United States History and American Revolution: John Paul Jones

About United States history and the American Revolution figure John Paul Jones his biography and quote.


Sept. 23 "Sir, I have not yet begun to fight." (John Paul Jones, replying to Captain Pearson of the Serapis, when Pearson demanded he surrender the sinking Bon Homme Richard.)

Jones won the celebrated Revolutionary War sea battle off Scarborough, England, boarding the Serapis after a 3 1/2-hour struggle by moonlight, the casualties so great on each side that neither captain ever issued a complete casualty list. The intrepid seaman came to be regarded as America's greatest naval hero and founder of the American naval tradition, but his genius wasn't much appreciated in his own time.

The naval hero's real name was John Paul, not John Paul Jones. Born near Kirkcudbright, Scotland, John Paul went to sea when only 12, serving as 1st mate aboard a slaver and even having some experience ashore as an actor before receiving his 1st command in 1770. It was then that his troubles began. A ship's carpenter he had had flogged for laziness died, this resulting in a murder charge. Released on bail, John Paul purchased a ship in the West Indies in order to hunt for evidence proving his innocence, but in 1773 killed the ringleader of a mutinous crew. To avoid trial he fled to America and changed his name to John Paul Jones, receiving a commission as a senior lieutenant in the new Continental navy under this name in 1775. His naval genius soon resulted in a promotion to captain and command of the new Ranger, whose daring raids off England were climaxed with the capture of the British warship Drake, the 1st ever to surrender to an American vessel. But political machinations, which plagued him and obscured his fame all his life, forced Jones to relinquish command of Ranger, and it was on the old rebuilt merchantman named Bon Homme Richard in honor of Benjamin Franklin and his Poor Richard's Almanack that he fought his most famous battle. It is little known that Jones became a rear admiral in the Russian navy after the Revolutionary War. Here again political intrigue and scandal prevented his recognition, his victories against the Turks credited to others and his name dishonored when he was falsely accused of a criminal assault on a young girl.

John Paul Jones died in Paris in 1792 when only 55, a broken and embittered man. Buried in an unmarked grave in the St. Louis cemetery for Protestants, it was more than a century before his remains were brought back to America to be enshrined in a crypt in the naval chapel at Annapolis.

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