...(he) wasn’t perfect. He was quick-tempered and had a big ego. At sea, (he) was invincible ... But he was awkward on land and not good at the office politics ... While these flaws dogged him, they paled in comparison to (his) enormous tactical skill and unshakable will to win.It is always best to let yourself and your loved ones be the judge. More often than not, the truth will come out. Below is the whole story from the IBD.
...(he) never saw the inside of a military academy, (and) nixed spit-and-polish leadership. He was a tough disciplinarian, but he preferred leading through personal example. He often was in the thick of the fighting, urging his crew onward.
...(he)used his own funds to launch or keep his often-leaky warships afloat.
...he’d been outmaneuvered for bigger and better commands by less able, more politically astute rivals. Disgusted, he left the U.S. in self-imposed exile.
...(later in another nation's navy) victory caused jealous ... officers to downplay (his) feat with (the executive). He lost his command and returned to France. He died cash-strapped in Paris ... and was buried in a cemetery that later became a garbage dump.
For John Paul Jones, no deed was impossible. Odds might seem impossible; resources might be impossibly scant. But the way Jones saw it, no action was out of reach if he put his mind toward success.
The first officer to command a warship under an American flag, Jones is considered a founder of the U.S. Navy. A merchant sea captainturned-swashbuckler, he became the first U.S. naval officer to willingly put himself under civilian command. The precedent he set contributed to the nation’s concept of civilian control of the military.
Jones (1747-92) was also the first U.S. military figure to push for a strong Navy. He foresaw long before others that naval power would play a critical role in the rise of the U.S. as a world power.
These lesser-known feats rank beside more famous ones like his capture of the British frigate Serapis in a sea battle off the British Coast in 1779. His surprise victory was one of the shocks that forced Britain to recognize U.S. independence. “His victory was an important strategic accomplishment at an absolutely crucial time,” said Joseph Callo, the author of “John Paul Jones, America’s First Sea Warrior” and a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Naval Reserve.
Jones was born in Scotland, the son of a gardener on a large estate. He spent his youth learning the ways of the sea on merchant ships, crossing the Atlantic many times until the American Revolution.
A Scot with no love for Britain, Jones gravitated early to the American cause. “He embraced that cause and that cause kept him going even when he wasn’t well-treated or frustrated by his superiors,” Callo said. Jones pushed from the start for a regular commission in the nascent U.S. Navy, even though he might’ve made more money seizing British ships as a privateer on contract with the Continental Congress. He got the commission, but not much financial support. Sometimes Jones, who never made much money, used his own funds to launch or keep his often-leaky warships afloat.
Jones wasn’t perfect. He was quick-tempered and had a big ego. At sea, Jones was invincible and never lost a battle. But he was awkward on land and not good at the office politics of his day.
While these flaws dogged him, they paled in comparison to Jones’ enormous tactical skill and unshakable will to win.
A lowborn sea captain who never saw the inside of a military academy, Jones nixed spit-and-polish leadership. He was a tough disciplinarian, but he preferred leading through personal example. He often was in the thick of the fighting, urging his crew onward.
Though he pushed his sailors, Jones was sensitive to their sufferings. He raised a ruckus when petty bureaucrats denied his crew members prize money they were owed for captured ships, and kept lobbying until they received the cash. Such acts earned Jones the loyalty of his men, who eagerly went the extra mile for him in their battles against superior British forces.
Jones, a protege of Benjamin Franklin, would take orders from those he respected — including Franklin and other Founding Fathers. The concept of civilian control of the military stemmed from there, Callo said.
A contrarian in war, Jones preferred to turn difficulty into advantage. If his ship was smaller than the enemy’s, he used it to maneuver faster. If foes were overconfident, he used their smugness to knock them off guard.
His most legendary use of this approach was Jones’ transformation of a worn-out French merchant vessel into the Bon Homme Richard, the ship in which he won his greatest victory.
The leaky ship carried cast-off cannon and was manned by a ragtag crew of Americans and foreigners. Jones used discipline and a commanding presence honed through years at sea to hammer them into an effective fighting force. Repeated drills and rousing speeches helped keep the crew focused.
The Bon Homme Richard was the flagship of a tiny flotilla sent to raid the English Coast. Jones’ small fleet was challenged by the Serapis, a first-class British frigate near Flamborough Head off Britain’s eastern coast on Sept. 23, 1779.
He ordered his flagship to meet the Serapis in single-ship combat The Serapis was one of the most powerful ships in the British navy Jones risked getting close to it so he could bring the martial skills of his crew to bear. He also had a surprise for the British. Aboard the Bon Homme Richard were 140 Irish marines drawn from regiments in the French army Jones knew these Irish exiles had a special beef with England and would fight with extra ferocity. In a magnificent show of seamanship, Jones brought his ship alongside the Serapis before its guns could pound him to pieces. Once the two joined and held fast, Jones had achieved his purpose. The sea battle, to all intents and purposes, had become a land battle.
As Irish marines swept the decks of the British ship with musket fire, hundreds of colonial seamen, freed slaves, Malays and stateless castaways boarded the Serapis with cutlasses and boarding hooks. In the three-hour fight that followed, more than half the Bon Homme Richard’s crew of 322 would be killed or wounded, as cannons on both ships continued to pound each other at point-blank range.
The tenacity of the American assault stunned the British. In the past, they’d triumphed easily over inferior American ships because of better firepower and equipment. At one point in the melee, the Bon Homme Richard began taking on water. The British captain urged Jones to strike his flag and surrender. It was then that Jones gave his famous reply, “I have not yet begun to fight.”
“It was Jones’ doctrine that ‘I will never give up,’ ” Callo said. “(The fight) was long past the point when other commanders would have surrendered. He could have done it and no one would have blamed him. But Jones wouldn’t give up.” An hour later, it was the British who struck their flag and surrendered.
Jones was hailed as a hero. But by the end of the Revolution, he’d been outmaneuvered for bigger and better commands by less able, more politically astute rivals. Disgusted, he left the U.S. in self-imposed exile.
He served a stint in the navy of Czarina Catherine the Great of Russia and helped drive the Turks from a key fortress on the Black Sea. But Jones’ victory caused jealous Russian officers to downplay Jones’ feat with the czarina. He lost his command and returned to France.
He died cash-strapped in Paris in 1792 and was buried in a cemetery that later became a garbage dump. Jones’ remains stayed there until 1905 when they were exhumed on orders of President Theodore Roosevelt. To make up for Jones’ previous 100 years of anonymity, an honor guard of 500 American sailors escorted Jones’ coffin to a waiting U.S. cruiser at a French port.
Seven U.S. battleships formed an honor guard as the cruiser with Jones’ casket rounded Nantucket in Massachusetts and made for the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. Jones now rests there in a guarded, marble tomb beneath the school’s chapel.