In September 1798, Tingey was commissioned a captain in the United States Navy and distinguished himself in the Quasi-War with France, as commander of the man-of-war Ganges. During that time, Tingey commanded a squadron which cruised the waters of the Windward Passage between Hispaniola and Cuba to protect American shipping from French privateers. Tingey commanded Ganges as she took four prizes and is known for his bloodless encounter with the British frigate HMS Surprise.
In January 1800, Tingey was appointed to supervise construction of the new navy yard at Washington, D.C., and became its first commandant on 23 November 1804. In the summer of 1814, as the British advanced on Washington, the Secretary of the Navy ordered Tingey to set fire to the yard. Tingey returned after the withdrawal of the British forces and commanded the yard until his death on 23 February 1829. Commodore Tingey was buried with military honors in what is now known as Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
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