TRUXTUN is named after Commodore Thomas Truxtun (1755-1822). Orphaned at the age of 10, Truxtun went to sea at age 12 aboard a merchant ship trading between New York and Bristol. By the time he was 20 he was Captain of his own ship, bringing in large quantities of gunpowder for George Washington’s forces in Philadelphia.
With the start of the American Revolution, Truxtun signed on as a lieutenant in the first privateer to be granted a letter of marque by the Continental Congress. From 1776-1778 Truxtun commanded privateers and captured many prizes. In 1779 he returned to the merchant trade making several risky voyages through the end of the war to bring supplies to the Continental Army. At a dinner in Truxtun's honor, George Washington declared his services had been worth those of a regiment.
After the war, Truxtun made his fortune and increased his fame as a sea captain over several arduous voyages to China. When the United States Navy was organized, Truxtun was commissioned as one of the first six captains and was assigned to oversee the construction of CONSTELLATION, a new frigate of 38 guns being built in Baltimore. Truxtun completed CONSTELLATION ahead of schedule and put to sea in 1798 to prosecute an undeclared naval war with revolutionary France.
On February 9, 1799, Truxtun sighted the French frigate L’INSURGENTE (40 guns) in the Caribbean. After an hour long fight, during which CONSTELLATION raked L’INSURGENTE’s bows three times, the French captain was forced to strike his colors and surrender the vessel. Afterwards, the French insisted that the action was illegal since the two countries were not technically at war. Truxtun responded, “The French Captain tells me I have caused a War with France. If so, I am glad of it, for I detest things being done by halves!”
Truxtun would return to the Caribbean the next year, and on February 1, 1800, took up a twelve hour chase of the much larger French frigate LA VENGEANCE (54 guns). Culminating in a five hour nighttime duel, Truxtun battered the French warship into silence. Only darkness prevented Truxtun from capturing LA VENGEANCE, which had to be grounded to avoid sinking. For his actions, Truxtun was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal on March 29, 1800 inscribed with the caption: "United States Frigate Constellation of 38 Guns pursues attacks and Vanquishes the French ship La Vengeance of 54 Guns 1 Feb 1800"
Truxtun would go on to command the frigate PRESIDENT before retiring from the Navy in 1802. Five previous ships have carried the Truxtun name: a brig commissioned in 1842 that served during the Mexican-American War, the destroyer DD-14 commissioned in 1902 with service during WWI, the destroyer DD-229 commissioned in 1921 with service in China and WWII, the transport APD-98 commissioned in 1945 with service during WWII, and the nuclear cruiser CGN-35 commissioned in 1967 with service in Vietnam and the Cold War.