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Biography of John Paul Jones

Biography of John Paul Jones

When asked to surrender by the British forces, he is believed to have said "I have not yet begun to fight!" What better way to introduce the legendary naval fighter, John Paul Jones, whose life we will be tracing in this biographical account.
Historyplex Staff
John Paul Jones, well-known as the 'Father of the American Navy', was a famous naval fighter who served in the Continental Navy from 1775 to 1788 and participated in the American Revolutionary War.
John Paul Jones
John Paul was born in a humble family on July 6, 1747, in Scotland. His father John Paul Sr., was a gardener, and mother Jean Duff, a homemaker. He began his maritime career as an apprentice under Captain Benson at an early age of 13. He spent the initial years of his career aboard different merchant and sailor ships.
Whilst working as a first mate on the ship 'Two Friends', he witnessed the cruel slave trade and decided to quit. So, while the ship was docked at Jamaica, he abandoned it and returned to Scotland. On his next voyage, aboard the brig John, he found himself laden with the responsibility of navigating the brig, as the captain and ranking mate of the ship died due to yellow fever. He successfully managed the task, for which he was promoted to the position of captain. In the following years, Captain John Paul took the command of a West Indian ship named 'Betsy'.
Continental Navy
Trying his hand at commercial ventures, he earned a good sum of money in the West Indies. In 1773, he killed one of his crew members with a sword, following an argument over wages. Though, he argued that it was an act of self-defense, this incident did hamper his image. With the local sentiments against him, he decided to flee to Fredericksburg in Virginia, where he changed his name to John Paul Jones. In 1775, he traveled to Philadelphia and joined the new Continental Navy as a first lieutenant of the 24-gun frigate, 'Alfred'.
When 'Alfred' came under the command of Commodore Esek Hopkins, it served as Hopkins' flagship for the expedition against New Providence in Bahamas. In this successful mission, Hopkins' forces captured the weapons and supplies that were needed by General George Washington's army at Boston. On their return to New London on May 10, 1776, Jones was given the command of a ship named 'Providence', as its temporary captain. In this position, Jones was successful in capturing 16 British ships in a six-week cruise. Eventually, he was promoted to the rank of a captain. On October 8, 1776, he was given the responsibility to command 'Alfred'. He continued his run, attacking and capturing British vessels one after the other.
After a feud with Hopkins, Jones was assigned to command the new 18-gun sloop-of-war, 'Ranger', and ordered to go to France to assist the Americans. In Quiberon Bay, the 'Ranger' received its first recognition of the American flag by a foreign government, when on February 14, 1778, it received a salute by the French fleet. Later, Jones sailed into the Irish Sea to force the Royal Navy to back out from American territory. On April 22, he landed in Whitehaven, spiked the guns in town's fort, and tried to burn the ships docked in the harbor. He was only partially successful though, as he alerted the residents of harbor side when he put the first few ships on fire. The spiked guns did allow Jones to flee without any damage.
Following this, he landed at St. Mary's Isle, with the plan of kidnapping the Earl of Selkirk and exchanging him in lieu of the American prisoners of war. His plan failed miserably, as the Earl was not present in the fort. After crossing the Irish Sea on April 24, the 'Ranger' captured HMS Drake after an hour-long battle. Drake was the first warship that was captured by the Continental Navy. Jones received a hero's welcome on his return to Brest.
In 1779, Jones was given the charge of 'Bonhomme Richard', a merchant ship that had been converted into a 42-gun warship by Jacques-Donatien Le Ray. The warship was named Bonhomme Richard as a tribute to Benjamin Franklin. On September 23, 1779, Jones came across a British convoy of ships, escorted by HMS Serapis and HMS Countess of Scarborough. After an intense battle that followed, he succeeded in capturing the Serapis. The battle left the warship in a bad condition, so Jones was forced to abandon it on September 25.
Jones was awarded the Rank of Chevalier by King Louis XVI. In 1781, he was appointed to take charge of the ship 'America', but by the time it was complete, the Continental Congress decided to give it to France to replace the French ship, 'Magnifique', which had run aground in Boston Harbor. After completion of the vessel, Jones handed it to the French officers.
After retirement, John Paul received an offer to serve in the navy of Catherine the Great, in Russia. In 1788, he served in the Black Sea campaign, with the name 'Pavel Dzhones'. He had some skirmishes with fellow French officers, who outsmarted him―politically. Left without command, he had no other option, but to return to Paris. His attempts to re-enter the Russian service failed and he had to spend the rest of his life in Paris, where he died on July 18, 1792. His remains were returned to the United States, aboard the USS Brooklyn, in 1905, and entombed in the chapel at United States Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland.