Nicholas Biddle (naval officer)

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Nicholas Biddle
Born September 10, 1750
Died March 7, 1778(1778-03-07) (aged 27)
Atlantic Ocean
Allegiance  Kingdom of Great Britain
 United States of America
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Continental Navy
Years of service 1770–1773 (UK)
1775–1778 (USA)
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Captain
Commands held USS Randolph
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War

Nicholas Biddle (September 10, 1750 – March 7, 1778) was one of the first five captains of the Continental Navy, which was raised by the Americans during the American Revolutionary War.

Early life

Nicholas Biddle was born in Philadelphia in 1750, one of nine children to William Biddle (1698–1756) of the Biddle family, and Mary Scull (1709–1789).[1] He went to sea at the age of fourteen, as a ship's boy aboard a merchant vessel trading to the West Indies. In 1770 he joined the Royal Navy, resigning in 1773 to accompany Captain Constantine Phipps on his expedition to the Arctic Sea. While on this voyage he became acquainted with the Horatio Nelson, the future British Admiral and fellow member of Phipps' expedition.[2]

American Revolutionary War

In 1775 Biddle returned to North America to offer his services to the State of Pennsylvania in opposing British rule.. With the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety placed Biddle in command of the armed galley Franklin. In December 1775, he was commissioned into the Continental Navy and made Captain of the 14-gun brig Andrew Doria.[2]

He participated in the expedition against New Providence, and fought in the Continental Navy's action with the Glasgow on April 6, 1776; he was highly critical of the action, noting that the lack of signalling by Commodore Esek Hopkins led to a "helter skelter" action. He captured numerous vessels including British army transports on later cruises.

He participated in a cruise of the Newfoundland Banks that was so successful in the taking of ships, that when he returned to port he had only five sailors left on board his ship; the rest were crewing the prizes.

On June 6, 1776, he was appointed by the Continental Congress to command the Randolph, a 32-gun frigate then being built in Philadelphia. She was launched near the close of the year, and sailed early in 1777. In September 1777, Biddle captured HMS True Briton and her three-ship convoy.

On March 7, 1778, off Barbados, the Randolph engaged the British 64-gun ship-of-the-line HMS Yarmouth. Rather than trying to flee from the more heavily armed opponent, the Randolph engaged in battle. An eyewitness reported the frigate held her own in the twenty-minute engagement, appearing, "to fire four or five broadsides to the Yarmouth's one." After Biddle was wounded, the Randolph blew up suddenly, killing all but four of the 305 on board including Biddle. The loss of Randolph was a serious blow to the fledgling Continental Navy.[3]

His brother, Edward Biddle, was a staunch advocate for American independence, and his nephew, Nicholas Biddle (1786–1844), was an esteemed banker.

Four ships of the United States Navy have been named USS Biddle in his honor.

Cyrus Townsend Brady's book For Love of Country is based partly on the life of Nicholas Biddle.[citation needed]

In other media

Video games

Assassin's Creed series

  • Nicholas Biddle appears in the video game Assassin's Creed III voiced by Fred Tatiascore. He is a Templar and Continental captain during the Revolutionary War. He first confronts the Assassin Connor in a tavern but is later stopped by fellow Captain Robert Faulkner. Later on, he confronts Connor again, this time him being older; the two duel after a battle between their two crews. Biddle shoots at a nearby powder keg to take the fight below and give him time to recover. However, Connor kills Biddle before he can kill Connor and asks to die with his ship the Randolph. Contrary to his historic ship battle with the Yarmouth, he confronts rather the Aquila in the game. He also does not die off the coast of Barbados but rather in the Bahamas.


  1. McGrath 2015, p. 1
  2. 2.0 2.1 McGrath 2015, p.2
  3. Allen. pg. 296-8


  • Allen, Dardner W. (1913). A naval history of the American Revolution, Volume 1. Houghton Mifflin Company.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • McGrath, Tim (August 2015). "I Fear Nothing". Naval History. United States Naval Institute. 29 (4).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links