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Samuel Nicholson (1743 – December 28, 1811) was an officer in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War and later in the United States Navy.[1]

Early lifeEdit

The son of Joseph and Hannah Scott Nicholson, Samuel Nicholson was born in Chestertown, Maryland.[1]

Service in American RevolutionEdit

Nicholson was a captain in the Continental Navy. He was the first commandant of the Boston Navy Yard.[1] He served as a Lieutenant on the USS Bonhomme Richard under John Paul Jones who at the time was commander of the Deane, which was used to capture three British sloops-of-war.[2] He also commanded the Dolphin in 1776.[3]

Post revolution serviceEdit

By the time the American Revolution was finally won there were few ships to speak of in the young American Navy. The navy, like the army, was largely disbanded, with many naval vessels being sold or turned into merchantman vessels.[4] Now that America had won its independence it no longer had the protection of the British navy and had to defend its own interests abroad. The idea of an American Navy was the subject of much debate between the Federalists who favored a strong navy and the anti-federalists who felt the money required for a navy would be better spent elsewhere. However the repeated threats from France and the Barbary states of North Africa had given cause to now consider resorting to more forceful measures to procure the security of American shipping interests.[5]

First commander of USS ConstitutionEdit

The USS Constitution was one of six frigates authorized by act of Congress which was approved on March 27, 1794. The vessel was designed by Joshua Humphreys, and built at Hartt's Shipyard, Boston, Mass., under the supervision of George Clag-horn. Captain Samuel Nicholson was the naval inspector who also oversaw her construction. Upon her completion the Constitution was launched at Boston Mass. on September 27, 1797, under the command of Samuel Nicholson. His 1st Lieutenant was Charles Russel.[6][7][8]

Later lifeEdit

Nicholson died at Charlestown, Massachusetts, and is buried in the crypt of the Old North Church in Boston, Massachusetts.

Namesakes and honorsEdit

The U.S. Navy ships named USS Nicholson were named for him and other members of his family who served as naval officers: his elder brother, James Nicholson, his younger brother John Nicholson, his nephew, William Nicholson and his grandson James W. Nicholson.

See alsoEdit


  • Hollis, Ira N. (1900). The frigate Constitution the central figure of the Navy under sail
    Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston and New York; The Riverside Press, Cambridge
    . pp. 263.
  • Hagan, Kenneth J. (1992
    The Free Press, New York). This People's Navy: The Making of American Sea Power. pp. 468. ISBN 0-02-913471-4.
  • Cooper, James Fenimore (1826
    Stringer & Townsend, New York). History of the navy of the United States of America. pp. 508. OCLC 197401914.


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

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