He was initially into the slaving trade that happened between England, America, West Indies and Africa. But soon, he started to hate the slaving trade. At the age of 21, he received his first chance to captain the brig when the captain and first mate succumbed to a fever. He soon became a successful merchant sailor (Blythe, 2006). In 1773 on the island of Tobago, he was forced to counter mutinous sailors fighting for more pay. In the act of defending himself, he killed one of sailors. Scared of legal punishment, he escaped to America and took the name John Paul Jones.
This was the period when America was at odds with Britain over taxes and a revolution was brewing. Empathizing with the Americans, due to his familiarity with the highhandedness of the British at Scotland, Jones joined Americas quest for liberty. When the war broke out in 1775, Jones volunteered for service in the brand-new Continental Navy. America did not have any kind of naval power during the initial stages of the Revolutionary War. But soon, the Congress decided to convert merchant ships to ships of war and also began to build new naval ships.
Jones was able to contribute his knowledge of ships and his naval experience towards the building of the American navy (Blythe, 2006). During the four years of his service in the navy during the American Revolution, he gave repeated and brilliant examples of naval warfare that was best suited to the forces of the colonies. He found that he was the only officer in the service who was capable of formulating effective plans for the improvement of the navy. He immediately began to shape his ideas into practical suggestions calculated to bring order out of the utterly chaotic conditions which existed in the government at Philadelphia.
His knowledge of the rules and standards of the British navy helped him formulate the rules and standards for the American navy with due regard for the differing conditions in the colonies (Russell, 1927). The Congress, on November the 2d, voted one hundred thousand dollars for the purchase of four ships, and empowered the naval committee to engage officers and seamen. John Paul Jones first took over as second in command of the Alfred (Russell, 1927). In January, 1776, Commodore Ezek. Hopkins arrived in Philadelphia, and escorted by an eager throng of citizens, went down to the Delaware where lay eight ships of the new fleet.
On his boarding the Alfred, Captain Saltonstall gave the signal and Lieutenant Jones pulled up to the masthead the first American naval flag. This was not the banner with thirteen stripes, but a rectangle of yellow silk bearing a picture of a rattlesnake and the legend Dont Tread on Me. Thus Jones came to be known widely as the Founder of the American Navy (Koven, 1913). John Paul Jones was later put in charge of Providence, with 21 mounted guns. Jones soon captured 16 British vessels on a single cruise.
While on Providence, Jones was ordered to do convoy duty for ships carrying supplies for the defense of New York. To do this, he had to pass through the widespread fleet of Lord Howe, which was blockading the Northern ports. He got himself chased several times, beat off the British frigate Cerberus which attacked him near Block Island, and saved the supply ship Hispaniola from threatened capture (Russell, 1927). Here it is important to note that John Paul Jones enjoyed being chased. He liked to linger until almost overhauled, and then tack and be off before the wind before the enemy had waked up.
He was never overtaken and never boarded. For two reasons: he knew what to do, both by training and instinct; and he never took a ship which was not fast. He returned to Philadelphia from his successful convoy voyage three weeks after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Joseph Hewes who recruited him into the American Navy was satisfied that his find was a talented genius (Koven, 1913). According to Jones Journal, he suggested to Hewes that he be sent to the west coast of Africa, to intercept and harass British trading ships. He desired an offensive naval war.
Hewes gave Jones an unlimited order to Jones for a free-lance cruise to last six weeks or two or three months. Jones loaded stores at once and on August 21, 1776, aboard the little Providence, carrying only twelve long-four guns and seventy men, sailed for the Bermudas on the first extensive open-sea cruise ever undertaken by a lone American warship. He met with many saucy adventures. He had to escape from the British frigate Solebay with twenty guns. The next saucy incident occurred off Sable Island, after the Providence had turned northward.
The British frigate Milford surprised him while his crew was fishing. Jones permitted the frigate to chase him for eight hours, the latter meantime wasting valuable shot and shell and then made his escape. The adventure aboard the Providence lasted six weeks and five days, and during this period, he took six brigantines, one ship, and one sloop and destroyed six schooners, one ship and one brigantine. Jones also demolished the fishing at the islands of Canso and Madame. He returned to Newport, Rhode Island, on October 7, laden with spoils and glory (Koven, 1913).
