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Saturday, September 23, 2006

23 September - A Day in American Naval History

As Americans, we seem to share a common bond of pride in our "Founding Fathers" (aka "Framers") and enjoy bandying about the words "Freedom" and "Liberty." But sadly, our younger generation learns very little of our past - both in World History as civilized humans and in American History as countrymen. I find this to be a sad state of things, indeed.

Being an old Navy man myself, I thought I would honor this Day in History, 23 September with sharing a remembrance of a Naval battle that occurred 227 years ago on this day.

"I have not yet begun to fight!" shouted John Paul Jones when the captain of the British ship asked if he was ready to surrender. The 44 gun HMS Serapis had engaged the smaller 42 gun Bonhomme Richard. Outgunned, Jones had decided to ram his adversary. They were so close cannon muzzles touched and masts entangled, yet the American ship Bonhomme Richard, named for Ben Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac, refused to give up.

When two cannons exploded and they began sinking, Jones lashed his ship to the enemy's to keep it afloat. His marksmen in the rigging cleared the Serapis' decks so a boarding party was able to cross and effect her capture. After 3 more hours of fighting, the British surrendered. This was September 23, 1779.

In 1780, the King of France honoured him with the title "Chevalier". Jones accepted the honor, and when the Continental Congress in 1787 resolved that a medal of gold be struck in commemoration of his "valor and brilliant services" it was to be presented to "Chevalier John Paul Jones". By contrast, in Britain at this time, he was usually referred to as a pirate.

Called the "Father of the American Navy," John Paul Jones had been given command in 1775 of the Continental Navy's first ship, the Providence.

With 12 guns it had been the most victorious American vessel in the Revolution, capturing or sinking 40 British ships. In 1778, sailing the Ranger, Jones had raided the coasts of Scotland and England.

John Paul Jones led an adventurous and controversial life on the High Seas. Thought of as a scoundrel and rogue in some quarters, he was praised as a Hero in many others.

In 1792, Jones died in an obscure third-floor Paris apartment. He was buried in Paris, but, in 1905, his remains were ceremonially removed from his long-forgotten interment in the Charnel House for Alien Protestants, and brought to the United States where, in 1913, he was reinterred in the Naval Academy Chapel of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in a ceremony presided over by President Theodore Roosevelt, who later wrote "The great service done by him toward the achievement of independence...lead me to...do proper honor to the memory of John Paul Jones."
It should be said that the British have become our very best allies and friends since that time long ago. My hat is off to them as well!

Thanks to Brian at "Laptop America" and Wikipedia for this!


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Retired Navy and Cold War/Gulf War Veteran. Senior Analyst for a large defense contractor, Bachelor of Science, Father, moonlighting Graphic Designer (T-shirts etc) and Blogger.

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