Fanning, Nathaniel

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Fanning, Nathaniel

FANNING, NATHANIEL. (1755–1805). American privateer. Little is known of Fanning's early years, except that he went to sea at a young age. In 1778 he was on his third voyage aboard the Angelica, a privateer, when he was captured and held for 13 months in Forton Prison near Portsmouth, England. After being exchanged he became midshipman and private secretary to John Paul Jones on the Bonhomme Richard. Highly commended by Jones for promotion, Fanning served with him on the Ariel until December 1780, when he and most of the ship's other officers refused to remain under Jones's command, rejecting what they saw as his excess cruelty toward his crew. In 1781 he was captured aboard a French privateer and spent another six weeks in prison. Early the next year he became a French citizen, commanded French privateers, was twice held prisoner by the British for short periods, and briefly accepted a commission in the French navy. At the war's end he gave up this commission, however, and returned to America. Having married in 1784, he apparently was a merchant seaman until he accepted a lieutenant's commission in the U.S. Navy on 5 December 1804. Ten months later he died of yellow fever while commanding the naval station at Charleston.

SEE ALSO Jones, John Paul.


Fanning, Nathaniel Fanning. Narrative of the Adventures of an American Navy Officer. New York: Printed for Nathaniel Fanning, 1806.

                           revised by Michael Bellesiles