John Paul Jones
"I wish to have no connection with any ship that does
not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way"
John Paul Jones was born in Scotland in 1747, got a job as a ship's mate at the age of 12, and would go on to become one of the greatest Naval war heroes in our nation's history, forever known as "The Father of the American Navy".
From an early age, Jones had a fascination with ships and sailing. He spent his teenage years traveling the Atlantic on merchant and slaver ships, learning the ropes and developing his skills as a seaman. However, he eventually became disgusted with the inhumane treatment and cruelty inherent in the slave trade and decided that even though he was making a fuckton of money in the human trafficking business, he couldn't continue it in good conscience. While one of the slave ships he was working on was put to port in Jamaica he resigned his post, because true badasses don't put up with shit they don't agree with even if it means they get a wheelbarrow full of money for doing it.
Jones then went out and got a job on the brig John, and quickly took over command of the ship when both the captain and the first mate died of like scurvy or were eaten by sharks or something. Jones' navigational skill so impressed the ship's owners that when he arrived in port they appointed him Ship Master of the John (which kind of sounds like "King of the Crapper", but rest assured that this was actually a very high honor).
Shit was going pretty well for JPJ until he put into port in Tobago in 1773. While they were sailing into town one of Jones' asshole crewmen was being a total jackoff so Jones had him tied to the mast and flogged like a little bitch. Well apparently Jones harnessed his "Get Pissed" powers a little too well and got a little bit overzealous, because the poor bastard ended up dying from his wounds. With his good name tarnished by accusations of cruelty and murder, J.P. did what any good outlaw Brit scumbag worth his lime juice did back in the 18th century - he bolted for the American colonies.
Jones settled down in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he lived at his rich brother's posh estate. This was pretty sweet for a while, but guys like JPJ aren't really content to sit around on their asses when they should be out on a ship's deck somewhere hacking pirates' arms off with a cutlass and busting Merfolk in the face with unexploded cannonballs. Luckily for our hero, some serious shit was going down in the colonies in 1775 and JPJ was just in time for the fireworks.
You see, it was about this time that the colonies decided they were sick of paying taxes and thought the best way to solve that problem was to kill a bunch of British people. So they did. Unfortunately, they quickly realized that the Brits had a hugeass fucking über-powerful Navy that struck fear and awe into the hearts of all who would dare oppose her, while the colonials only had about a half-dozen fishing boats, two pairs of Water Wings and a really tall lighthouse. If their revolution was going to be successful, they were going to need ships, and men to command those ships. So they turned to guys like John Paul Jones, who were more than a little eager to hoist the mainsail and start laying down broadsides like a DJ drops phat beats.
Jones volunteered to join the fledgeling Continental Navy and was given the prestigious title of Senior First Lieutenant. He was the first man to hoist a United States Naval Ensign over a US vessel, the 30-Gun Alfred, on which he served as second-in-command, sort of like William Riker or Mr. Spock. The Alfred spent the first months of the war sailing up and down the East Coast sacking and plundering British merchant vessels as they tried to deliver supplies to the Redcoats. These raids were largely successful and were highly effective at pissing off the Brits.
Having proved himself worth his sea salts, Jones was given command of the 12-Gun Sloop Providence and sent out by Congress to kick asses and take names. Jones did this quite efficiently, capturing sixteen British vessels in a six-week time span and generally wreaking havoc on the British Navy like a pissed-off pirate with his hit-and-run tactics and general badassery. On 2 November 1776 he assaulted the British Coal Fleet at Isle Royale, destroying a large portion of the fleet, liberating a handful of American POW's who were being held on the island, and capturing a British Merchantman vessel laden with a cockload of winter clothing, snowboards and ski pants intended for the British troops stationed in Canada and New York.
On the heels of his success as Captain of the Providence, Jones was given command of the 18-Gun Frigate Ranger and sent to France to help the U.S. cause there. He headed for Paris, spent his nights getting wasted and hitting up the pubs with his good buddy and fellow badass Ben Franklin, and lived the good life while the French decided whether or not they were going to help us kick some Limey ass.
Once France officially joined the war on the side of the Americans, Jones immediately took the crew of the Ranger and headed for mainland England. As he departed, Ranger received a formal military salute from the French fleet, marking the first time a United States vessel had ever been officially saluted by a foreign warship. He proceeded to assault the British town of Whitehaven in the middle of the night in a daring raid where he and sixteen other dudes sailed into town on two rowboats and set fire to the fleet that was stationed there. Following this, he raided the private estate of the Earl of Selkirk, which was fucking balls-out to the max. He hoped to capture the Earl and ransom him in exchange for U.S. sailors that had been impressed into British service, but when JPJ and his minions arrived at the estate they found he was out of town on a business trip or something. So John and his guys sat down and had a nice cup of afternoon tea with the Earl's wife before stealing a set of silver dishes and re-boarding Ranger. Jones would later return these dishes to the Countess with a letter of apology because it's really just bad form to rip off someone who invited you in for tea and conversation.
With quite a bit of passive-aggressive shit taken care of on the British Isles, Ranger headed back to France to resupply. On the way back however, Jones came across the 20-Gun British Sloop-of-War HMS Drake. The two warships engaged, and in a fierce one-hour battle the Ranger won victory over the Drake, killing forty men (including the captain) and capturing the vessel. News of this victory bolstered American spirits, as it was the first successful battle fought by American forces in English waters, and was the Continental Navy's first military victory over a British warship.
When Jones returned to France he was given command of the USS Bonhomme Richard, a French Merchantmant that had been refitted as a 42-Gun Frigate, and was put in charge of a small squadron of U.S. warships. It was aboard the Bonhomme Richard that Jones would participate in the battle that would make his legend.
On 23 September 1779, Bonhomme Richard came across a fleet of around forty British Merchantmen being escorted by the 44-Gun Frigate Serapis and the 28-Gun Countess of Scarborough. Jones ordered his ships on the attack, and the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis closed and became involved in a brutal Frazier-and-Ali style old-school life-or-death face-smashing brawl. Devastating broadsides from Serapis blew apart the Bonhomme Richard's sides, knocking out several of her main deck cannons and crippling the ship. Jones fired back with broadsides of his own, but continued fire from the larger and more heavily-armed Serapis raked his ship, driving in his counters and quarters, forcing him to abandon all of his lower-deck guns, and catching Bonhomme Richard on fire in several places. At one point in the battle, a volley from Serapis blew a large portion of the Bonhomme Richard's mast off, causing Captain Pearson of Serapis to ask whether Jones had struck his colors in surrender. Jones took a look at the burning wreckage of his crippled warship, which taking on water and littered with dead bodies, set his jaw, and declared:
"Surrender?! I have not yet begun to fight!"
Jones then rammed Serapis with Bonhomme Richard, fouling both ships together. Serapis attemped to pull away from the Bonhomme Richard so she could bring the full might of her artillery to bear on the almost-defenseless American ship, but Jones threw hooks over the side and lashed the two ships together. His desperate men poured musket fire and hurled hand grenades at the Serapis' deck, setting fire to the ship and inflicting heavy casualties. A large contingent of British marines forward in an attempt to board the American vessel, but Jones was able to repulse the boarding party before leading a group of his own men over to Serapis, where he was able to capture the vessel and effect her surrender.
By the time the sun set that night, both ships were crippled, had lost over half of their men and were on fire in numerous places. Bonhomme Richard had to be abandoned the following morning when attempts to bail several feet of water out of her hold proved fruitless.
For his success in this heated battle against a British ship-of-the-line, John Paul Jones was knighted by King Louis of France and given a kickass Gold-Plated Sword of Pirate Slaying +4. He also received the order of Military Merit from the French government and was issued a special Medal of Valor by the United States Continental Congress in 1787. The Brits still thought of him as little better than a pirate and a motherfucker.
Since the US didn't have a whole lot of sweet wars going on in the late 1780s, JPJ headed over to Russia and went into service for Empress Catherine II, where he took the name "Pavel Dzhones" - presumably because it sort-of rhymes with "Gravel Cojones" which is pretty much what he had. Jones was made a Vice Admiral and given command of the Imperial Navy's 24-Gun flagship Vladimir. Onboard Vladimir Jones led the Russian defense of the Liman Region of the Black Sea when it came under attack from the Ottoman Turks, and in that campaign he proved himself quite adept at stepping on Turkish nutsacks. For repulsing the Ottoman forces and sending them back to Istanbul with their balls in a vice, Jones was awarded the Order of Saint Anne by the Tsarina. He returned to St. Petersburg to await further orders, but quickly grew tired of the political machinations of the Russian nobility and retired to Paris in 1790.
Jones died in Paris in 1792 and was buried in Saint Louis Cemetary, not far from his home. His remains were later exhumed and returned to the United States with a military escort consisting of several battleships, where he was re-interred at the United States Naval Academy chapel in an awesome sarcophagus modeled after Napoleon's coffin. He was buried with full military honors in a ceremony presided over by fellow badass Teddy Roosevelt.
I've given a lot of love on this website to American soldiers and Marines, but John Paul Jones was the perfect example of what it means to be a Navy man. He was a cunning strategist, a fearless warrior, and his "fuck you, never surrender" attitude exemplifies everything that it means to be badass. He was a true American war hero, and an all-American badass.
"An honorable Peace is and always was my first wish!
I can take no delight in the effusion of human Blood;
but, if this War should continue,
I wish to have the most active part in it."
John Paul Jones at "Famous Americans"
The Life of John Paul Jones
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