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First Name: Benjamin

Last Name: Stoddert

Birthplace: Charles County, MD, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Militia - Revolutionary War

Date of Birth: 1751

Date of Death: 13 December 1813


Years Served:
Benjamin Stoddert

•  Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)


Benjamin Stoddert
Captain, Pennsylvania Cavalry

Benjamin Stoddert was born in 1751 in Charles County, MD, the son of Captain Thomas Stoddert.

Stoddert 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 1783, Stoddert 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 founded 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 re-established U.S. 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. 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.

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

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. 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.


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, MD

Benjamin Stoddert Middle School in Temple Hills, MD

Benjamin Stoddert Elementary School in Washington, DC


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, MD.

Death and Burial

Benjamin Stoddert died on 13 December 1813 in Bladensburg, MD. He is buried at the Addison Chapel Cemetery in Seat Pleasant, MD.

Honoree ID: 3120   Created by: MHOH




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