Benjamin Stoddert, 1st U.S. Sec'y of the Navy

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Benjamin Stoddert

Birthplace: Charles, Maryland, United States
Death: Died in Bladensburg, Prince George's, Maryland, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Stoddert and Janet Stoddert
Husband of Rebecca Stoddert
Father of Benjamin Forest Stoddert, Jr.; Harriett Campbell; Ann Stoddert and Richard Stoddert

Managed by: Private User
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About Benjamin Stoddert, 1st U.S. Sec'y of the Navy

Benjamin Stoddert (1751 – December 13, 1813) was the first United States Secretary of the Navy from May 1, 1798 to March 31, 1801.

Early life

Stoddert was born in Charles County, Maryland, in 1751, the son of Captain Thomas Stoddert. He was educated at the University of Pennsylvania, and then worked as a merchant. He served as a captain in the Pennsylvania cavalry and later as secretary to the Continental Board of War during the American Revolutionary War. During the war, he was severely injured in the Battle of Brandywine and was subsequently released from active military service. In 1781, he married Rebecca Lowndes, daughter of Christopher Lowndes, a Maryland merchant, and they had eight children. They resided at the home of his father-in-law, Bostwick, located at Bladensburg, Maryland.

In 1783, Forest established a tobacco export business in Georgetown, with business partners Uriah Forrest and John Murdock.

After George Washington was elected President, he asked Stoddert to purchase key parcels of land in the area that would become the nation's capital, before the formal decision to establish the federal city on the banks of the Potomac drove up prices there. Stoddert then transferred the parcels to the government. During the 1790s, he also helped found the Bank of Columbia to handle purchases of land in the District of Columbia for the federal government.

Secretary of the Navy

In May 1798, President John Adams appointed Stoddert, a loyal Federalist, to oversee the newly established Department of the Navy. As the first Secretary of the Navy, Stoddert soon found himself dealing with an undeclared naval war with France, which would come to be known as the Quasi-War.

Stoddert realized that the infant Navy possessed too few warships to protect a far-flung merchant marine by using convoys or by patrolling the North American coast. Rather, he concluded that the best way to defeat the French campaign against American shipping was by offensive operations in the Caribbean, where most of the French cruisers were based. Thus at the very outset of the conflict, the Department of the Navy adopted a policy of going to the source of the enemy's strength. American successes during the conflict resulted from a combination of Stoddert's administrative skill in deploying his limited forces and the initiative of his seagoing officers. Under Stoddert's leadership, the reestablished United States Navy acquitted itself well and achieved its goal of stopping the depredations of French ships against American commerce.

Stoddert concerned himself not only with the Navy's daily administration and operations, but also with the service's future strength. He established the first six navy yards and advocated building twelve frigates. Congress initially approved construction of six frigates in the Naval Act of 1794, but following the peace accord with France, changed its mind, ceasing production after the construction of three frigates and reducing the officer corps. Stoddert left a legacy of able administration and successful war fighting.[peacock term] Despite subsequent shifting political sentiments, the American people would ever after depend on the Navy to defend their commerce and assert their rights on the high seas.[peacock term]

Stoddert established the Navy Department Library as a result of instructions received from President Adams in a letter dated 31 March 1800.

Post-Navy life

He left office in March 1801 to return to commercial life. Following his term as Secretary of the Navy, Stoddert's final years witnessed a decline in his fortunes: as Stoddert lost heavily in land speculation, Georgetown declined as a commercial center, and the Embargo and the War of 1812 brought American overseas trade to a halt. During this period he lived at Halcyon House, on the corner at 3400 Prospect Street NW.

Benjamin Stoddert died on December 13, 1813, and is buried in the graveyard at Addison Chapel, Seat Pleasant, Maryland.

Things named for Benjamin Stoddert

Two Navy ships: USS Stoddert (DD-302), 1920–1935, and USS Benjamin Stoddert (DDG-22), 1964–1991
Fort Stoddert in the Mississippi Territory (today Alabama)
Benjamin Stoddert Middle School in Waldorf, Maryland
Benjamin Stoddert Middle School in Temple Hills, Maryland
Benjamin Stoddert Elementary School in Washington D.C.

In the Georgetown section of Washington, DC, there was a Stoddert Street named after Benjamin Stoddert. In the Georgetown street renaming of 1895 the name was changed to Q Street NW. An apartment building that today stands at 2900 Q Street NW is named The Stoddert.

Nationality: United States

Executive summary: US Secretary of the Navy, 1798-1801

Military service: Continental Army (1776-81)

Father: Thomas Stoddert

Wife: Rebecca Lowndes (b. 1757, m. 17-Jun-1781, d. 1802, eight children)

Son: Benjamin Forest Stoddert Jr. (b. 1732, d. 1833)

Son: William Stoddert

Daughter: Rebecca Stoddert

Daughter: Elizabeth Stoddert

Daughter: Harriet Stoddert (b. 1789, d. 1849, m. George W. Campbell)

Daughter: Nancy Stoddert

Son: Richard Stoddert

Son: Christopher Stoddert

   US Secretary of the Navy 18-Jun-1798 to 31-Mar-1801
   Scottish Ancestry
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Benjamin Stoddert, 1st U.S. Sec'y of the Navy's Timeline

Charles, Maryland, United States
April 12, 1789
Age 38
February 3, 1791
Age 40
Anne Arundel Co., Md
Age 41
Bladensburg, Md
December 13, 1813
Age 62
Bladensburg, Prince George's, Maryland, United States