(Almost) Hidden DC: Jones, USN

That’s as in “John Paul”.

He added the “Jones” after killing a sailor (“running him through”) while he was a merchant marine captain sailing in the Caribbean.  He escaped to America, adopted the pseudonym and expected to lay low, but the war with Britain intervened.

Though born in Scotland, John Paul readily took to America and to the revolutionary ideals of freedom and independence.  He joined the (very) fledgling US Navy as a lieutenant, turning down  several early offers of promotion to captain, a decision he would regret in years to come because of the Navy’s seniority list.

As a leader, Jones was detail-oriented, hot-tempered, expert and virtually never liked by his sailors, though he cared for them well.  As a subordinate officer or co-worker he was obstinate and prickly.  Good luck finding an example of any boss he ever got along with.  He even exasperated Ben Franklin with his behavior.

As a fighting sailor he was superb: aggressive, cunning, extremely well prepared, brave and never one to turn down a fight, even with a larger opponent.  Stories abound of him disguising his ship in order get close enough to a foe to engage at close range including a “grapple-and-board”  style fight.

Jones lusted for battle, the rank of admiral, and the biggest ship he could attain.  He was often frustrated though his place in history is secured as the man who sailed the Bonhomme Richard to England and terrorized the English sea coast with raids and battles that forced the Brits to keep more of their Navy close to home, as opposed to American waters.  His triumph over the HMS Serapis off Yorkshire’s Flamborough Head is the stuff of Navy lore.

Jones, of the “love them and leave them” type, remained single and went on to a short-lived career in the Russian navy, fighting the Turks in the Black Sea.  He returned to Paris, France, where he died a young man, age 45, in July of 1792.  Jones was preserved in alcohol, buried in a lead coffin and interred in what quickly became an obscure Paris cemetery.  In 1905, the body was found after a lengthy search and subsequently re-interred at the US Navy Academy in Annapolis.

Exact or not, he will always be remembered for his famous words:   “Surrender? I have not yet begun to fight.”

Jones:  At the foot of 17th St. at Independence Ave, near the Mall.

(Very close to WII Memorial)

38.88823°N 77.0395°W

Bronze, 1912, sculpted by Charles H. Niehaus

Sources: Samuel Eliot Morison’s John Paul Jones and Wiki


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