August 13: Thornton Alexander Jenkins (1893)

Thornton A. Jenkins was an officer in the United States Navy, who served during the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War. He later served as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation and as President of the United States Naval Institute. A Virginia native, Jenkins entered the Navy as a midshipman and served first in the West Indies in an expedition against pirates and slavers. Examined for a commission as a lieutenant, he placed first among 82 candidates. During the Mexican-American War, Jenkins led landing parties from his ship at Tuxpan and Tabasco. Jenkins’ Civil War service was distinguished. He served as chief of staff to Admiral Farragut. He was present at the Battle of Mobile Bay and heard Farragut utter the famous line, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” Jenkins became a Rear Admiral in 1870 and commanded the Asiatic Squadron until his retirement in 1873.

Jenkins’ Epiphany connections begin in 1853 with the confirmation of his second wife, Elizabeth, five years after their marriage.  One of his daughters from this marriage was baptized and three were confirmed at Epiphany. Later two of his daughters were married at the church. A recent connection to the family was in the 2016 true-story movie, Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep. New York heiress and opera singer wannabe Florence Foster married Frank Jenkins, one of Admiral Jenkins’ sons. Even though the marriage was short lived, Florence retained the Jenkins surname. When Admiral Jenkins died in 1893, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

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