Revolutionary War Continental Navy Officer. The Revolutionary War was fought on sea as well as on land. The fledgling Continental Navy was even more ragtag then the Colonies counterpart the army. Although he was a Scott, not an American, John Paul Jones was the first naval hero. He first stalked British ships around the Colonies and then took the war direct to Britain with command of the sloop Ranger. He sailed to France and upon sailing into Quiberon Bay, France, Jones and Admiral La Motte Piquet exchanged gun salutes...the first time the flag of the new nation was recognized by a foreign government. He proceeded to terrorize the coastal population of Scotland and England by making daring raids ashore and destroying many British vessels. He was born at Arbigland Estate located in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland to a father who was the caretaker. He was the fourth child of John Paul and Jean MacDuff whose family numbered seven children. At age 13, he was apprenticed to a sea merchant and placed aboard the brig Friendship to learn the art of seamanship. At 21, he received his first command, the brig John. After several successful years as a merchant skipper in the West Indies, John Paul emigrated to the Colonies. He added "Jones" to his name. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, he cast his lot with the colonist receiving a commission in the Continental Navy, given command of the sloop USS Providence which he used to destroy the British fisheries in Nova Scotia while capturing 16 British ships. He is forever remembered in American Naval lore as Captain of the Bon Homme Richard a derelict ship given to him by the French King which he refitted. During a raiding party along the English coast, Captain Jones encountered a much larger British ship, the Serapis. The battle fought by moonlight lasted more than three hours. The Bon Homme Richard appeared to the British commander to be finished. He called out to Jones, "Are you ready to surrender?" The answer, now known to every school child in America, "I have not yet begun to fight!" Still the battle continued until the British ship hoisted the surrender flag. The Bon Homme Richard so badly damaged, that Jones had to transfer his men to the Serapis. As they watched, the Bon Homme Richard sank beneath the waves. Jones returned to America and Congress passed a vote of thanks to him. He was to be given command of the America which was still under construction and destined to be the largest ship in the American navy but this was denied him. He spent the remaining years of the war advising on the establishment of the navy and the training of naval officers. The Revolutionary War won, Thomas Jefferson advised Jones to accept an offer from Empress Catherine II of Russia to serve in the Russian Navy. He took part in one naval campaign against the Turks. Russian naval officers plotted against him hindering his efforts until his recall to St. Petersburg where Jones was relegated to service with no duties. Naval officers continued to plot against him fearing the foreigner as a rival. Frustrated, he resigned after a year of service. In ill health, Jones settled in Paris residing in a room at 52 Rue de Tournon. A grateful America appointed him U.S. Consul to Algiers but pneumonia took his life at age forty five before the commission arrived. His body was placed in a lead coffin filled with preservatives and buried in the Protestant Cemetery near the Hospital St. Louis which overtime became forgotten, recycled and used by squatters who constructed shacks over the property. John Paul Jones remains were lost. Legacy...Two Naval vessels have been named for John Paul Jones. The first was commissioned in 1954, decommissioned and sunk as a target ship. Its replacement, USS John Paul Jones, a Aegis Class destroyer plies the seas of the Middle East rigged with Tomahawk missiles and is a formidable force for the Navy. He shares a three-cent commemorative stamp with fellow Continental naval officer John Berry which was issued in 1936. The modest John Paul Jones birth cottage in Scotland is preserved and is maintained as a museum. It was roofless and a ruin but through efforts of the US Navy, it became a museum in 1993. Today...The small two room cottage is owned by a Trust which operates the facility located on the grounds of Arbigland Estate. It houses a collection of objects, pictures and documents relevant to the life of John Paul Jones. A nearby building houses many historic displays and features a gift shop. A century after his death, President Teddy Roosevelt launched an intensive search to find his body. In 1905, it was rediscovered and amid great ceremony brought back to America aboard the USS Brooklyn accompanied by three other cruisers. Seven battleships met them off the American coast and as a single column sailed into Chesapeake Bay. The escorting battleships fired a 15 gun salute as the Brooklyn sailed on to Annapolis. The coffin rest on trestles in Bancroft Hall at the Naval Academy for seven years before finally being interred in a magnificent marble sarcophagus below the chapel, modeled after the tomb of Napoleon. A naval midshipman stands at attention beside the sarcophagus on days when the tomb is opened to the public.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield