Arthur Sinclair

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Arthur Sinclair II
Commodore Arthur Sinclair (1780–1831).jpg
Commodore Arthur Sinclair
Born(1780-02-28)February 28, 1780
Virginia, US
DiedFebruary 7, 1831(1831-02-07) (aged 50)
Norfolk, Virginia, US
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1796 - 1831
Battles/warsQuasi-War with France
First Barbary War
War of 1812

Commodore Arthur Sinclair (28 February 1780 – 7 February 1831) was an early American naval hero, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Quasi-War with France, the First Barbary War and in the War of 1812. His three sons also served in the Navy; they resigned in 1861, however, to serve in the Confederate Navy.


Born in Virginia, Sinclair entered the Navy as Midshipman in 1798. He served as Midshipman in Constellation during the capture of the French frigate L'Insurgente on 9 February 1799. He was attached to the Mediterranean Squadron from June 1804 to July 1806, participating in the attacks on Tripoli on board Essex. He then sailed Gunboat No. 10 to the United States.

On 10 June 1807 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. On 13 December 1811, he was ordered to the command of Argus; and, between 12 October and 17 December 1812, cruised in Argus with the North Atlantic Squadron and took a number of prizes. During the cruise, he became separated from the squadron and was chased for three days and nights by an enemy squadron before his superior ship handling enabled him to escape.

For much of the War of 1812, Sinclair was assigned to the Great Lakes as part of Commodore Isaac Chauncey's squadron, where he commanded the warship General Pike in an engagement on Lake Ontario on 28 September 1813. For his valor during another engagement on Lake Erie in 1813, Sinclair received a presentation sword from the Commonwealth of Virginia (now in the Virginia Historical Society's collection). In 1814, he commanded Niagara on Lake Huron and Lake Superior and directed the naval squadron in the Battle of Mackinac Island and the Engagement on Lake Huron.

Promoted to Captain in 1813, he commanded the frigate Congress in 1817; commanded the 74-gun ship of the line Washington in 1818. In 1819, he rose to the rank of Commodore and was placed in command of the Norfolk Navy Yard. It was while there, that he conceived the idea of a Nautical School and was allowed to set one up on board the frigate Guerriere, for the education and development of young naval officers. It was from that small start that the current U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis has grown.[1]

Commodore Sinclair died at Norfolk, Virginia on 7 February 1831.


The family originated from the Shetland Islands off Scotland and were reputedly distant relations of Scottish royalty. The first Arthur Sinclair, of Scalloway, in Shetland, sailed with Commodore George Anson in 1740, on a mission to capture Spanish possessions in the Pacific, during Britain's war with Spain. The mission lasted for four years and resulted in the little fleet circumnavigating the world. Loss of life was horrendous, with only 188 of the original 1, 854 men surviving to make it back to England.[1]

Arthur Sinclair senior left the expedition when they reached America and eventually settled in Norfolk, Va, where he made claim to a large tract of land. During the War of American Independence (1775-1783) Sinclair served in the fledgling U.S. Navy, fighting against his old countrymen.[1]

Arthur Sinclair II married first, Elizabeth, daughter of General John Hartwell Cocke, of Mt Pleasant, Surry County. They had two children, twins, Robert Carter Nicholas d 1806 and Augusta (died 3 weeks after birth) Mar 1802. These children died young and their mother died in 1803.

Arthur Sinclair II married second on 20 Jan 1810 in Halifax Co, Sarah (Sally) Short Skipwith Kennon (30 Oct 1790 - 21 August 1827), daughter of Colonel Richard Kennon of Conjurer's Neck, VA.

Arthur and Sally had seven children:

1. Arthur Sinclair (29 Nov 1810 - 14 Jan 1865), Commander USN, CSN, served on the Alabama, married, 20 Apr 1835, Lelia Imogene Dawley of Norfolk.

2. Elizabeth Beverly Sinclair Whittle (26 Jul 1812 - 1855), married Captain William Conway Whittle, USN, CSN

3. Richard Kennon Sinclair (8 Nov 1814-7 Jul 1815)

4. George Tarry Sinclair (29 Sep 1816 - 25 Jul 1885) LT USN, CSN 2 May 1843, Mary Thompson (5 Jan 1825 - 6 Nov 1888)

5. Dr. William Beverly Sinclair (22 Jan 1818 - 27 Sep 1895), surgeon, USN, CSN, a prominent physician, married 11 Nov 1844, Lucy Franklin Read Jones

6. Sarah Sinclair (22 Jul 1820), died in infancy

7. Gilberta Fayette Sinclair (19 Oct 1824 - 27 Apr 1906), married Dr. Conway Davies Whittle, of Norfolk.

Arthur Sinclair II was the great-grandfather of novelist Upton Sinclair, author of the novel The Jungle (1906). He was also the second great-grandfather of Vice Admiral Lloyd M. Mustin and third great-grandfather of Vice Admiral Henry C. "Hank" Mustin.


The destroyer USS Sinclair (DD-275) was named for him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Thorp, Robert (September 2017). Mersey Built: The Role of Merseyside in the American Civil War. Vernon Press. p. 278. ISBN 978-1-62273-281-4.
  • Sinclair, Upton. The Autobiography of Upton Sinclair. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1962.
This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.