Charles M. Thomas

Charles Mitchel Thomas was born on October 1, 1846 in Philadelphia and was appointed to the Naval Academy from Pennsylvania in 1881,  graduating in the Class of 1865.  He was married in 1874 to Miss Ruth Simpson, daughter of Rear Admiral Edward Simpson.   During the fleet he was Acting Commander-in-Chief for the ill Rear Admiral Evans from Trinidad to San Francisco.  One of Rear Admiral Thomas' most notable characteristics was his extreme loyalty. Rear Admiral Evans felt grateful to him for this, as exhibited in Rear Admiral Thomas' supported his superior as, commander in chief, although much of the time he was incapacitated by illness for the discharge of his duty.  Upon arrival in San Francisco, Charles Thomas became Commander-in-Chief,  Atlantic Fleet, then turned the command over the Charles Sperry.  

 His early midshipmen cruise was on the Shenandoah.  From there he was transferred and made Lieutenant on the USS Supply.  He then Served on the USS Guerriere, USS Potomac, USS Terror, the Torpedo Station at Newport, the USS Dictator, Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, USS St Louis (1828) and USS Constitution.  All of these assignments were as a Lieutenant.  This was the stagnation that was going on at this time in the Navy.

His first assignment was to the Iroquois, a small steam-and-sail vessel station at Asiatic Station and then the Maumee before returning to the United States and served routine duties until 1872.  At this time he was detailed to the Asiatic Station to the staff of Rear Admiral Thornton A. Jenkins, Commander-in-Chief on the steam frigate Colorado.

His next assignment, as a Lieutenant Commander, was to the USS Hartford, and then to the USC&GS Patterson.




From 1893 - 1895, Charles Thomas, achieved the rank of Commander and, was now the Commanding Officer of the Bennington.  It was a Yorktown class, steel-hulled, twin-screw gunboat.  It had been launched in 1890 and during the tour of Charles Thomas made two Mediterranean tours before being transferred to the Pacific Fleet.

At right a photograph of the USS Bennington in 1891, stored by the U.S. Navy, and taken by William H. Rau.


Commanding officer, uss lancaster

In 1899, Charles Thomas took command of the USS Lancaster, a screw sloop-of-war that served during the Civil War and the Spanish American War.  It was constructed in the Philadelphia Navy Yard and completed in 1858.  During the Spanish - American War, Lancaster was recommissioned to serve as station ship in Key West.  In August of 1898 she departed to become a gunnery training ship in Portsmouth, Virginia.   In January 1899 she cruised along the Atlantic coast and to the West Indies, and from June 1900 to March 1901 she made a cruise to European waters.  Upon return to the States she cruised the Atlantic coast until being decommissioned in May 1902.  Afterwards she served as receiving ship at the Philadelphia Navy Yard until  1912.

The photo postcard at right is of the USS Lancaster in 1899 and is part of cards photographed and published by Enrique Muller.  To see more of his cards on this website, follow this link:  Enrique Muller, Photographer

uss brooklyn and uss oregon

From 1900 - 1902 Charles Thomas was a Captain and served in Command of each of these ships for an uncertain time during the China Relief Expedition.  The Brooklyn was the Flagship of the Asiatic Squadron.  Oregon was deployed to the Asiatic Squadron and served during the Philippine-American War and the Boxer Rebellion.

The two cards shown here, the Brooklyn at left and the Oregon at right are part of the Enrique Muller card collection on the website.


commander, second division, atlantic fleet

As a Rear Admiral Charles Thomas hoisted his flag on the USS Minnesota as Commander Second Division in the North Atlantic Fleet.  He was now 60-years old with less than two years remaining before mandatory retirement.  He had served for 40-years.  

Charles Thomas did not have enough time left on active duty to complete the cruise.  Tragically, on July 3rd, 1908, while still in San Francisco, he died of a heart attack.

At right, a watercolor done by Henry Reuterdahl of Rear Admiral Charles Thomas on the bridge wing of the USS Minnesota during the transit around South America.  This was published in Collier's Magazine during early 1908.




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