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Patriots in History

Nicholas Biddle

A True Patriot:

Nicholas Biddle
1750 - 1778

"I fear nothing but what I ought to fear. I am much more afraid of doing a foolish action than of loosing my life. I aim for a character of conduct, as well as courage, and hope never to throw away a vessel and crew merely to convince the world I have courage. No one has dared to impeach it yet. If any should, I will not leave them a moment of doubt." -- Nicholas Biddle, June 1776

Nicholas Biddle was an American Patriot who served bravely in the American Revolutionary War. He was one of the few officers who received professional training before the war while serving as an ensign in the British navy. As one of the first five officers of the Continental Navy, his service was monumental. Although his service was cut short, his efforts had a huge impact on the early development of our Navy.

Nicholas Biddle was born in Philadelphia on September 10, 1750. Throughout his life, he had a passion for sailing and for the sea. Although his family was in the banking business, Nicholas sought to join the merchant service. In January 1766, Nicholas and his brother Charles served as part of a crew aboard a ship that wrecked off the coast of the Yucatan. Left stranded for two weeks while his brother and the other crewmembers left to search for help, Nicholas and a few others survived on an island for two weeks. This experience instilled the courage and bravery that would set the stage for his leadership in the Navy.

A few years later, Nicholas joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman and served under Horatio Nelson. This experience taught him the necessary skills that would elevate his wisdom to lead men in combat as the commander of Continental Navy ships.  As tensions grew between the Americans and the British, Nicholas found himself choosing the side of his home land and resigned his commission in the British Navy.

Returning to Philadelphia, his countrymen gave him command of the galley Franklin. While commanding this vessel, Nicholas became one of the first five officers of the Continental Navy when it was officially established on August 1, 1775. During this time, Nicholas spent his service capturing armed merchant ships who threatened the independence of our nation. In December of 1775, he was assigned as commander of the Andrew Doria, which he used to captured numerous armed merchant men. Two of the ships he captured contained 400 British reinforcements which were being transported to America.

He later took command of the Randolph which was manned in part by paroled British prisoners of war. Once at sea, the prisoners attempted to mutiny.  However, due to the 27 year old's leadership, Nicholas was able to squelch the mutiny and arrived at it's destination safely. Also, while commanding the Randolph, he captured the HMS True Britton, along with her three ship convoy. He later returned to Charleston and then evaded the British blockade in February 1778. 

In March 1778, Captain Nicholas Biddle sailed his last voyage. While sailing off of Barbados, the 32-gun Randolph met the 64-gun British HMS Yarmouth. Being out gunned, Nicholas's superior strategy caused serious damage to the HMS Yarmouth. Shortly after Nicholas was wounded, a fire started in the gun powder magazines, causing the Randolph to explode. The ship sank killing all but 4 sailors who live to tell the tale of the brave fighting that took place on that day.

Because of Nicholas's leadership, courage, and sacrifice, three warships have been named after this great patriot. The first was a coastal torpedo built in 1901 which served in World War I. The second warship was a destroyer, built in 1919, that served through World War II. The third warship was the USS Biddle, built in 1963, that served through the Vietnam War and following conflicts. The USS Biddle was finally decommissioned in 1993.

Captain Nicholas Biddle was a true patriot who captured the American spirit. At the age of 27, he gave his life for his country. His story and honorable service stands as a testament that this country can continue to be a free nation. May we never forget those honored patriots who gave so much for us to be free.

 

Sacrifice for free is not duty but an honor.

 

 

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