William Bainbridge, 1774–1833, American naval officer, b. Princeton, N.J. An experienced sea captain, he joined (1798) the navy when war with France threatened. His ship, the Retaliation, was captured by two French frigates, and he and his crew were imprisoned on Guadeloupe. Released, he returned to America and in 1800, as commander of the George Washington, he carried U.S. tribute money to the dey of Algiers (see Tripolitan War). The dey forced him to proceed under the Ottoman flag to Constantinople—an insult that contributed to the American decision to declare war against the Barbary States. In 1803, assigned to the troubled Mediterranean area, Bainbridge's ship, the Philadelphia, ran aground in the harbor of Tripoli and was captured. He was freed at the end of the Tripolitan War. In the war of 1812, as commander of the Constitution, Bainbridge captured the British frigate Java off the Brazilian coast in Dec., 1812. In 1815, a commodore, he went out in the Independence to aid Stephen Decatur in the operations against Algiers, but he arrived after the fighting was over.
See his biography written in 1816 by H. A. S. Dearborn (ed. by J. Barnes, 1931).