Friday, December 23, 2005
The Final Voyage of John Paul Jones
We in the United States of America have a short history, at least by European standards, but it is a proud history, full of men and women who accomplished great deeds, and great leaders, and great minds, and great war heroes and traitors. One great war hero was John Paul Jones, a father of the United States Navy. Bringing him home to be laid to rest led to one of the strangest mining excavations ever undertaken. Let’s take a closer look…
John Paul was born in Scotland on the 6th of July 1747. Apprenticed to a merchant at age 13, he went to sea in the brig Friendship to learn the art of seamanship. At 21, he received his first command, a brig simply called John.
After several successful years as a merchant captain in the West Indies, John Paul encountered trouble, and fighting a mutinous crew, John Paul shot and killed a sailor. When the boat reached the port of Tobago, the British authorities arrested him. Knowing he faced almost certain death he picked the lock on his prison door and fled. He emigrated to the British colonies in North America. There he met a family who befriended him and he soon added their last name "Jones" to his name. His new name was destined to become so much beloved by his new countrymen that in the twentieth century the United States government would lunch one of the strangest mining expeditions ever conceived.
At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Jones was in Virginia. He cast his lot with the rebels, and on 7 December 1775, he was commissioned first lieutenant in the Continental Navy, serving aboard Esek Hopkins' flagship Alfred.
As First Lieutenant in Alfred, he was the first to hoist the Grand Union flag on a Continental warship. On the 1st of November 1777, he commanded the Ranger, sailing for France. Sailing into Quiberon Bay, France, on the 14th of February 1778, Jones and Admiral La Motte Piquet changed gun salutes — the first time that the Stars and Stripes, the flag of the new nation, was officially recognized by a foreign government.
Early in 1779, the French King gave Jones an ancient East Indiaman Duc de Duras, which Jones refitted, repaired, and renamed Bon Homme Richard as a compliment to his patron Benjamin Franklin. Commanding four other ships and two French privateers, he sailed on the 14th of August 1779 to raid English shipping.
In September of 1779, his ship engaged the HMS Serapis in the North Sea off Famborough Head, England. Richard was blasted in the initial broadside the two ships exchanged, losing much of her firepower and many of her gunners. Captain Richard Pearson, commanding Serapis, called out to Jones, asking if he surrendered. Jones' reply: "I have not yet begun to fight!"
It was a bloody battle with the two ships literally locked in combat. Sharpshooter Marines and seamen in Richard's tops raked Serapis with gunfire, clearing the weather decks. Jones and his crew tenaciously fought on, even though their ship was sinking beneath them. Finally, Capt. Pearson tore down his colors and the Serapis surrendered.
Bon Homme Richard sunk the next day and Jones was forced to transfer his flag and crew to the Serapis.
After the American Revolution, Jones served as a Rear Admiral in the service of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, but returned to Paris in 1790 as a representative of the United States. He died in Paris at the age of 45 on the 18th of July 1792. He was buried in St. Louis Cemetery, which belonged to the French royal family. Four years later, France's revolutionary government sold the property and the cemetery was soon forgotten.
In 1845, Col. John H. Sherburne began a campaign to return Jones' remains to the United States. He wrote Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft and requested the body be brought home aboard a ship of the Mediterranean Squadron. Six years later, preliminary arrangements were made, but the plans fell through when several of Jones' Scottish relatives objected. Had they not, another problem would have arisen. Jones was in an unmarked grave and no one knew exactly where that was. The question was how to first find the body and then how to get it back to the US.
American Ambassador Horace Porter began a systematic search for the missing American hero in 1899.
The burial place was located but another problem arose, fore you see, it seemed that the cemetery where Jones was buried had been abandoned and was now covered with factories, businesses and hospitals. Finally, a researcher discovered old archives that showed just where the body should be.
But how could it be reached?
As it turns out the only solution was to use miners to tunnel to the spot where the grave had been located! The miners dug their shaft to the spot where they though the Hero would be, they opened the end of their shaft into a small chamber and began their search. After a bit of additional digging they came across a lead casket inscribed with the letters J.P.J.
When the coffin lid was cut away, witnesses noted that the body had been so well preserved that it still resembled portraits of the war hero.
With Jones' body finally discovered, President Theodore Roosevelt in April of 1905, sent four cruisers to bring it back to the U.S., and John Paul Jones’ final voyage had begun. The four cruisers were escorted up the Chesapeake Bay by seven battleships, thus Jones was returned to the United States by the very same fleet he had helped to father over a hundred years earlier.
On the 26th of January 1913, the remains of John Paul Jones were laid to rest in the crypt of the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Md. with full military honors. Today, a Marine honor guard stands duty whenever the crypt is open to the public. Public visiting hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays, there are always visitors paying their respect the this heroic father of the American Navy.
A terrific hero, one of the fathers of our nation and a really weird mining excavation! See you net time.
I’m Average Joe