Captain Nicholas Biddle, United States Navy
American Revolutionary War Military Leader
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 10, 1750 into a banking family. He began his sea-going career on a merchantman at the age of 13. Thereafter, in 1772, he received a midshipman's appointment with the Royal Navy serving in same beside Horatio Nelson, leaving that service when rebellion appeared imminent. Joining the rebel cause when war broke out, he was given command of the armed galley Franklin by the State of Pennsylvania. She served as a gunboat on the Delaware. He next received one of the five Captaincy postings allotted when the American Navy was organized on August 1, 1775. Given command of the brig Andrea Doria, 14 guns, he was under command of Captain Esek Hopkins in the expedition to the Bahamas and at the taking of New Providence. There Biddle captured several merchant vessels.
In 1777 he took command of the Randolph, 32 guns, being the first frigate launched for the American Navy. He took her to sea, quickly facing and putting down a mutiny by his crew, many of whom were former British prisoners of war. After the mutiny came a storm which forced him to port for repairs. In September of 1777 he sailed again, taking several prizes in a cruise off the Southern coasts including the H.M.S. True Britton. He then made a courier cruise to France. Upon his return he put into Charleston to have his ship cleared of bottom hamper.
On February 12, 1778 Biddle made his final voyage, leaving Charleston in company of three North Carolina Navy ships of lesser size on a cruise to the West Indies. On March 7, 1778 Biddle sighted and engaged the Yarmouth, a British Ship-of-the-Line of 64 guns in an Action off Barbados. Biddle's attack was courageous as the larger ship clearly out gunned his slight craft. His intent was probably to cripple her rigging. However, after damaging her rigging his ship was struck in the magazine and exploded, killing all but four hands. His loss was a great one to the Rebel cause as he was clearly not only brave but a leader capable of leading his men to follow him into such an encounter. Biddle is remembered as one of the bravest Naval Captains of the War.
Three United States Warships have been named in Biddle's honor. The first was a coastal torpedo boat built in 1901, later renamed No.12 to allow the name's use on a destroyer. This torpedo boat served through the World War I era. Next was the DD151, a four stack flush deck destroyer laid down in 1918 and completed in 1919. She served through World War II, having one stack removed and other modifications made for modernization. The fourth is the U.S.S. Biddle DLG-34 now designated CG34, being a missile cruiser launched in 1963 which served in Vietnam and other conflicts and remains in service at this time.
"...I have courage. No one has dared to impeach it yet. If any should, I will not leave them a moment of doubt."
--- Captain Nicholas Biddle, USN, 1776
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Sources: The Military History of Revolutionary War Naval Battles, Col. Trevor Nevitt, Dupuy and Grace P. Hayes, Franklin Watts, Inc., 1970 NY, NY; The Standard American Encyclopedia, Standard American Corporation, 1937, Chicago; Kens Navy Page, www.netins.net/showcase/kensnavypage/.