Rhind was born in New York City, New York, the son of Charles Rhind, a prominent shipowner who also served as Minister to Turkey from 1827. His mother, Susan Fell, was a descendant of Cadwallader Colden, the Governor of the colonial Province of New York from 1769 to 1771.
Rhind was appointed midshipman on September 3, 1838, and between 1839 and 1841 he served on the Mediterranean Station aboard the frigate Ohio and the sloop Cyane. He then served aboard the sloop Warren in the West Indies in 1842-43, then on the frigate Macedonian off the coast of Africa in 1843-44, before attending the Philadelphia Naval School in 1844-45. Promoted to passed midshipman on July 2, 1845, Rhind served on the brig Washington on the Coast Survey in 1845-46, which was then attached the Home Squadron on the coast of Mexico during the Mexican–American War, being present at Alvarado and Tabasco.
Rhind served on the steamer Water Witch in 1848, before rejoining the Coast Survey aboard the schooner Ewing on a voyage to the coast of California in 1849-50. He then served aboard the sloop St. Mary's in the East Indies in 1850-51, before returning to the Coast Survey, where he remained until 1854, receiving promotion to the rank of master on April 30, 1853.
Rhind was commissioned as a lieutenant on February 17, 1854, and served on the sloop John Adams on the Pacific Station, but in May 1855 was court-martialed after a disagreement with his commander, and left the Navy in September 1855. Eventually reinstated, Rhind served on the sloop Constellation, the flagship of the Africa Squadron from 1859-61.
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