James Nicholson, c.1736–1804, American naval officer, b. Chestertown, Md.; brother of Samuel Nicholson. During the American Revolution, Nicholson, appointed (1776) a captain in the Continental navy, was senior officer after the dismissal of Esek Hopkins in 1778. While awaiting the Virginia, his first command, Nicholson and his crew fought at the battle of Trenton (Dec., 1776). In attempting to elude the British blockade of Chesapeake Bay, the Virginia ran aground and was captured (1778), although Nicholson escaped. His next ship, the Trumbull, held the Watt to a draw in 1780, but in 1781 it was captured by superior British forces. Nicholson later lived in New York City, where he was active as a Jeffersonian in politics.
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