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What American or French girl or boy does not like to hear of that "wizard" of the sea,--John Paul Jones! That "Pirate," as he was called by the English minister in Holland, when Jones took his captured prizes there, but he was no more a Pirate than you or I. The word Pirate means one who is at war with mankind, and John Paul was holding an honest position in an honorable service and fighting only the enemies of his adopted country--America.


Paul Jones the Pirate By A. Park of London [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

He was born July 6th, 1747, at Arbigland, Scotland, of poor and obscure parents, his father being a gardener, but the right material was in him to make a great man and he won for himself a world-wide fame as a leading figure in the American Navy. The only conqueror to whom he ever lowered his colors was death.

At twelve years of age he was apprenticed, then went to sea on the "Friendship" to visit his brother William Paul, in Virginia. While in North Carolina, in 1773, he changed his surname to Jones for the love he bore to a family of that name living there. To show what one can do when he tries and has faith in himself, I will tell you that Jones was a poor sailor at twelve, officer at seventeen, Naval Lieutenant at twenty-eight, Captain at twenty-nine, Commodore at thirty-two, at forty-one a Vice-Admiral in the Imperial Navy of Russia, at forty-three a prominent figure in the French Revolution, and died at the age of forty-five, deeply deplored by Napoleon, who expected to do great things in conjunction with him.

John Paul Jones capturing the Serapis Alonzo Chappel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Jones loved France and France loved him, and with him and France we were able to gain our liberty from the British yoke. He loved America because he loved liberty, and he put all his grand titles aside when making his last will and testament to sign himself, "I, John Paul Jones, an American citizen." Such men as Washington, Franklin, Hamilton and LaFayette, were his staunch friends. Kings and Queens delighted to do him favor. Louis XVI knighted him and presented him with a sword of honor. Catherine, of Russia, made him an Admiral and loaded him with honors. These are only a few of his distinguished friends.

In personal appearance he was slender and swarthy, with black hair and eyes; always well dressed, graceful and courtly. He was as much at home at the most aristocratic courts of Europe as when treading the deck of a man-of-war. He was grave by nature, but quite witty.

A kinder heart never beat in the breast of any man.

He hoisted the first American Flag that ever flew from an American war vessel, on his ship, the "Ranger," and at the same time Congress decided to accept the present form of the flag, it made him Captain of the "Ranger," hence his remark: "The flag and I are twins; born at the same hour, from the same womb of destiny; we cannot be parted in life or death."

February 14th, 1778, the French naval commander, Lea Motte Piquet, saluted for the first time from a foreign power the Stars and Stripes,--gave thirteen and received nine guns.

USS Bonhomme Richard Courtesy of Wikimedia

Just a word right here about the flag, so dear to us:

When Betsy Ross made our flag, she objected to the six pointed stars that General Washington wanted, because the English used it, but told him it would be more appropriate to use the five pointed star that the French and Dutch used, as they were friendly to the colonies; and she had her way.

I haven't space to tell of the many victories of Jones, but one of the greatest was when he captured the "Serapis" from the British, September 23, 1779. His own little weak vessel, the "Bonhomme Richard" went down with the flag flying, but just before it sank, his antagonist thought he was about to give up the fight, and asked him "if he had struck his flag?" He answered, "I've just begun to fight." So he won the battle and captured the prize.

Jones died July 18, 1792, in Paris, of dropsy of the chest. He was buried in the old St. Louis cemetery, in the northeastern part of Paris, and lay there one hundred and thirteen years before he was brought back to the United States. General Horace Porter is the man who, after six long years of search, finally found his body in the old cemetery, which by this time was the dumping ground for horses and dogs.

The body had been put in a leaden coffin, carefully packed with straw and hay, and then filled with alcohol to preserve it. Rear Admiral C. D. Sigsbee, was sent to France to bring the remains of the hero home.

Knowing Jones' love for our flag, the Daughters of the American Revolution Society presented Admiral Sigsbee with a beautiful silk flag, June 15th, 1905, to be used in connection with the return of Jones' remains. Afterward it was hung in Continental Hall, Washington, D. C.

On July 25, 1915, the body of Jones was placed in a brick vault, Naval Academy grounds, Annapolis, with religious and military ceremonies. On April 29, 1906, commemorative ceremonies were held in the Armory of the Naval Academy, Annapolis, and then the casket was put in Bancroft Hall. Here all that is mortal of the conqueror of the "Serapis" lies, and in the battles of life when the odds seem against us, may we be able to exclaim with him, "I've just begun to fight."--Mrs. W. E. Wimpy, Piedmont Continental Chapter, D. A. R.