Do you know about the First Revolutionary War Commander and Chief of the Continental Navy?

I spent 6 years Active Duty Navy and 10 years in the reserves, and I don’t remember ever hearing about this man.

On February 26, 1802, Esek Hopkins, an American Revolutionary War Admiral and commander and chief of the Continental Navy died. He had been born in Rhode Island on April 26, 1718. He began his sea career captaining merchant ships. During the French and Indian War, he became a successful privateer. A privateer was an entrepreneur of the high seas who claimed the enemy’s merchant goods. In other words, he was a pirate.

Esek Hopkins

Esek Hopkins

In 1775, at the beginning of the American Revolution, Rhode Island appointed Hopkins as commander of its military forces. Later that year he was promoted to Commander in Chief of the  Continental Navy. In mid-February of the following year under orders from the Continental congress, Commodore Hopkins disembarked from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to attack British maritime forces in the Chesapeake Bay and  along coast off Rhode Island.

Hopkins knew that would have been a suicide mission, so instead undertook the Navy’s first amphibious offensive. On 3 March, his squadron landed party ashore on New Providence Island, in the Bahamas and seized the local defensive works and captured equipment and supplies which would be used by the continental military. On 4 April 1776. On the way back home, Hopkins encountered and captured two small British warships. Two days later they  engaged HMS Glasgow but without consequence. They returned to New London, Connecticut on April eighth.

Hopkins was censured by congress, but he continued to be in charge of the American Navy for another year, but was dismissed from service early in 1778. However, with his men and with Rhode Islanders he stayed popular. He served in that State’s legislature through most of the next decade and was active in Rhode Island politics until he died February  26, 1802. RIP Admiral Hopkins.

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