Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789


portrait of a man in naval dress
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon Commodore Hopkins, Commander in Chief of the American Fleet, (1718-1802).
C. Corbutt (dates unknown).
Mezzotint, 1776.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-19219.

Commander-in-Chief Esek Hopkins (1718-1802)

Esek Hopkins grew up on a farm in Rhode Island, but soon became a sailor like his brothers before him. Energetic, outspoken, and aggressive, Hopkins was a successful sea captain, whose travels took him around the world.

In 1775, Hopkins was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the newly-formed Continental Navy. Despite his earnest efforts, however, the navy failed to meet the expectations of Congress. Hopkins had to compete with privateers for supplies and, more importantly, for men; privateers offered sailors higher wages and a greater share of plundered goods. By January 2, 1778, Congress wearied of Hopkins' meager accomplishments and dismissed him from his position as Commander-in-Chief.