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First Name: John

Last Name: Jones

Birthplace: Kirkcudbrightshire, GBR

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Paul

Date of Birth: 06 July 1747

Date of Death: 18 July 1792

Rank or Rate: Captain

Years Served:
John Paul Jones

•  Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)


John Paul Jones
Captain, U.S. Navy
Father of the American Navy

John Paul was born (he added Jones later) on 6 July 1747 at Arbigland Estate located in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, where his father was the caretaker. He was the fourth child of John and Jean MacDuff Paul whose family numbered seven children. At age 13, he was apprenticed to a sea merchant and placed aboard the brig Friendship to learn the art of seamanship. At 21, he received his first command, the brig John. After several successful years as a merchant skipper in the West Indies, John Paul emigrated to the Colonies; he also added "Jones" to his name.

At the outbreak of the American Revolution, he cast his lot with the Colonists. He received a commission in the Continental Navy and was given command of the sloop USS Providence, which he used to destroy the British fisheries in Nova Scotia while capturing 16 British ships. He is forever remembered in American Naval lore as Captain of the Bon Homme Richard a derelict ship given to him by the French King, which he refitted. During a raiding party along the English coast, Captain Jones encountered a much larger British ship, the Serapis. The battle fought by moonlight lasted more than three hours. The Bon Homme Richard appeared to the British commander to be finished. He called out to Jones, "Are you ready to surrender?" The answer, now known to every school child in America, was "I have not yet begun to fight!"

The battle continued until the British ship hoisted the surrender flag. The Bon Homme Richard was so badly damaged that Jones had to transfer his men to the Serapis. As they watched, the Bon Homme Richard sank beneath the waves. Jones returned to America and Congress passed a vote of thanks to him. He was to be given command of the USS America that was still under construction and destined to be the largest ship in the American Navy, but this was denied him.

He spent the remaining years of the war advising on the establishment of the Navy and the training of naval officers. The Revolutionary War won, Thomas Jefferson advised Jones to accept an offer from Empress Catherine II of Russia to serve in the Russian Navy. He took part in one naval campaign against the Turks. Russian naval officers plotted against him, hindering his efforts, until his recall to St. Petersburg where Jones was relegated to service with no duties. Naval officers continued to plot against him fearing the foreigner as a rival. Frustrated, Jones resigned after a year of service.

In May 1790, Jones arrived in Paris, where he remained in retirement for the rest of his life, although he made a number of attempts to re-enter the Russian service. In June 1792, Jones was appointed U.S. Consul to negotiate with the Dey of Algiers for the release of American captives. However, before Jones was able to fulfill his appointment, he died of Interstitial Nephritis and was found lying face-down on his bed in his third-floor Paris apartment at No. 42 Rue de Tournon.

Death and Burial

John Paul Jones died on 18 July 1792 in Paris, France.

A small procession of servants, friends and loyal soldiers walked his body the four miles for burial. He was buried in Paris at the Saint Louis Cemetery, which belonged to the French royal family. Four years later, France's revolutionary government sold the property and the cemetery was forgotten. The area was later used as a garden, a place to dispose of dead animals and where gamblers bet on animal fights.

Posthumous Return to America

A century after Jones' death, President Teddy Roosevelt launched an intensive search to find his body. In 1905, Jones's remains were identified by U.S. Ambassador to France General Horace Porter, who had searched for six years to track down the body using faulty copies of Jones's burial record. Porter knew what to look for in his search. With the aid of an old map of Paris, Porter's team, which included anthropologist Louis Capitan, identified the site of the former St. Louis Cemetery for Alien Protestants. Sounding probes were used to search for lead coffins and five coffins were ultimately exhumed. The third, unearthed on 7 April 1905, was later identified by a meticulous post-mortem examination by Doctors Capitan and Georges Papillault as being that of Jones. The autopsy confirmed the original listing of cause of death. The face was later compared to a bust by Jean-Antoine Houdon.

Thanks to the kind donation of a French admirer, Pierrot Francois Simmoneau, who had donated over 460 francs, Jones's body was preserved in alcohol and interred in a lead coffin "in the event that should the U.S. decide to claim his remains, they might more easily be identified."


Jones's body was ceremonially removed from interment in a Parisian charnel house and brought to the U.S. aboard the USS Brooklyn, escorted by three other cruisers. On approaching the American coastline, seven U.S. Navy battleships joined the procession escorting Jones's body back to America. On 24 April 1906, Jones's coffin was installed in Bancroft Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, following a ceremony in Dahlgren Hall that was presided over by President Theodore Roosevelt, who gave a lengthy tributary speech. On 26 January 1913, the Captain's remains were finally re-interred in a magnificent bronze and marble sarcophagus at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis. A naval midshipman stands at attention beside the sarcophagus on days when the tomb is opened to the public.


• Two U.S. Navy vessels have been named for John Paul Jones. The first was commissioned in 1954, decommissioned, and sunk as a target ship. Its replacement, USS John Paul Jones, a Aegis-Class destroyer, plies the seas of the Middle East rigged with Tomahawk missiles and is a formidable force for the Navy.

• Jones shares a three-cent commemorative stamp with fellow Continental naval officer John Berry which was issued in 1936.

• The modest John Paul Jones birth cottage in Scotland is preserved and is maintained as a museum. It was roofless and a ruin but through efforts of the U.S. Navy, it became a museum in 1993. Today...The small two room cottage is owned by a Trust which operates the facility located on the grounds of Arbigland Estate. It houses a collection of objects, pictures and documents relevant to the life of John Paul Jones. A nearby building houses many historic displays and features a gift shop.

Honoree ID: 2688   Created by: MHOH




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