History of John Paul Jones

Once upon a time, there lived in Scotland a poor gardener who had a little son. The old gardener’s name was John Paul; that was his son’s name, too. The rich man’s garden that Big John took care of was close to the sea. The little John Paul loved blue water so much that he spent most of his time near it and wanted to be a sailor.
This blue water that little John Paul loved was the big bay that lies between Scotland and Mid England. It is called Solway Firth. Little John Paul was born on July 6, 1747. Both far-away Scotland, where he lived, and the land of America, in which you live, were ruled by the King of England. The gardener’s younger son lived in his father’s cottage near the sea until he was 12 years old.
Then he was put to work in a big town on the other side of the Solway Firth. This town was famous as White Haven. It was a very busy place because ships and sailors landed here in huge numbers. The small boy, who had been put into a store, much preferred to go down to the docks and talk with the seamen. He had been to so many different lands and seas. He could tell him all about the delightful and curious places they had seen and about their adventures on the great oceans they had sailed over
John Paul Jones was determined to go to sea and study all about ships and get information on how they sail. He regularly studied and read all the books available to him. On the other side, the other boys were asleep or in mischief. But the young John Paul was learning from the books. Hence, he read numerous things that facilitated him as he grew older. At last, he had his wish. When he was about thirteen years old, he went as a sailor boy on a ship called “Friendship.”
The vessel was bound for Virginia, in the United States, for a cargo of tobacco. The little sailor boy greatly enjoyed the voyage and was especially pleased with the new country across the sea, to which he came. He wished he could live in America and hoped someday to go there again. But when this first voyage was completed, the young boy returned to Whitehaven and got back to the store where he worked.
But, soon after, the merchant who owned the store failed in business, and the boy was out of place and had to take care of himself. So he became a real sailor this time. For thirteen years, he was a sailor. He was such a good one that before he was twenty years old, he was a captain. This is how he became one.
Though the ship on which he was sailing was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a terrible fever broke out. The captain died. The mate, who comes next to the captain, died; all the sailors were sick, and some of them died. There was no one who knew about sailing such a big vessel except young John Paul. So, he took command and sailed the ship into port without an accident, and the owners were so glad that they made the young sailor a sea captain.
John Paul had a brother living in Virginia, on the banks of the Rappahannock River. This is the same river beside which George Washington lived when he was a boy. John Paul visited his brother several times while he was sailing on his voyages, and he liked the country so much that, when his brother died, John Paul gave up being a sailor for a while and didn’t like to live on his brother’s farm.
When he became a farmer, he changed his name to Jones, and so little John Paul became known, ever after, to all the world as John Paul Jones. While he was a farmer in Virginia, the American Revolution broke out. John Paul Jones was a sailor even more than he was a farmer. So, when war came, he wished to fight against the powerful British at sea. This was an extremely bold decision to make. Because there was no nation so commanding on the sea as England.
The King had a superb lot of ships of war, almost a thousand in number. However, the United States had none. But young John Paul Jones said we must have one soon. After some time, the Americans got together five little ships and sent them out as the beginning of the American navy, to fight a thousand ships of England.

John Paul Jones Flag

John Paul Jones 2John Paul Jones was made the first lieutenant of a ship called the “Alfred.” The first thing he did was hoist, for the first time on any ship, the first American flag. This flag had thirteen red and white stripes, but in place of the stars that are now on the flag, it had a pine tree with a rattlesnake coiled around it, and underneath were the words, “Don’t tread on me!”
The British sea captains who did try to tread on that rattlesnake flag were terribly bitten, for John Paul Jones was a brave man and a bold sailor. When he was given command of a little war sloop called the Providence, he just kept those British captains so busy trying to catch him that they could not get any rest. He darted up and down Long Island Sound, carrying soldiers, guns, and food to General Washington. Though one great British warship, the “Cerberus,” tried for weeks to catch him, it had to give up the chase.
