To the student of the history of our Navy, the term “Commodore” is most familiar and carries with it associations of heroic deeds, and stirring scenes bound to thrill the heart of the American patriot. Such men as Perry, Preble, Decatur, and Macdonough, to whom the title has been attached, have given distinction to it, and have added glory to the nation’s arms.
The first man to whom the term was applied in the American Navy, as distinct from the navy of colonial times, was Esek Hopkins, a brigadier-general of Rhode Island militia, and brother of the governor of Rhode Island. On December 22, 1775 the Continental Congress granted him the commission of “Commander- in-chief of the American Navy,” and placed him in charge of a squadron of four ships already purchased by the naval committee. In nearly all accounts of this officer, he is mentioned formally as Commodore Hopkins, though he was addressed officially by Washington as admiral. His rank in the Navy was intended to be equal to that of Washington in the Army.