|John Paul Jones
of the most successful American naval captains
during the war, and commander of the first U.S.
ship to fly the "Stars and Stripes"
John Paul was born in
Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, on
July 6, 1747. Apprenticed to a merchant at the
age of 13, he went to sea as a cabin boy aboard
the brig Friendship, aboard which he
voyaged between Whitehaven, England, and Barbados
with cargoes of consumer goods and/or sugar. The
apprenticeship ended when his master went
bankrupt in 1766.
John Paul next spent two years
as chief mate of a Jamaican slaver brig, before
taking passage at Jamaica on a brigantine bound
for Scotland. Both the master and chief mate of
the brig died of fever during the passage. John
Paul brought the ship safely home, and was
subsequently named master of the John --
at the age of 21.
In 1770, while at Tobago, he
had a crew member flogged for laziness. That
crewman later deserted the John, shipped
on another vessel, and died a few months later.
Upon reaching Scotland in November, John Paul was
arrested and charged with murdering the crewman.
Released on bail, he sailed for the West Indies.
In September 1772, John Paul
purchased the Betsy, a merchant ship,
and made several voyages to Tobago. In December
1773, while docked at Tobago, he decided to
invest money in return cargo rather than pay his
crew for their shore leave. One sailor responded
by attacking John Paul, who was forced to kill
the man in self defense. Friends convinced him
that he would not receive a fair trial in Tobago,
so he added "Jones" to his name, left
Tobago, and eventually ended up in Philadelphia,
The outbreak of the
Revolutionary War gave Jones an opportunity to
return to the sea, and on December 7, 1775, he
became First Lieutenant of the Alfred,
the first naval ship bought by the Continental
Congress. In March 1776, Jones' familiarity with
the Bahamas contributed to the bloodless capture
of New Providence and a considerable store of
ordnance. He was appointed to command the sloop Providence
on May 10, 1776, and commissioned captain on
August 8, 1776. During a cruise lasting six weeks
and five days, the Providence twice
outwitted British frigates (the Solebay
and Milford); manned and sent in eight
prizes (6 brigantines, 1 ship and 1 sloop); and
sank or burned eight more (6 schooners, 1 ship
and 1 brigantine). In November he transferred to
the Alfred with his entire crew, and by
December 15 the Alfred had managed to
take five more prizes.
On June 14, 1777, the same day
the "Stars and Stripes" was selected as
the national emblem, Congress appointed Jones to
the newly built Ranger, and that ship
became the first to fly the new national flag. On
February 14, 1778, French Admiral La
Motte-Picquet returned Jones' salute at Quiberon
Bay (France), the first time the Stars and
Stripes were recognized by a foreign power. The Ranger
spent the next several months plying the waters
between Great Britain and France, taking a number
of prizes. The most spectacular battle occured on
April 24, 1778, when the Ranger captured
the British sloop of war Drake; the Ranger
lost eight men in the battle, while the Drake
1779, the French gave Jones command of an old
French East Indiaman which he named the Bonhomme
Richard in honor of Benjamin Franklin. On August 14, the Richard,
leading a squadron of four other ships and two
French privateers, began another series of raids
on British shipping. On September 23, the
squadron intercepted the Baltic merchant fleet
under convoy of the British ships Serapis
and Countess of Scarborough off
Scarborough, England. Jones engaged the larger
and better-equipped Serapis, and for
three and a half hours the vessels lay yard arm
to yard arm, with the French ship Alliance
twice circling them and firing indiscriminately
into both. At one point in the battle the captain
of the Serapis called for Jones'
surrender, to which he made this now-famous
reply: "I have not yet begun to fight!"
By the time the Serapis surrendered she
was on fire, and the Bonhomme Richard
was in danger of sinking. Jones transferred his
crew and command to the Serapis, and the
squadron returned to France with its prizes (the Countess
of Scarborough having been taken by another
ship of the squadron). For his victory, King Louis XVI
gave him a gold-hilted sword and made him a
chevalier of France.
Jones continued his campaign
against British ships through 1780, but had
limited success following his victory over the Serapis.
He returned to the United States in 1781,
received the thanks of Congress, and was given
command of the America, which was still
under construction. Before he could take command,
however, the America was given to France
to replace a ship lost in Boston Harbor. A move
to promote him to Rear Admiral was defeated, and
Jones spent the remainder of the war serving as a
volunteer in a French fleet sailing the West
Indies, seeing virtually no action.
In 1783, Jones was sent to
France to negotiate prize money claims. In 1787,
he was awarded a gold medal by Congress, and then
dispatched to Denmark to seek restitution for two
prizes that that nation had returned to England.
While in Denmark, acting on
advice from Thomas Jefferson (then ambassador to France), Jones
accepted an offer from Catherine the Great and
entered the Russian Navy as a Rear Admiral.
Although he successfully commanded the Black Sea
Squadron, his victories were credited to others
and his subordinates were often encouraged to
dispute his authority. In March 1789, he was
accused of criminal assault on a young girl and
Catherine "granted" him a leave of
Returning to Paris in 1790,
Jones spent his final years in poor physical and
emotional health. When he died, on July 18, 1792,
he was buried in an unmarked grave in St. Louis
Cemetery for Protestants.
In 1905, more than a century after his death, the
cemetery in which Jones had been buried was
uncovered during the course of a construction
project. After his body was identified, Jones'
remains were returned to the United States and
re-buried with honors in a specially-built crypt
at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis,
where they remain today.
King Louis XVI
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