The first ships of the Continental
renamed ANDREW DORIA
John Paul Jones was one of the hero figures of the navy during the Americam
Revolution. He was born the son of the head gardener on Lord Selkirk`s
estate near Kirkcudbright in Scotland in 1747.
He was apprenticed to a shipmaster at the age of 12 and took command of
a ship when he was 19 after fever carried off the master and the mate.
Involved in the slave trade at one time.|
He entered the American Navy, being presented with his commission, as First Lieutenant of the ALFRED, dated 7 December 1775, by John Hancock in person in Independence Hall shortly after noon on 22 December. He thus became the first officer to receive his commission in the Continental navy.
The ALFRED was built at Maryport in Cumberland, England, in 1766. She was 440 tons and had been employed in the North American Trade until she was bought by Philadelphia merchants in 1770 to trade to the East Indies. She was armed with sixteen guns, mainly 6-pounders, but with long 9-pounders amidships.
Jones surveyed her on behalf of the Marine Committee.
"her tonnage, stability and scantling will enable her to mount a battery of 24 long nines on the gun deck and six 6-pounders on the quarter deck, and her berthing and hammock spaces will accomodate a complement of 220 officers, sailors and marines. This will make her the full equivalent of a 28 gun 9-pounder, light frigate of the standard British rate"
The Committee gave him the job of converting her to a warship but put Captain Saltonstall in command of her when she was completed on 22 December 1775, the first of a small squadron;
It was generally assumed that the squadron would be operating off Charlston, South Carolina, but secret orders from Congress ordered Commodore Esek Hopkins to take the ships to attack New Providence in the Bahamas where it was reported that a great quantity of gunpowder was stored.
Alfred, frigate....26 guns.....220 men.. Capt. Dudley Saltonstall Columbus, frigate..28..........220............ Abraham Whipple Andria Doria, brig.16..........130.............Nicholas Biddle Cabot, brig........14..........120.............John Hopkins Providence, sloop..12...........90.............John Hazard Wasp, schooner......8...........60.............William Hallock Fly, sloop..........4...........29.............Hoysteed HackerThe Commodore`s plan was to send in two small vessels, PROVIDENCE and WASP, pretending to be merchant ships with a landing party concealed below. Unfortunately the plan was ruined when the whole squadron showed up over the horizon.
Jones offered to retrieve the situation by guiding the ALFRED through the entrance to the harbor by going up to the fore-mast cross-trees from where he could see the shoals in the clear water. After they took possession of the fort Commodore Hopkins was able to send home cannon, mortars, shells, round shot and powder, all greatly needed by the American forces. He also took prisoner the Lieut.Governor, Montford Browne.More details
The returning squadron captured the British schooner HAWKE,6, on 4 April and the BOSTON,8, the following day. On the 6th the squadron was engaged by the 6th rate GLASGOW,20, Capt. Tyringham Howe. The fight continued for three hours with much damage being done to the American ships - ALFRED had her wheel shot away, became unmanageable and had six killed and six wounded - before GLASGOW decided that she was outnumbered and retired to Newport Harbor, with one man killed and two wounded. Captain Whipple of COLUMBUS faced a court martial to inquire into his conduct.More details
A council of war dismissed the captain of the Providence and Jones was ordered to command her and escort troops from Rhode Island to New York. Later, near Sable Island, he fell in with the MILFORD frigate with 32 guns. After an engagement which lasted, on and off, from ten in the morning until sunset, Jones managed to escape over the flats into a small harbor where he destroyed the fishery .
Jones was commissioned as a captain on 8 August 1776 and appointed to the command of ALFRED. In company with PROVIDENCE he set off on a cruise off the Canadian coast where he captured MELLISH, a large ship carrying muskets, field pieces and ten thousand sets of uniforms to Quebec, and several other vessels including a letter of marque taking a rich cargo to Liverpool. He returned to Boston on 10 December.
Jones was next ordered to sail for France in the French frigate AMPHITRITE to take possession of the INDIENNE, which was being built in Holland for Congress. Some difficulties ensued and he was ordered to prepare the RANGER for the voyage. On 1 November 1777 Jones sailed for France in his new command, a top-heavy and crank ship which could only carry eighteen of the twenty-six guns provided. During the 32 days it took him to cross from Portsmouth to Nantes he captured two brigantines. Unfortunately, when he arrived in Paris to tell Benjamin Franklin that General Burgoyne had surrenderd, he found that he had been beaten by 12 hours by a copy of the despatches which had come over in a fast French ship. RANGER`s flag, which had been made by the young ladies of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from pieces of their best silk gowns, was the first American flag to be saluted by a European Power.
