That brilliant naval scofflaw, Scottish-born John Paul Jones of “Give me a fast ship, for I intend to sail in harm’s way” and “I have not yet begun to fight!” fame, is credited today by some as “The father of the U.S. Navy.” Of course, he had a spotty record prior to casting his lot with the Revolutionary Colonials in 1775, including more than a decade of service in British merchant and slave ships, a stint that covered a messy incident in putting down a mutiny and being labeled as “unnecessarily cruel” by at least one of his crews.
Between his command of the sloop USS Providence in 1776– which included taking at least 16 British prizes– and becoming the skipper of the new sloop USS Ranger in late 1777, he roomed at the Purcell boarding house in Portsmouth, New Hampshire from which he penned a number of letters. Returning to the area again in 1781-82, after his stint in commanding the short-lived 42-gun USS Bonhomme Richard and before his promised command of the new 74-gun ship-of-the-line USS America could be completed, he once again boarded with the widow Purcell.
This house today is remembered as the John Paul Jones Historic House in the care of the Portsmouth Historical Society, although it was never owned by Jones and he only lived there briefly for two short periods.
Nonetheless, you know I had to stop off there on my recent trip to Portsmouth.
Jones went on to spend time in the service of Catherine the Great (rising to the rank of rear admiral in the Imperial Russian Navy, higher than his American rank), then was found dead in his Paris apartment of nephritis at age 45 in July 1792– 230 days ago this week.
Interestingly, at least two other homes of Capt/RADM Jones exist today including the John Paul Jones Cottage Museum at Arbigland in his native Scotland and the house owned by his brother in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where Jones often stayed.
His current resting place, since 1905, is at Annapolis where he was interred in an ornate marble crypt underneath the iconic Naval Academy Chapel.