France arose, Truxtun was appointed a Captain in the new United States Navy in 1794 and assigned lineal number 6. His first assignment was to put into commission the frigate CONSTELLATION under construction in Baltimore, Maryland. It is a measure of his talents that this was the first of three frigates under construction to put to sea. The CONSTELLATION, in two separate encounters, defeated L'INSURGENT, France's fastest ship-of-the-line and LA VENGENCE, a much heavier armed ship than CONSTELLATION. These were two major naval victories of the infant Navy. It was during this period that he attained the title Commodore as commander of the Caribbean squadron. This was followed by Command of PRESIDENT near the end of the war in 1800 and in 1802, Commodore Truxtun tendered his resignation.
Truxtun's major contributions, however, were not restricted to handling at sea, but instead included formulation of sound training measures. Although other ships went to sea at this time, none had crews which had from the beginning the sense of teamwork as did those of CONSTELLATION. Among his junior Officers were such future leaders as David Porter, Andrew Sterrett, Isaac Hull, John Rogers, and Isaac Chauncey. He wrote a treatise on celestial navigation marking him as one of the few men of his day who had an extensive understanding of this art. He designed the original Navy signal manual and wrote the forerunner of today's "Navy Regulations." He was known for his enforcement of regulations; strict but just and unlike many of his contemporaries, there is no record of any threat or resistance to his authority.
During the eight years that he served in the United States Navy, Thomas Truxtun truly served his country to the fullest extent. Many of his junior officers attributed their successes to his tutelage in their iirst years. His was a navy to reckon with. He entered politics in Pennsylvania after his resignation and is buried in Philadephia where he died in 1822.
Ships named after Commodore Thomas Truxtun: