John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones was the greatest naval hero of the American Revolution. In fact, he is often considered the father of the United States Navy.


Jones was born in Scotland in 1747. His name at birth was John Paul. He added the name Jones as an adult. At the age of 12, he signed up as a ship’s cabin boy and went to sea. John Paul worked on different British ships sailing in American and Caribbean waters.


In 1773, John Paul was in command of his own ship, the Betsy, when the crew mutinied. Jones killed the leader of the uprising. He was arrested for the killing, but he escaped to the American colony of Virginia.

The British marked him as a pirate and fugitive. John Paul gave himself a new last name, Jones, to hide his identity.


When the American Revolution against the British began in 1775, Jones joined the Continental Navy (which later became the U.S. Navy). By 1776, Jones was promoted to captain of the ship Providence. He sailed to Nova Scotia in Canada and destroyed British fishing operations there. He also captured 16 British ships.

On his new ship, the Ranger, Jones took the war to British waters. He cruised the coastline of Britain and destroyed British vessels. Jones’s success won him command over five ships. Jones gave his flagship a new name, the Bonhomme Richard (French for “Poor Richard”).


On September 23, 1779, Jones attacked the British warship Serapis. In one of the great naval battles in history, Jones won. With cannons blazing and smoke drifting over the sea, Jones was told the Bonhomme Richard was sinking. Over the cannon roar, Jones yelled the now-famous words, “I have not yet begun to fight!”


In 1788, Jones’s fame carried him to Russia. Empress Catherine the Great invited him to join the Russian navy. Jones retired to Paris, France, in 1790. Two years later, the United States gave Jones a diplomatic post, but he died soon after, on July 18, 1792.

John Paul Jones

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