Naval Namesakes: Bainbridge Road

---Christina Anderson, Curatorial Volunteer

Many streets, buildings, and institutions in Rhode Island are named to honor the Narragansett Bay area’s rich naval heritage. This regular feature to the museum’s blog provides a brief look at the people, places, and events behind the names.

Commodore William Bainbridge (1774 -1833)   Naval Hero of the War of 1812

Bainbridge Road on Naval Station Newport is named for Commodore William Bainbridge (7 May 1774 - 27 July 1833). Before he was commissioned a lieutenant in the United States Navy in 1798, Bainbridge was a a merchant ship captain. He saw active service in both the Quasi-War with France in 1798, the Barbary Wars, and the War of 1812. During the First Barbary War, Bainbridge and the entire crew of the USS Philadelphia were taken prisoner when the ship ran aground off Tripoli on 31 October 1803. Stephen Decatur, another naval hero, led the raid that recaptured and burned the frigate. After Bainbridge regained his freedom in 1805 he supervised the construction of gunboats for the navy and continued service in the merchant marine while on leave. He returned to service with the U.S. Navy in 1812 just before the United States went to war with Great Britain. Captain Bainbridge commanded the frigate Constitution during her stunning victory over HMS Java on 29 December 1812. He continued his service as Commander of Navy forces afloat at Boston, Commandant of the Boston Navy Yard, Naval Commissioner, and Commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard until illness forced him to leave the service in 1833. The U.S. Navy has named four ships in his honor: the brig USS Bainbridge (1842-1863); USS Bainbridge (Destroyer # 1), 1902-1920; USS Bainbridge  (DD-246), 1921-1945; and USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25, later CGN-25), 1962-1997.

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Street sign Image by Christina Anderson
Bainbridge Image, courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command


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