Jarvis was appointed midshipman from the state of New York in 1799. Midshipman Jarvis was killed at the age of 13 during the historic engagement between the famed frigate Constellation and the French frigate La Vengeance 2 February 1800. Sent aloft in command of the topmen to secure Constellation's unsupported mainmast, he refused to come down when warned that the mast might topple: "My post is here. I can't leave it until ordered." As the mast crashed, Jarvis was swept over the side with the falling rigging.
Honoring Jarvis for his bravery and devotion to duty, the Sixth Congress by Joint Resolution 29 March 1800 deemed his conduct "deserving of the highest praise" and his loss "a subject of national regret."
Three ships in the United States Navy have been named USS Jarvis for him.