Thomas Tingey

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Commodore Thomas Tingey
Thomas Tingey.jpg
Commodore Tingey in uniform
Born(1750-09-11)11 September 1750
Died23 February 1829(1829-02-23) (aged 78)
Resting place Congressional Cemetery
Nationality American

Thomas Tingey (11 September 1750 – 23 February 1829) was a commodore of the United States Navy. Originally serving in the British Royal Navy, Tingey later served in the Continental Navy. Tingey served with distinction during the Quasi-War and served as the commandant of the navy yard until his death.

Commodore is a naval rank used in many navies that is superior to a navy captain, but below a rear admiral. Non-English-speaking nations often use the rank of flotilla admiral, counter admiral, or senior captain as an equivalent, although counter admiral may also correspond to rear admiral.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of US Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. It has the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 336,978 personnel on active duty and 101,583 in the Ready Reserve, the U.S. Navy is the third largest of the U.S. military service branches in terms of personnel. It has 290 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of June 2019, making it the third-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force and the United States Army.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.



Early life

Tingey was born in London on 11 September 1750. As a youth, he served in the British Royal Navy as a midshipman aboard HMS Panther and later in July 1771 commanded a blockhouse at Chateaux Bay on the Labrador coast. He later commanded merchant vessels in the West Indies before coming to the colonies and investing in the East India Company. According to unverified tradition, Tingey served in the Continental Navy during the American War for Independence. [1]

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

A midshipman is an officer of the junior-most rank, in the Royal Navy, United States Navy, and many Commonwealth navies. Commonwealth countries which use the rank include Canada, Australia, Bangladesh, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Kenya.

Six ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Panther, after the panther, whilst another two were planned:

In September 1798 Tingey was commissioned a captain in the United States Navy and distinguished himself in the Quasi War with France, as commander of the man-of-war Ganges. During that time, Tingey commanded a squadron which cruised the waters of the Windward Passage between Hispaniola and Cuba to protect American shipping from French privateers. Tingey commanded Ganges as she took four prizes and is known for his bloodless encounter with the British frigate HMS Surprise. He was discharged from the Navy following the conclusion of the Quasi War in 1802.

Captain (naval) Naval military rank

Captain is the name most often given in English-speaking navies to the rank corresponding to command of the largest ships. The rank is equal to the army rank of colonel.

France Republic in Europe with several non-European regions

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Man-of-war Type of Royal Naval warship, from 16th to 19th century

The man-of-war was a British Royal Navy expression for a powerful warship or frigate from the 16th to the 19th century. Although the term never acquired a specific meaning, it was usually reserved for a ship armed with cannon and propelled primarily by sails, as opposed to a galley which is propelled primarily by oars.

Washington Navy Yard

In January 1800, Tingey was appointed to supervise construction of the new Washington Navy Yard at Washington, D.C.. He was well connected in Washington D.C. political circles and had close relations with members of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's cabinet. On 23 November 1804, he was again commissioned a captain in the Navy and made Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard and naval agent, posts he held until his death.

Washington Navy Yard United States historic place

The Washington Navy Yard (WNY) is the former shipyard and ordnance plant of the United States Navy in Southeast Washington, D.C. It is the oldest shore establishment of the U.S. Navy.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington; D.C.; or the district, is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first president of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city, located on the Potomac River bordering Maryland and Virginia, is one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

Thomas Jefferson Third President of the United States

Thomas Jefferson was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he had served as the second vice president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights, motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level.

1806 portrait by Charles B. J. Fevret de Saint-Memin Charles B. J. Fevret de Saint-Memin, Thomas Tingey, 1806, NGA 50840.jpg
1806 portrait by Charles B. J. Févret de Saint-Mémin

As naval agent in accordance with the naval regulations of the era, Commodore Tingey received 1% of his Washington Navy Yard disbursements as commission. His involvement in procurement and contracting issues soon gave rise to a perception of irregular purchase and an inquiry into these charges on 10 December 1810 Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith establishing inquiry into the Commodore's conduct. The inquiry failed to find any substantive violations. [2]

Robert Smith (Cabinet member) American politician

Robert Smith was the second United States Secretary of the Navy from 1801 to 1809 and the sixth United States Secretary of State from 1809 to 1811. He was the brother of Senator Samuel Smith.