John Paul Jones could not be caught for all this magnificent work. The bold sailor was appointed Captain Jones of the United States Navy, and it is said that he was the first captain made by Congress. He sailed up and down the coast, hunting for British vessels. He hunted so well that in one cruise of six weeks he captured sixteen vessels, or “prizes,” as they were called, and destroyed many others. Among them was one large vessel loaded with new warm clothing for the British army.
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Captain Jones sent the vessel and its entire cargo safely land into port, and the captured clothes were all sent to the American camp and were worn by Washington’s ragged soldiers. The next year, Captain Jones sailed away to France in a fine new ship called the “Ranger.” Before he sailed out of Portsmouth Harbor, in New Hampshire, he “ran up” to the masthead of the “Ranger,” the first “Stars and Stripes” ever raised over a ship—Washington’s real American flag with its thirteen stripes and its thirteen stars.
He went to France and had a talk with Dr. Benjamin Franklin, the great American who got France to help the United States in the Revolution. Then, after he had sailed through the entire French fleet, he made them all fire a salute to the American flag. It was the first salute ever given by a foreign nation. He steered away for the shores of England, and so worried the captains and sailors and storekeepers and people of England that they would have given anything to catch him. But they couldn’t.
The English king and people had not expected the Americans to fight. Particularly, they were not certain they would dare fight against powerful English on the sea. Because at that time, England was the strongest country in the world in terms of ships and sailors. So, they despised and made fun of “Yankee sailors,” as they called the Americans. But when Captain John Paul Jones came sailing in his fine ship, the “Ranger,” up and down the coasts of England, going right into English harbors, capturing English villages, and burning English ships, the people started to think differently.
They called Captain Jones a “pirate” and all sorts of hard names. But they were very much frightened of him and his stout ship. He was not a pirate, either. A pirate is a bold, bad sea robber who burns ships and kills sailors just to get the money himself. But John Paul Jones confronted ships and captured sailors. But the main thing is that his purpose was not to get selfish money. He simply wants to show how much Americans could do and to break the power of the English navy on the seas.
John Paul Jones 4Hence, this voyage of his along the shores of England taught the Englishmen to respect and fear the American sailors. After he had captured several British vessels, called “prizes,” almost in sight of their homes, He boldly sailed to the north and into the very port of Whitehaven, where he had ” tended store” as a boy and from which he had first gone to sea He knew the place, of course.
He knew very well how many vessels were there and what a splendid victory he could win for the American navy. If he could sail into White Haven harbor and capture or destroy the two hundred vessels that were anchored within sight of the town, He recalled so well from childhood that with two rowboats and thirty men, he landed at White Haven, locked up the soldiers in the forts, and fixed the cannon so that they could not be fired.
He set fire to the vessels that were in the harbor and frightened all the people that, though the gardener’s son stood alone on the wharf, waiting for a boat to take him off, not a man dared to lay a hand on him. Then he sailed across the bay to the house of the great lord, for whom his father had worked as a gardener. He meant to run away with this great man and keep him prisoner until the British promised to treat better the Americans whom they had taken prisoners.
But the great lord whom he went for found it best to be “not at home,” so all that Captain Jones’ men could do was carry off from the big house some of the fine things that were in it. But Captain Jones did not like this. Hence, he got the things back and returned them to the rich man’s wife with a nice letter asking her to excuse his men. But he was carrying on, so in Solway Firth, along came a great British warship, called the “Drake,” determined to gobble up poor Captain Jones at a mouthful.
John Paul Jones 5However, Captain Jones wasn’t afraid of that. This was just what he was looking for “Come on!” he cried. “I’m waiting for you.” The British ship dashed up to capture him, but the “Ranger” was already there, and in just one hour, Captain Jones had beaten and captured the English frigate. After that,  both vessels sailed merrily away to the friendly French shores. Soon after this, the French decided to support the Americans in their war for independence.