On November 2 Jones again sailed for Newfoundland in the Alfred, it was with the hardy crew transferred from the Providence. However, he had to give this treasured ship to Captain Hacker and take the latter along. He faced trouble because of Captain Hacker who slipped back stealthily to Rhode Island just in time to be taken by the British. During this voyage, John Paul Jones faced a lot of treachery and disobedience. Even John Adams, who reflected the New England viewpoint, viewed Jones with suspicion as he was a British man.
In the Alfred, when he sailed up to Isle Royale, Jones found that his plan to free the imprisoned Americans had been balked by the winter ice. But he also had some luck. He captured a sixteen gun privateer from Liverpool. On November 12, 1776 in American waters, the Alfred captured the H. M. S. Mellish, a 350-ton armed ship that was carrying a cargo of winter uniforms and other British supplies, along with 60 British soldiers, to Quebec for His Majestys army. Jones was elated to later learn that some of the clothing reached General George Washingtons army before the Battle of Trenton.
He also had to face the British frigate Milford during his voyage. The frigate came up about nightfall. Jones lured the Milford to the chase and he tacked. The enemy followed his light, thus permitting his prizes to escape. The next morning he had to decide whether to fight the Milford. He accordingly signaled Lieutenant Saunders, in charge of the captured Liverpool ship, to drop back until he could discover the enemys force. Saunders obeyed, but stupidly dropped so far back that the frigate overtook and captured him.
Jones, after exchanging a few shots with the Milford, made sail for Boston, where he arrived with only two days water and provisions left. Jones felt most hurt when he was superseded in the command of the Alfred by a man who had been his junior officer by eight numbers. In May, 1777, the Marine Committee sent Captain Jones to New Hampshire to take command of the French ship Amphitrite. Jones was to sail direct to France and report to Commissioners Silas Deane, Benjamin Franklin, and Arthur Lee, who would purchase a fine frigate for him and give him orders.
But the French Captain was not informed of the command and hence he was willing to take Jones as a passenger but not as the commander. Jones returned to Boston to await a new suggestion as to what he should do. After a few more days of deliberation the marine committee gave Jones command of the Ranger. On the 14th of June Congress passed two notable resolutions: the first, adopted the stars and stripes as the national banner of the United States; the second appointed Paul Jones to the command of the Ranger.
Benjamin Franklin, had been taken to France by Captain Lambert Wickes so Franklin could serve as Americas first foreign diplomat to seek desperately needed help from France. John Paul Jones met with Franklin and began a fruitful relationship with the diplomat, who had been impressed with Jones exploits aboard the Providence. Jones became the first American to attack a British port, although a number of his restless crew members, preferred to attack merchant ships for the loot and avoid attacking settlements or strongholds on shore.
The Ranger brought the war to Whitehaven, the very place Jones had been when he first went to sea. Jones ordered some of his men to go ashore and destroy dozens of ships in the harbor and take weapons from them. But his men were not all obedient. Some of these men became insubordinate by helping themselves to distilled spirits in a nearby pub. Despite the failure to totally destruct, this was the first surprise attack on a British seaport since 1667. Jones had sent a clear message to the British authorities: the Americans fighting for independence were not to be trifled with and were willing to bring the battle to Britain.
This was truly a turning point in the American Revolution. Jones had with him Lieutenant Wallingford, Midshipmen Arthur Green and Charles Hill, and twenty-nine men. The alarm caused by this raid was absurdly out of proportion to its actual accomplishments; but beneath the hysteria was a very real fear born of the realization that Englands long untouched shores had been violated by a daring enemy who might soon strike again. Whig newspapers attacked the government for having brought this upon the people. The raid had another serious effect.
It enormously increased the insurance rates on British shipping, thereby adding another burden to the growing expense of the war. After the Whitehaven raid, Jones headed toward his birthplace of Kirkcudbright to locate Selkirk Castle, the home of the Earl of Selkirk. Jones believed by capturing the earl he could use him as a bargaining chip to gain release of American prisoners. This plan did not work out as the earl was away and his crew was keen on looting the castle. Upon meeting the dignified Lady Selkirk, Jones disallowed any violence and permitted his men to take only the family silver.
