John Paul Jones

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Alternative meaning: John Paul Jones (musician)
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John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones (July 6, 1747 - July 18, 1792) was America's first well-known naval hero in the American Revolutionary War.

He was born in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, the son of a Scottish gardener. At the age of 12 he entered the British merchant marine and went to sea for the first time, as a cabin boy. In 1773, as the commander of a merchant vessel, he killed a mutinous crewman at Tobago in the West Indies and, rather than stay in prison and wait for trial, he fled to North America. At the outbreak of war between the 13 American Colonies and the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1775, John Paul Jones went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and, with the help of two friendly members of the Continental Congress, obtained a Lieutenant's commission in the Continental Navy.

The year following he became captain of the sloop USS Providence. In his first adventure in Providence, he destroyed the British fisheries in Nova Scotia and captured 16 British prize ships.

In 1777 he took command of the sloop Ranger. Sailing to France in 1778, Jones received from the French the first salute given to the new American flag by a foreign warship. During the spring he terrorized the coastal population of Scotland and England by making daring raids ashore and destroying many British vessels. The best known of these was the raid on the Cumbrian port of Whitehaven.

In 1779 Captain Jones took command of the USS Bonhomme Richard, a merchant ship rebuilt and gifted to America by French shipping magnate, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray. On September 23 of that year, the five ship squadron included the 42 gun Bonhomme Richard, 32 gun Pallas, 32 gun Alliance, 12 Gun Vengeance and Le Cerf engaged a merchant convoy off the coast of Flamborough Head East Yorkshire on 23 September 1779. The 44 gun British frigate HMS Serapis and the 22 gun Countess of Scarborough counter-engaged, scattering the attacking squadron and allowing the merchants to disengage and attempt escape. Vengeance and Le Cerf unsuccessfully pursued the convoy.

Bonhomme Richard, Pallas and Alliance engaged the British warships. The 44 gun Serapis engaged the smaller 42 gun Bonhomme Richard. The 32 gun Alliance counter-engaged Serapis. Serapis twice raked Bonhomme Richard with broadsides which cut her mainmast and holed her below the waterline, taking individual hits in return.

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With Bonhomme Richard burning and sinking, it is believed her ensign was shot away. The British commander asked if she had struck her colors. Jones has been quoted as saying, “I have not yet begun to fight.”. He then rammed Serapis and tied up to her, his marksmen in the rigging clearing the decks of Serapis' so a boarding party was able to cross to Serapis and effect its capture.

Meanwhile the 22 gun Countess of Scarborough engaged the 40 gun Pallas and was eventually captured, both ships taking extensive damage.

In 1788, Jones entered the service of the empress Catherine II of Russia, avowing his intention, however, to preserve the condition of an American citizen and officer. As a Rear Admiral, he took part in the naval campaign in the Liman (an arm of the Black Sea, into which flow the Southern Bug and Dnieper rivers) against the Turks, but the jealous intrigues of Russian officers caused him to be recalled to St.Petersburg for the pretended purpose of being transferred to a command in the North Sea. Here he was compelled to remain in idleness, while rival officers plotted against him and even maliciously assailed his private character. In August 1789, he left St.Petersburg a bitterly disappointed man. In May 1790 he arrived in Paris, where he remained in retirement during the rest of his life, although he made several efforts to re-enter the Russian service.

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John Paul Jones' grave at the USNA
In 1792 Jones was appointed U.S. Consul to Algiers, but on July 18 he died before the commission arrived. He was buried in Paris, France, but in 1905 his remains were removed from his long-forgotton grave and brought to the United States where, in 1913, he was interred in the Chapel of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.

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