Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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DALE, Richard, naval officer, born near Norfolk, Virginia, 6 November 1756, died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 26 February 1826. He entered the merchant service at the age of twelve, and at nineteen commanded a ship. In 1776 he became a lieutenant in the Virginia navy, and was soon afterward captured and confined in a prisonship at Norfolk, where some royalist school-mates persuaded him to embark on an English cruiser against the vessels of misstate, he , was wounded in an engagement with an American flotilla, and, while confined to his bed in Norfolk, resolved "never again to put himself in the way of the bullets of his own countrymen." After the Declaration of Independence he became a midshipman on the American brig "Lexington," which was captured on the coast of France by the English cutter "Alert" in 1777. Dale was thrown into Mill prison, at Plymouth, with the rest of the officers and crew of the " Lexington," on a charge of high treason, but escaped, with many of his fellow-prisoners, in February 1778, was recaptured, escaped again, disguised as a British naval officer, and reached France, where he joined John Paul Jones's squadron as master's mate. Jones soon made him first lieutenant of the ',' Bon Homme Richard," and in that capacity he fought with distinction in the famous battle with the " Serapis," on 23 September 1779, and received a severe splinter wound.
After the sinking of the "Bon Homme Richard" in that engagement, Dale served with Jones in the "Alliance," and afterward in the "Ariel." He returned to Philadelphia on 28 February 1781, was placed on the list of lieutenants in the navy, and joined the "Trumbull," which was captured in August of that year by the " Iris" and the "Monk." Dale received his third wound in the engagement. He was exchanged in November obtained leave of absence, and served on letters of marquee and in the merchant service till the close of the war. He was appointed captain in 1794, but, with the exception of a short cruise in the "Ganges," during the troubles with France, was not in active service till 1801, when he was given command of a squadron and ordered to the Mediterranean during the hostilities with Tripoli. Although he was greatly hampered by his instructions, so that no serious enterprise could be attempted, he prevented the Tripolitans from making any captures during his command. He returned to the United States in April 1802, and was again ordered to the Mediterranean, but, becoming dissatisfied, he resigned his commission on 17 December and, having gained competency, spent the rest of his life in retirement. Dale enjoyed the distinction of having been praised by Lord Nelson, who, after critically watching the seamanship of the commodore's squadron, said that there was in the handling of those trans-Atlantic ships a nucleus of trouble for the navy of Great Britain. The prediction was soon verified. Two of Com. Dale's sons held commissions in the navy.
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