During Tingey's tenure as commandant, Washington Navy Yard personnel were frequently used design and test new weapons. Secretary Smith requested Tingey on 6 February and 17 August 1808 arrange a test of Doctor Wallace's invention and Robert Fulton's torpedo both projects which required yard employees and resources. [3]

Robert Fulton American engineer and inventor

Robert Fulton was an American engineer and inventor who is widely credited with developing a commercially successful steamboat; the first was called North River Steamboat. In 1807 that steamboat traveled on the Hudson River with passengers, from New York City to Albany and back again, a round trip of 300 miles (480 km), in 62 hours. The success of his steamboat changed river traffic and trade on major American rivers.

In August 1814, as the British advanced on Washington, the Secretary of the Navy ordered Tingey to set fire to the yard. He wrote to his daughter under date of 17 September 1814, "I was the last officer who quitted the city after the enemy had possession of it, having fully performed all orders received, in which was included that myself retiring, and not to fall into their possession. I was also the first who returned and the only one who ventured in on the day on which they were peaceably masters of it." [4] Tingey resumed his duties as commandant after the withdrawal of the British forces.

Throughout his twenty-nine year tenure as Washington Navy Yard Commandant, Tingey, exercised his considerable diplomatic acumen in reconciling the often conflicting demands placed upon him. As Yard Commandant, his correspondence reflects his strong desire to achieve balance between the requirements of his political superiors, and the needs and sometimes demands of his employees. The Secretary of the Navy on occasion placed heavy burdens on the Commodore such as directing that Naval Constructors like Josiah Fox and William Doughty be allowed to exercise work direction and hiring authority over Yard employees. [5]

Death and burial

Tingey died on 23 February 1829. He was buried with military honors in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.


During the 1820s, Tingey was a member of the prestigious society, Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences, who counted among their members former presidents Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams and many prominent men of the day, including well-known representatives of the military, government service, medical and other professions. [6] On 1 March 1820, Tingey invited naval and marine officers in the District of Columbia to consider a proposal for a Fraternal Society for the relief of indigent officers, their widows and children. As a consequence the Naval Fraternal Association was founded that same year, for families of deceased officers. The association subsequently applied for Congressional incorporation in 1823 but Congress denied their request for fear of the precedent. The association then established a national organization under a District charter. [7]

Personal life

His daughter Hannah married Tunis Craven, [8] a government clerk and later naval purser. Two of her sons, Tunis and Thomas Tingey rose to prominence in the Union Navy during the American Civil War. Another daughter, Margaret, married U.S. Representative Joseph F. Wingate of Maine. Tingey was generally well liked by his large civilian workforce. Washington Navy Yard enslaved worker Michael Shiner noted Tingey's passing with this tribute, "Died in Command of the Washington navy yard Comerder thomas tinsy on the 23 day of February 1829 on Monday and snow on the ground and a fine officer he was and a gentelman" [9]

Namesake and honors

Three ships of the United States Navy were named USS Tingey for him as well as the Tingey gate of the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.


  1. Brown, Gordon S. The Captain Who Burned His Ships Captain Thomas Tingey, USN, 1750–1829 Naval Institute Press: Annapolis (2011), pp. 3–10.
  2. Brown, Gordon S. The Captain Who Burned His Ships Captain Thomas Tingey, USN, 1750–1829 Naval Institute Press: Annapolis (2011), pp. 62–68.
  3. Brown, pp. 106–107.
  4. Wick, Joshua L. "Thomas Tingey's Lasting Legacy: The Washington Navy Yard" . Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  5. Brown, pp. 141–142.
  6. Rathbun, Richard. The Columbian institute for the promotion of arts and sciences: A Washington Society of 1816–1838. Bulletin of the United States National Museum, 18 October 1917. Retrieved 20 June 2010.
  7. Tingey to Board of Navy Commissioners, 1 March 1820, National Archives, RG 45 E314, vol. 75
  8. "Tingey, (Commodore) Thomas, 1750–1829". Whittlesey-Whittlesey Genealogy.
  9. Sharp, John G. (ed.). "The Diary of Michael Shiner Relating to the History of the Washington Navy Yard 1813–1869".


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