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Week In Focus #33

Founder Of The US Navy

This is picture #33 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.

  • This week’s photo is of a statue of John Paul Jones, the founder of the US Navy. On April 22, 1778 Jones, along with some of his crew attacked the Port of Whitehaven in West Cumbria. It was the last time the English mainland was invaded by foreign forces.

John Paul was born at Kirkbean in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, in 1747. He crossed the solway and began working in Whitehaven as an apprentice to a local merchant. His first voyage was made to America in the ‘Friendship of Whitehaven.’

Later he obtained command of the ‘Betsy of London’ in which he traded to the West Indies. During one of the expeditions to India the crew mutinied due to arrears of pay. This mutiny led to the death of the ringleader of the mutineers. John Paul’s friends persuaded him to flee from Tobago to the mainland. Here he assumed the name of Jones.

In the meantime relations between Britain and the Colonies was approaching a state of high tension. Due to the ineptitude and tactlessness of the British Government war broke out. Jones applied for and received a commission in the Infant Congressional Navy. He was appointed first lieutenant of the ‘Alfred’ and so distinguished himself in his duties that he was put in command of the ship USS Ranger’ on 1st November 1777.

In December of 1777 Jones set sail on a voyage around the British coast with a view to inflicting as much damage as possible on the enemy. Embittered by the events that had clouded his career as a merchant seaman he prepared to wreck the entire merchant fleet at Whitehaven. Prior to John Paul’s raid on Whitehaven his ship, the USS Ranger, was challenged off the coast of the Isle of Man by HMS Revenue Cutter ‘Hussar’ from Whitehaven. Following a brief engagement, the ‘Hussar’ received a hit on the stern and holes in her mainsail, the cutter escaped and returned to Whitehaven where the ship USS Ranger was reported as a vessel with hostile intentions.

On 18th April 1778 he attempted a descent on the town, but was foiled by contrary winds. On the evening of the 22nd he was lying in wait off Whitehaven. His call for volunteers met with poor response, but eventually Jones set out to attack the fleet of 200 collier vessels docked at Whitehaven, but due to the defection of one of his crew, who alerted the town, he was forced to retreat having created very little damage.

Following Jones’ attack on Whitehaven, the effect on the town was great, it spurred Whitehaven into considerable activity in improving its fortifications. The attack also embarrassed the British government immensely, they immediately ordered the Royal Navy to hunt him down. The Navy sent 12 ships to search the Irish Sea for Jones, but success was not forthcoming. Jones eventually accepted service as a Rear Admiral in the Russian Navy, but his career was wrecked by an accusation of rape, which was never proved or disproved. He returned to France, and there he died at the age of 45.

In 1913 his remains were removed to the crypt in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. In 1999, during Whitehaven’s inaugural Maritime Festival, John Paul Jones and the United States of America were granted an official pardon by the people of Whitehaven following events during the war of independence.

John Paul Jones Spiking A Whitehaven Cannon
Statue Of John Paul Jones Spiking A Cannon

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