John Paul Jones

(1747-92) The American naval hero and father of the American Navy was actually a Scot, born on an estate near Kirkcudbright where his father was a gardener. Age twelve John Paul went to sea as an apprentice on a vessel out of Whitehaven and in due course he made several voyages to America, including two on a slaver, and was appointed captain at the age of twenty-one. After killing a mutinous sailor at Tobago, he left the sea, added Jones to his name and began a new life in America.

In 1775, the American War of Independence broke out between Britain and the colonies and Jones was commissioned as a lieutenant by the Continental Congress. As commander of the 'Providence' and then of the 'Alfred', he cruised along the eastern seaboard inflicting heavy damage on British shipping and fisheries. In 1778, as a captain, he sailed the 'Ranger' to Brest and from there to Whitehaven, where he made a surprise attack on the port and later captured the British sloop 'Drake'. The following year the French, now at war with Britain, furnished Jones with a small squadron of warships, whose flagship he named the 'Bonhomme Richard', and with this force he engaged shipping in British waters. He fought a desperate battle off Flambourough Head with the much superior 'Serapis', forcing the British man-of-war to surrender before his own crippled flagship sank.

After this he spent a lot of time in Paris, where he negotiated prize money for the ships he had captured; he then returned to America to be presented with a gold medal from Congress. In 1788, he was made a rear-admiral in the Russian navy and took part in operations against the Turks in the Black Sea. Jealous Russian officers intrigued against him and he was recalled to St Petersburg, and soon afterwards he left once more for Paris, where he died in 1792. More than a century later, in 1905, his body was tracked down and a fleet of American warships carried it to Annapolis, Maryland, where it now rests in the United States Naval Academy.

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