Jones refitted the RANGER at Brest and she sailed for her first cruise on 3 February 1778. A westerly gale forced him to change his plans to go up the west coast of Ireland and instead he ventured into the Irish Sea. From some fishermen he learnt that the guardship at Carrickfergus in Belfast Lough, the DRAKE, a 20-gun ship, was coming out to look for him, but Jones had other ideas and crossed to the English coast.
On 22 April he was in sight of Whitehaven, in Cumberland, at the mouth of the Solway Firth. Jones describes it as "a comfortable harbor, in which there was then about 400 sail, some of them vessels of 250 tons burthen, and I determined to take advantage of the ebb tide, when the shipping was dry, to destroy them. "
His Lieutenants were unhappy with his proposals, so he took command in person and with thirty, reluctant volunteers in two small boats, quit the RANGER at an hour before midnight and rowed towards the harbor. It was farther than he though and the tide was against him so day was breaking before they landed. He sent one boat to the northern side of the harbor to set fire to the vessels there, while he led his men to capture a fort at the entrance. The small garrison was soon made prisoner and the guns were spiked but before Jones could do anything about burning the vessels on the southern side, he was astonished to see the other boat returning without having done a thing. The alarm was now raised ashore and a large crowd started to gather, so Jones decided that it would be prudent to retire. He says they set fire to some of the vessels, which burnt fiercly, but the British account says only one vessel was seriously scorched. One of the RANGER`s crew was missing when they returned to the ship and a local story says that it was he who raised the alarm.
From Whitehaven the RANGER sailed across the Firth and Jones made for the land of his birth, Kirkcudbright, where he hoped to take the Duke of Selkirk prisoner and hold him as a hostage. As she entered the river RANGER was taken for a British man-of-war, possibly bent on "impressing" men for the navy, so the local male population made themselves scarce. Jones landed with a body of armed men and learnt that the Duke was in London, but that Lady Selkirk and her children were at the castle. From her he demanded all the silver plate in her possession and it was handed over, even, so the story goes, the silver teapot, still unwashed, which had been used at breakfast thet morning.
The next day, 24 April Jones proposed to go to Carrickfergus and attack the DRAKE, but his crew turned mutinous and threatened to put him ashore at Whitehaven. However Captain Burden of DRAKE was preparing to attack RANGER and sent an officer in a boat to reconoitre her. Jones masked his guns and hid the crew below, pretending to be a merchantman. The midshipman and five crew of the British boat were deceived and captured. This trifling succss changed the minds of RANGER`s men and they were now prepared to give battle. The DRAKE came out attended by a number of yachts and pleasure boats, although when the action became serious thay thought it proper to retire to a respectful distance. The battle took place at close range, at a pistol-shot in the parlance of the time, and after an hour and five minutes, with both Captain Burden and his lieutenant being mortally wounded and 45 officers and men either killed or wounded, the English flag was lowered and Jones took possession. RANGER had lost two killed and six wounded.
Jones captured and destroyed more prizes before sending DRAKE and three merchantmen into Brest. Here he was forced to sell his prizes to pay and feed his crew and his draft on the American Commissioners was dishonored.
His next enterprise in the BONHOMME RICHARD has been described in another section.
In 1781 he returned to the United States where he was honored by Congress and given the job of supervising the construction of the AMERICA,74. He left the United States for the last time in 1787, his pay claims still unsettled, in fact it was not until July 1848 that Congress finally appropriated $50,000 for his heirs. He sailed for England in the GOVERNOR CLINTON in November, spent a week in London, then took confidential letters to Paris.
The Russian Empress, Catherine offered him the command of the naval forces in the Black Sea, and he was given the rank of Rear Admiral. He had some success in bringing discipline and efficiency to the Russian ships which brought victory in a battle with the Turks on 17 June 1788, but the jealousies and intrigues of the Russian court disgusted him. He returned to Paris where he died of dropsey of the breast on 18 July 1792 at the age of 45.
In 1913 his body was returned to the United States, honorably escorted by warships, to be interred in a sarcophagus in the chapel of the Naval Acadamy in Annapolis.