Some time later, Jones wrote Lady Selkirk a long letter of apology, promising to buy back the silver and return it. After the war Jones did indeed return the silver as promised at considerable personal expense, which the earl announced in Edinburgh newspapers. The next day Jones crossed the Channel and came abreast of the Irish port of Carrickfergus. There some fishermen, whom he took on board, told him that the British war sloop, the Drake, which had been at anchor in the roadstead as a guardship, was coming out to look for him. This was welcome news to Jones.
He had been itching for a fight with the English in their own waters, and here was an opportunity laid in his hand. Though already informed of the Whitehaven raid, the Drakes captain had no suspicion of Joness presence, but on sighting the Ranger, he sent out a boat to reconnoitre. The midshipman in charge could not make her out because Jones kept his ships stern toward the boat, and he finally boarded her. He was astounded when informed he was the prisoner of the dreadful John Paul Jones. Instead of sinking the English ship, Jones decided to take her and carry her into a French port.
Instantly he ordered his gunners to cease firing at the enemys hull and to aim instead at her sails and rigging. This was a favorite French tactic of the period, of which John Paul had doubtless been advised by the French officers back at Brest. The gunners took the hint and as their muzzles rose at the swell of the sea, they brought down the Drakes fore and main topsail yards in a heap. In a moment the ship was as helpless as a log. Jones boarded the enemy after a fight lasting an hour and four minutes.
Jones lost only two killed and seven wounded. Raising the stars and stripes, he lured the Drake into deeper waters and bested her in a one-hour battle. The captured British ship, with its flag flying upside down beneath an American flag, was sailed into Brest, France, with 200 British prisoners aboard. While in France, Jones was given a ship for his personal use the Duc de Duras ” a merchant ship that Jones upgraded and renamed the Bonhomme Richard, which was Jones way of honoring Franklin and his famous Poor Richards Almanac.
The battle between the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis was to become among the most famous sea battles of all time. The seasoned skipper of the Serapis, Richard Pearson, knew his American enemy was close and was on the lookout. Just after 6:30 p. m. , the American commander, who had displayed a British Union Jack to cause confusion, suddenly took it down and sent up the Stars and Stripes before engaging the Serapis. Soon the two ships were locked in point-blank combat in what became known as the Battle of Flamborough Head.
Hundreds of people gathered on the chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head to watch the battle, which lasted for nearly four hours with unremitting fury and was later regarded as one of the most desperate and sanguinary fights in naval history. Cannon fire boomed in both directions, ripping the ships apart piece by piece. As the citizens looked on, the two frigates became entangled together so tightly that the muzzles of the cannons from both ships at times were touching each other.
Jones purposely positioned the Richard close to the swifter, copper-bottomed Serapis to deny the larger ship the advantage of its larger and more numerous cannons. Meanwhile, the Alliance, which was sailing with Jones and commanded by a Frenchman, engaged the Countess of Scarborough. Jones won that battle even though the other ships in his fleet were only marginally helpful. During the battle, Jones wisely ordered the release of all British prisoners in the Richards hold so they could man the pumps.
This tactic freed his men to return to battle, where they emerged triumphant in a seemingly hopeless situation. This was the first time an American vessel had taken so powerful a British warship. Jones went back to France and was showered with honors. King Louis presented him with an inscribed sword that credited him for defending The Freedom of the Seas. Jones also was invested with the Order of Military Merit, allowing him to use the title Chevalier. King Louis even requested that a noted French sculptor cast a beautiful marble bust of Jones (Russell, 1927).
The open French support garnered by John Paul Jones for the American Revolution was one of the main reasons that the American Revolution ended successfully on the side of the colonists. Jones returned to America in 1781, where he accounted for his actions at sea. His answers were so thorough that Congress approved a formal resolution thanking him for service to the cause. He was also cleared of any charges from his pre-war days in Tobago. Although Congress awarded him command of a new ship, the America, the war was ending and enthusiasm for an American navy was beginning to wane.
But, even with the war over and the America out of his reach, Jones strongly urged Congress to establish a formal navy and create schools where junior officers could be taught. The principles he established provided the basis for todays U. S. Naval Academy.
Bibliography: Blythe, Bob (2006). John Paul Jones (1747-1792). http://www. nps. gov/revwar/about_the_revolution/jp_jones. html Koven, De Reginald (1913). The Life and Letters of John Paul Jones Vol. 1. C. Scribners Sons, 1913 Russell, Phillips (1927). John Paul Jones: Man of Action. Brentanos, 1927.