Thomas Thompson - Portsmouth, NH
Posted by: silverquill
N 43° 04.697 W 070° 45.795
19T E 356461 N 4771016
Quick Description: Thomas Thomas was a merchant and shipbuilder who directed the building of the first warship commissioned by the U.S. Navy, the 32-gun frigate Raleigh, and was given her command when she was launched on May 21, 1776.
Location: New Hampshire, United States
Date Posted: 4/9/2012 11:50:49 PM
Waymark Code: WME6K4
This is a simple white tombstone, but in remarkably good condition for its age in the historic North Cemetery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where many other veterans of the American Revolution are buried, and other notable patriots.
There seems to be surprisingly little available about the life and circumstances of Thomas Thomas - not even a reference to his date or place of birth. Most of what is written has to do with his command of the Raleigh.
The Raleigh was a 32-gun frigate, the first to be built of the 13 frigates authorized by the Continental Congress on Dec. 13, 1775. It was constructed on what was then known as Langdon Island (for John Langdon who became the first governor of New Hampshire), later called Badger Island and home of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Thompson supervised the construction and became its first captain. The Raleigh was launched on May 21, 1776 and set sail for France. There was a brief skirmish with British ships on the way, but the Raleigh and the frigate Alfred arrived in France, took on stores and sailed to west Africa, capturing a British vessel before crossing the Atlantic again to the West Indies. There the two ships became separated and on March 9, 1778, the Alfred was captured.
Capt. Thompson was perhaps to far away to render assistance, but in any case chose instead to sail the Raleigh back to Boston where he arrived in April. He was then relieved of duty, accused of cowardice and dereliction of duty for not rendering aid to the Alfred.
Nothing seems to be recorded of his fate after that, except that he remained good friends with John Langdon who gave him the office of Colonel of the Artillery in 1785. Thompson build a large house next to Langdon's in Portsmouth, both of which are still preserved as historic homes of the colonial era.
As a footnote, the Raleigh was given over to the command of John Barry. After a brief controversy over the circumstances of his appointment, Barry set sail for Portmsouth, Virginia. But, a few hours into the voyage the Raleigh was engaged by the two British ships the Unicorn and Experiment. After a long battle, the Raleigh was grounded on an island in Penobscot Bay. Barry abandoned the frigate, but before his crew could return to destroy it, the British opened fire again, and they retreated, most of them eventually reaching Boston. Later the British were able to refloat the Raleigh at high tide and recommissioned it as the British frigate, HBMS Raleigh, and it continued fighting, now for the British, aiding in the capture of Charleston, South Carolina. It's advanced design was also incorporated into the British fleet. The Raleigh was finally decommissioned in 1781.
With the somewhat speckled history, it may be a surprise that it is the Raleigh that appears on the great seal of the State of New Hampshire, though it is still honored as the first commissioned U.S. Navy war ship.
from North Cemetery guide map at the entrance
An ardent patriot, Thompson was commander of the Portsmouth-built Continental frigate Raleigh during the American Revolution. This ship is pictured on the New Hampshire state seal.
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
A Grave Matter
Wikipedia: USS Raleigh (1776)
PLEASE NOTE: This category is for American Revolutionary War Veterans only. Veterans of other revolutions are not part of this category.
I have allowed one entry for a grave of British solders, but it was an exception. Please only list graves for Colonial soldiers.
Simply visit the locations. Please provide as much information as possible. Pictures would be a great addition.