An orphan son of a Revolutionary War officer, Thomas MacDonough joined the U.S. Navy as a midshipman at the age of 18. He served with the Navy during the Barbary Coast Wars in the Mediterranean. He left the Navy in 1810 and became captain of a merchant ship. When war broke out between the United States and Great Britain, MacDonough rejoined the Navy and was given command of all American naval forces on Lake Champlain. When the British launched a major invasion south from Canada in 1814, MacDonough's squadron repulsed a larger British force off of Plattsburgh in one of the most decisive battles in American naval history. He died at sea in 1825.