|Born||May 7, 1774|
Princeton, Province of New Jersey, British America
|Died||July 27, 1833 (aged 59)|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Christ Church Burial Ground Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1798–1833|
|Awards||Congressional Gold Medal|
William Bainbridge (May 7, 1774 – July 27, 1833) was a Commodore in the United States Navy. During his long career in the young American Navy he served under six presidents beginning with John Adams and is notable for his many victories at sea. He commanded several famous naval ships, including USS Constitution, and saw service in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. Bainbridge was also in command of USS Philadelphia when she grounded off the shores of Tripoli in North Africa, resulting in his capture and imprisonment for many months. In the latter part of his career he became the U.S. Naval Commissioner.
William Bainbridge was born in Princeton, New Jersey, eldest son of Dr. Absalom Bainbridge and Mary Taylor. His father, a loyalist during the American Revolution, served as a surgeon in the British Army and was convicted of high treason by the State of New Jersey and successfully filed for damages with the American Loyalist Claims Commission. William had two brothers: Joseph, who also became a Navy captain, and John T.; and a sister, Mary. He was raised by his maternal grandfather, John Taylor, Esq., of Middleton, New Jersey as his father left for England in 1783 and his mother remained behind due to her ill health (though his father returned to the United States and died in New York City in 1807).
In 1820, Bainbridge served as second for Stephen Decatur in a duel with James Barron that cost Decatur his life. Decatur's wife, along with many historians, believe that Bainbridge had actually harbored a long-standing resentment of the younger but more famous Decatur and arranged the duel in a way that made the wounding or killing of one or more duelists very likely.
Between 1824 and 1827, he served on the Board of Navy Commissioners. He died in Philadelphia and was buried there at the Christ Church Burial Ground.
Bainbridge was survived by his son William Jr. and four daughters (Mary Taylor Bainbridge Jaudon, Susan Parker Hayes, Louisa Alexina Bainbridge and Lucy Ann Bainbridge). He left some money that was invested in Pennsylvania State bonds, which were sold and invested in other projects. After the American Civil War, Mary T. Jaudon's bonds were mismanaged by her husband's brother, Samuel Jaudon and ultimately became the subject of a United States Supreme Court case, Jaudon v. Duncan.
Several ships of the Navy have since been named USS Bainbridge in his honor, including the U.S. Navy's first destroyer (USS Bainbridge (DD-1)), a unique nuclear-powered destroyer/cruiser (USS Bainbridge (CGN-25)), and a contemporary Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG-96). This last ship is known as the ship that rescued the MV Maersk Alabama in the 2009 attempted hijacking by Somali pirates. The now-deactivated United States Naval Training Center Bainbridge in Port Deposit, Cecil County, Maryland, was named for him.
Other places named after him include Bainbridge Island, Washington, as well as Bainbridge Township, Ohio; Bainbridge, Georgia, county seat of Decatur County; Bainbridge, Indiana; Bainbridge, New York; Bainbridge Street in Philadelphia; Bainbridge Street in Richmond, Virginia, and Old Bainbridge Road in Tallahassee, Florida. Bainbridge Avenue in the Bronx, New York, is also named for William Bainbridge, it runs near Decatur Avenue, named for Stephen Decatur, Jr. in the Norwood section of the Bronx. Bainbridge Street in Montgomery, Alabama, on which street the state capitol building is located, is also named for Bainbridge. Parallel to that Bainbridge Street and beginning directly to its west are streets named for other Barbary War/War of 1812 naval heroes: Decatur Street, named for Stephen Decatur; Hull Street, named for Isaac Hull; McDonough Street, named for Thomas Macdonough; Lawrence Street, named for James Lawrence and Perry Street, named for Oliver Hazard Perry. Bainbridge was also the namesake for Fort Bainbridge, built during the Creek War near Tuskegee, Alabama.