John Paul Jones - The Father of the American Navy

John Paul Jones - The Father of the American Navy

John Paul Jones is famous for being the Father of the American Navy, though he spent just a short time in the United States.          

Life at Sea

John Paul, born and raised in Scotland, took to the seas at age 13.  He learned the ropes on merchant ships and by his mid-30’s had proven himself capable of being a captain.

Paul believed in strong discipline.  He was once tried and release on bail for having a sailor beaten.  This man later died, although his demise was mostly likely due to yellow fever.

Not long after this, John Paul killed another crew member with a sword.  He claimed this action was in self defense but, as this was his second accusation in a short period of time, he fled to Virginia.

Because of the situation he was in, John Paul added Jones to the end of his name.

Raiding Canada

John Paul Jones had arrived in the colonies just as the American Revolution was breaking out.

Jones volunteered his services to a rebellion in need of experienced captains.  Commodore Esek Hopkins put Jones in charge of a ship and ordered him to sail to the Bahamas.

After a short time in the Caribbean, Jones sailed for Canada.  He led the successful Raid on Canso in Nova Scotia.  His men destroyed numerous ships and fishing vessels.  They also pillaged a number of villages in the area.

The Shores of Britain

Jones would sail to Europe where his efforts were directed at terrorizing the coasts of Great Britain.  

He attempted to attack anchored ships in the dark of night and burn all the vessels in the harbor of Whitehaven, but these missions were unsuccessful.  Still, his presence struck fear in the hearts of British citizens up and down the coast.

During this time, Jones had an issue with his first mate, Thomas Simpson.  Jones blamed Simpson for insubordination among the crew.  Simpson claimed Jones was making up the accusations in order to hog the glory for himself.  This type of encounter would echo throughout Jones’ career.

The Battle of Flamborough Head

In 1779, John Paul Jones sailed with a combined French and Spanish fleet to invade England.  Jones went ahead and lured the British to follow him.  As he left, the French and Spanish sailed easily into the English Channel (although, for a number of reasons, the invasion never happened).

Jones sailed around the top of Great Britain and began bringing fear to the eastern shores.

In the North Sea, Jones encountered two British ships.  The two sides engaged in the Battle of Flamborough Head.  Despite taking more casualties, the Americans captured both ships.  

This has become the most celebrated naval battle of the American Revolution.  Jones, his ship sinking and being asked to surrender, uttered his famous line, “I have not yet begun to fight.”  (Or maybe he didn’t, this legend is hard to verify.)


John Paul Jones is hard to find a place for in history.  Although he is considered the Father of the American Navy, he was a subordinate of Esek Hopkins.  

Jones tried to run his ships like a professional Navy, but his men had little training and were often jealous of the riches being won by privateer ships.  In Britain, John was nothing more than a measly pirate.

Jones only won small battles, but his tiny armada struck fear into the entirety of the British Isles.  His legend may have grown bigger than his accomplishments, but sometimes that is just what a young country needs.


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Check out 'Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy' to learn more about John Paul Jones.  'Plain, Honest Men' is my book of the month and a great recount of the Constitutional Convention.  Pick them up on our affiliate Amazon through the links below and support this site a no additional cost to you.

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