NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- The United States Navy has a long and proud history of brave men and women that have served aboard its ships. Very few however are quite as renowned as the great John Paul Jones.
John Paul Jones was one of the key figures in the early development of our Navy. Throughout his naval career, he strategically fought and won many battles, which shaped the early Navy. Two of his biggest accomplishments, however, occurred in the month of April.
According to historical data on Navy.mil, John Paul was born at Arbigland, Kirkbean, Kirkcudbright, Scotland, July 6, 1747. By the time he was 13, he had become an apprentice to a merchant and went to sea in the brig Friendship to learn the art of seamanship. After several successful years as a merchant skipper in the West Indies trade, John Paul emigrated to the British colonies in North America and there added "Jones" to his name. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Jones was in Virginia and pledged his allegiance to the rebels. On Dec. 7, 1775, he was commissioned first lieutenant in the Continental Navy, serving aboard Esek Hopkins' flagship Alfred.
Aboard the Alfred, Jones set a precedent by engaging in the first battle at sea for our young Navy. According to a blog post titled, "Indomitable Determination of John Paul Jones" by Rear Adm. Brian Fort, on Navy Live, the official blog of the U.S. Navy, the Alfred attacked and heavily damaged the British cruiser HMS Glasgow, April 6, 1776, which had been harassing the colonies' shipping.
After the battle, Jones was rewarded by being given the command of the sloop Ranger. Jones would once again make his mark on the month of April. According to Fort's blog, on April 24, 1778, Jones, now a captain, captured the British ship HMS Drake after "thunderous fusillades of cannons and muskets and bloody close combat with cutlasses and boarding pikes."
A year later in 1779, Jones was given the ship Bon Homme Richard by a French king and uttered a line during a battle which inspires some to this day. Jones engaged with the British ship HMS Serapis in the North Sea off Famborough Head, England. Richard was blasted in the initial broadside the two ships exchanged, losing much of it's firepower and many gunners. Capt. Richard Pearson, commanding Serapis, called out to Jones, asking if he surrendered. Jones' reply: "I have not yet begun to fight!" The ships fought on for many hours and Pearson finally tore down his colors and Serapis surrendered.
According to historical data on Navy.mil, after the American Revolution, Jones served as a rear admiral in the service of Empress Catherine of Russia, but returned to Paris in 1790. He died in Paris at the age of 45, July, 18 1792. His remains were eventually brought back to the United States and are currently buried in the crypt of the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Md.
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