John Paul Jones


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John Paul JonesJones, JOHN PAUL, naval officer; born in Kirkbean, Scotland, July 6, 1747. Before he was eighteen years old he commanded a vessel that traded with the \Vest Indies. Jones came to Virginia in 1773, inheriting the estate of his brother, who died there. Offering his services to Congress, he was made first lieutenant in the navy in December, 1775, when, out of gratitude to General Jones, of North Carolina, he assumed his name. Before that he was John Paul. He was a bold and skilful searover, gathering up many prizes. Made captain in the fall of 1776, he raised the first flag ever displayed on a United States ship-of-war, the Alfred. He destroyed the Port Royal (N. S.) fisheries, capturing all the vessels and freight. In the summer of 1777 he sailed in the Ranger to Europe, and in February, 1778, received from a French commander the first salute ever given to the American flag by a foreign man-of-war. In April he scaled the walls of White-haven, in England, on the borders of the Irish Sea, and spiked thirty-eight cannon.

In 1779, while cruising up and down the east coast of Scotland, between the Solway and the Clyde, he tried to capture the Earl of Selkirk, in order to secure a notable prisoner for exchange. He had been an early friend of Jones's father. His seat was at the mouth of the Dee. Jones anchored his vessel, the Ranger, in the Solway at noon, and with a few men, in a single boat, he went to a wooded promontory on which the earl's fine estate lay, where he learned that his lordship was not at home. Disappointed, he ordered his men back to the boat, when his lieutenant, a large and fiery man, proposed to go to the mansion and plunder it of the family plate. Jones would not listen to the proposition, for the memory of old associations made his heart tender towards Lady Selkirk, who had been very kind to him. Again he ordered his men back, but they and the lieutenant, eager for prize-money, in defiance of his expostulations, went to the house and demanded the plate. The frightened Lady Selkirk surrendered it with her own hands. When the prizes of the Ranger were sold Jones bought this plate, and sent it back to Lady Selkirk with a letter in which he expressed his regret because of the annoyance she had suffered.

Hand to Hand Fight


During the spring and summer of 1779, American cruisers were very active, both in American and European waters. At the middle of August Jones was sent out from the French port of L'Orient, with five vessels, to the coast of Scotland. His flagship was the Bon Homme Richard. As he was about to strike some armed British vessels in the harbor of Leith a storm arose, which drove him into the North Sea. When it ceased, he cruised along the Scottish coast, capturing many prizes and producing great alarm. Late in September, while Jones's squadron lay a few leagues north of the mouth of the Humber, he discovered the Baltic fleet of forty merchantmen (convoyed by the Serapis, a 44-gun ship, and the Countess of Scarborough, of twenty-two guns), stretching out from Flamborough Head. Jones signaled for a chase, and all but the Alliance, Captain Landais, obeyed. While the opposing warships were maneuvering for advantage, night fell upon the scene. At seven o'clock in the evening of September 23, 1779, one of the most desperate of recorded sea-fights began. The Bon Homme Richard and Serapis, Captain Pearson, came so close to each other that their spars and rigging became entangled, and Jones attempted to board his antagonist. A short contest with pike, pistol, and cutlass ensued, and Jones was repulsed. The vessels separated, and were soon placed broadside to broadside, so close that the muzzles of their guns touched each other. Both vessels were dreadfully shattered: and, at one time, the Serapis was on fire in a dozen places. Just as the moon rose, at half-past nine o'clock, the Richard, too, caught fire. A terrific hand-First American Flag on a Warshipto-hand fight now ensued. Jones's ship, terribly damaged, could not float much longer. The flames were creeping up the rigging of the Serapis, and by their light Jones saw that his double-headed shot had cut the mainmast of the Serapis almost in two. He hurled another, and the tall mast fell. Pearson saw his great peril, hauled down his flag, and surrendered. As he handed his sword to Jones he said, in a surly tone, "It is painful to deliver up my sword to a man who has fought with a rope around his neck!" (Jones had been declared a pirate by the British government.) The battle ceased, after raging three hours. The vessels were disengaged, and the Richard soon went to the bottom of the North Sea. For this victory Congress gave Jones the thanks of the nation, a gold medal and a commission as commander of the America, which ship was soon presented to France. The King of France made Jones a knight of the Order of Merit, and presented him with a gold sword. Jones entered the service of Russia as rear-admiral in 1787, and, in consequence of a victory over the Turks, was made vice-admiral and knighted. He resigned from the Russian service, and was appointed consul of the United States at Algiers in 1792, but he died before the commission reached him. He died in Paris, July 18, 1792. His body was brought back to the United States by a squadron of war-ships in June, 1905.



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