James Nicholson (naval officer)
|Died||September 2, 1804|
New York City, New York
|Allegiance|| Kingdom of Great Britain|
|Service/|| Royal Navy|
|Commands held||USS Virginia, USS Trumbull|
|Battles/wars||blockade of Baltimore; Battle of Trenton|
The son of Joseph and Hannah Scott Nicholson, he was born in Chestertown, Maryland. James Nicholson served in the colonial Navy with the British in the assault on Havana in 1762, and was commissioned Captain in the Continental Navy 10 October 1776. He commanded Defense, Trumbull, and Virginia, and when blockaded at Baltimore, Maryland, took his men to join George Washington at the Battle of Trenton to aid in that key victory.
Made the senior captain in the Continental Navy due to political influence, he nevertheless had an undistinguished career, never winning a victory or capturing a prize. He lost his first command, the frigate Virginia, while trying to run past the British squadron blockading the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. He ran the ship aground and rather than fight the approaching British ships, fled to shore in a boat, leaving the Virginia and her crew to be captured. The next day he approached the captured ship under a flag of truce and asked for his personal effects.
Nicholson styled his flight as an "escape" in his report to Congress, and with the only witnesses confined to British prisons, he was eventually given command of Trumbull. That command he lost to HMS Iris when his crew refused to fight.