So, after some time, Captain John Paul Jones was put in command of five ships, and then he sailed to England to fight the British ships again. The vessel in which Captain Jones sailed was the biggest of the five ships. It had forty guns and a crew of three hundred sailors. Captain Jones thought so much of the great Dr. Benjamin Franklin, who wrote a book of good advice under the name of “Poor Richard,” that he named his big ship for Dr. Franklin.
He called it “Bon Homme Richard,” which is French for “good man Richard.” The “Bon Homme Richard” was not a good boat if it was a big one. It was old, rotten, and cranky, but Captain Jones made the best of it. The little fleet sailed up and down the English coasts, capturing a few prizes and greatly terrifying the people by saying that they had come to burn some of the big English sea towns.
Then, just as they were about to sail back to France, they came near an English cape called Fiamborough Head, where they encountered a great English fleet of forty merchant vessels and two warships. One of the warships was a great English frigate, called the “Serapis,” a finer and stronger ship in every way than the “Bon Homme Richard.” But Captain Jones would not run away. ” What ship is that?” called out the Englishman “Come a little nearer, and we’ll tell you,” answered plucky Captain Jones.
The British ships did come a little nearer. The forty merchant vessels sailed as fast as they could to the nearest harbor, and then the warships had a dreadful sea-fight. At seven o’clock in the evening, the British frigate and the “Bon Homme Richard” started to fight. They banged and hammered away for many hours, and then, when the British captain thought he must have beaten and broken the Americans, and it was so dark and smoky that they could only see each other by the fire flashes, the British captain, Pearson, called out to the American captain: “Are you beaten? Have you hauled down your flag?”
John Paul Jones 6
And back came the answer of Captain John Paul Jones: “I haven’t begun to fight yet!” So they went at it again. The two ships were now lashed together, and they tore each other like savage dogs in a dreadful fight. Oh, it was terrible! At last, when the poor old “Richard” was shot through and through, leaking, and on fire, and seemed ready to sink, Captain Jones made one last effort.
It was successful when the great mass of the “Serapis” crashed to the deck. Then her guns were quiet; her flag came tumbling down as a sign that she gave in. At once, Captain Jones sent some of his sailors aboard the defeated “Serapis.” They captured the vessel in a splendid new frigate, quite a different ship from the poor, old, worm-eaten, and worn-out “Richard.”
One of the American sailors went up to Captain Pearson, the British commander, and asked him if he had surrendered. The Englishman replied that he had, and then he and his chief officer went aboard the battered “Richard,” which was sinking even in its hour of victory. But Captain Jones stood on the deck of his sinking vessel, proud and triumphant. He had shown what an American captain and American sailors could do, even when everything was against them.
The English captain gave up his sword to the Americans, which is the way all sailors and soldiers do when they surrender their ships or their armies. The fight had been a brave one, and the English King knew that his captain had made a bold and desperate resistance, even if he had been whipped.
So, he rewarded Captain Pearson when he, at last, returned to England by giving him the title of “Sir,” and when Captain Jones heard of it. He laughed and said, “Well, if I can meet Captain Pearson again in a sea-fight, I’ll make a ‘lord’ of him.”  “Lord” is a higher title than “sir.”
The poor “Bon Homme Richard” was shot through and through and soon sank underneath the waves. But even when she went down, the Stars and Stripes floated arrogantly from the masthead in token of victory. Captain Jones, after the surrender, but all his men aboard the captured “Serapis,” and then off he sailed to the nearest friendly port, with his great prize and all his prisoners. This victory made him the greatest sailor in the whole American war.
The Dutch port into which he sailed was not friendly to America. Therefore, Captain Jones had made his name so famous as a sea fighter that neither the thirteen Dutch frigates inside the harbor nor the twelve British ships outside dared to touch him. After a while, when he got good and ready, Captain Jones ran the Stars and Stripes to the masthead and, while the wind was blowing a gale, sailed out of the harbor, right through two big British fleets, and so sailed carefully to France, with no one bold enough to attack him.
