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John Paul Jones

Most Famous Naval Hero of the American Revolution

John Paul Jones is the most famous American naval hero of the Revolutionary War. Few men have led such a tumultuous, swashbuckling life at sea. He was given special honor citations by the U.S. Congress and Louis XVI of France. John Paul Jones was born July 6, 1747, in Kircudbrightshire, Scotland. He was the son of a landscape gardener. As a boy of 12, he sailed for Virginia where he visited his brother. When the company he sailed with went broke, he took other jobs and soon moved up to first mate to master to captain. When he killed the ringleader of a mutinous crew on a voyage to Tobago, he decided to stay out of reach of the British Admiralty. So he dropped out of sight for two years, emerging with the name John Paul Jones. He joined the fledgling U.S. Navy and was soon tormenting British shipping with hit and run raids from Nova Scotia to the Bermudas. He extended his forays to the British Isles and landed with his men on the English coast and near his birthplace in Scotland. Commanding the Ben Homme Richard, Jones intercepted a British convoy guarded by the HMS Serapis. In the bloodiest and perhaps best known naval engagement of the war—nearly 600 were killed or wounded—Jones lost his ship but boarded and captured the Serapis. After the war, he joined the Russian Navy as a rear admiral and fought the Turks. He returned to France embittered by Russian and U.S. naval politics. His health failed, and he died July 18, 1792. He was buried in France in an unmarked grave. More than a century later, his body was returned to the U.S. and buried in a special crypt in the chapel at Annapolis.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546