A Scotsman by birth, seaman John Paul Jones emigrated to the American colonies, moving to Philadelphia at the outset of the American Revolution. With the help of influential friends, he obtained a lieutenant's commission in the Continental navy. A year after his promotion to captain, Jones received from Congress command of the ship
. Sailing to France, he staged daring raids on British vessels and seaports. Jones took command of a French vessel in 1779, renaming it the
), in honor of Benjamin Franklin, who was much beloved by the French. On September 23 of that year, Jones encountered a large British convoy led by two heavily armed ships, the
Countess of Scarborough
. Although his vessels were the less formidable, the courageous Jones was able to outmaneuver the British and force a surrender in one of the fiercest battles in naval history.
Jones became a popular hero in France following this victory and did not return to Philadelphia until 1781. He next took command of the
, a 74-gun ship of the Continental navy. When the navy disbanded at war's end, Jones served as a collections agent abroad for monies owed to the Americans. In 1787 he was awarded a Gold Medal, the only such honor presented to a naval officer for service during the Revolution. Jones returned to Europe, where he sailed in the service of other nations, though he wrote to Thomas Jefferson that he could "never renounce the glorious title of a
citizen of the United States
He later died in France in 1792. The chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland, contains what are believed to be his remains, transferred there in 1905.
1. John Henry Sherburne,
Life and Character of the Chevalier John Paul Jones, a Captain in the Navy of the United States, during their Revolutionary War
(Washington, D.C.: Wilder & Campbell,