John Paul Jones 7He had made a great record as a sailor and sea fighter. France was on America’s side in the Revolution, you know, and when Captain Jones went to France after his prodigious victory, he was received with great honor. Everybody wished to see such a great hero. He went to the King’s court, and the King and Queen and French lords and ladies made much of him, gave him the warmest receptions, and said so many fine things about him that if he had been at all vain, it might have “turned his head,” as people say. But John Paul Jones’s effort was not vain.
He was a brave sailor, and he was in France to get support, not compliments. He wished for a new ship to take the place of the old “Richard,” which had gone to the bottom after its great victory. So, though the King of France honored him, received him superbly, and made him presents, he kept on working to get another ship. At last, he was made the captain of a new ship, called the “Ariel,” and sailed from France.
He had a ferocious battle with an English ship called the “Triumph” and at last defeated her. But she escaped before surrendering, and Captain Jones sailed across the sea to America. He was received with great honor and applause. Congress gave him a vote of thanks “for the defense and intrepidity with which he had supported the honor of the American flag”—that is what the vote said.
People of America were everywhere, and massive crowds gathered around to see him and called him a superhero and conqueror. Lafayette, the brave young Frenchman, you know, who came over to fight for America, called him “my dear Paul Jones,” and Washington and the other leaders in America said, “Well done, Captain Jones!”
The King of France sent him an impressive reward of merit called the “Cross of Honor,” and Congress set about building a fine ship for him to command. But before it was finished, the war was over, and he was sent back to France on some imperative business for the United States. After he had done this, the Russians asked him to come and help them fight the Turks.
This was often done in those days when soldiers and sailors from one country went to fight in the armies or navies of another. Captain Jones said he would be willing to go if the United States said he could, “for,” he said, “I can never renounce the magnificent title of a citizen of the United States.” They said he could go to Russia, but the British officers who were fighting for Russia rejected serving under John Paul Jones because, as they said, he was a rebel, a pirate, and a traitor.
You see, they had not forgiven him for beating and terrifying the English ships and people in the Revolution. And they called him these names because he, born in Scotland, had fought for America. They made it very unfriendly for Captain Jones, and he had such a hard time in Russia that, after numerous wonderful adventures and much hard fighting, at last he gave up and went back to France.
Unluckily, he was taken sick soon after he returned to France, and, though he tried to fight against it, he could not recover. He had gone through so many hardships, adventures, and challenges that he was old before his time. Although his friends tried to support him, the Queen of France sent her own doctor to attend to him; hence, it was of no use. He died on July 18, 1792, when he was 45 years old.
Captain John Paul Jones was buried in Paris with great honor. The French people gave him a massive, great funeral in the light of super respect and honor. The French clergyman who gave the funeral oration said: “May his example teach posterity the efforts which noble souls are capable of making when stimulated by hatred toward oppression.” Indeed, Captain John Paul Jones was a brave and gallant man. He fought desperately, and war is a dreadful thing, you know.
John Paul Jones 1But as I have told you, sometimes it must be, and then it must be bold and determined. Captain Jones did much with his dash and bravery to make the United States free. He gave his full strength and power to the seas. In his entire life, he bravely fought twenty-three naval battles. Out of them, he made seven attacks upon English ports and coasts, fought bravely, and captured four great warships larger than his own. His lifespan was too short, but he left many marks on people’s minds.  He took various valuable prizes for the loss of England and the glory of the United States.
The current American boys and girls do not know much about him. If you are a real learner, then you should know about him and those who have fought for America on land and in the sea. You must surely hear of him, who was the first captain in the United States Navy, and whose brave deeds and noble heroism are the heritage and example of American sailors for all time.
I have ever looked out for the honor of the American flag,” he said, and Americans are just beginning to see how much this first of American sailors did for their liberty, their honor, and their fame. Someday they will know him still more and in one of the great cities of this land, which he helped to save from destruction in those early days. A noble statue will be built to honor Captain John Paul Jones, the man who was one of the most courageous and effective sea fighters in the history of the world.
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