On this day – October 13, 1775 the Continental Congress voted to fit out two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns, as well as swivel tunes and manned by crews of eighty – the US Navy was born. Their role was to intercept British ships carrying munitions and stores to the British Army in America.
Scotsman, John Paul Jones together with John Barry are regarded as “The Fathers of the US Navy”.
John Paul was born at Arbigland, Kirkbean, Kirkcudbright, Scotland, 6 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, the brig John. While emigrating to North America he added ‘Jones’ to his name.
On 7 December 1775, John Paul Jones was commissioned first lieutenant in the Continental Navy, serving aboard Esek Hopkins’ flagship Alfred.
On 23 September 1779, his ship the USS Bonhomme Richard, engaged the HMS Serapis in the North Sea off Famborough Head, England. Captain Richard Pearson, commanding Serapis, called out to Jones, having lost much of his firepower of in the initial broadside attack, asking if he surrendered. Jones’ reply: “I have not yet begun to fight!”
By attaching the two ships together, Jones was able to overcome much of Pearson’s advantage of greater firepower .(although the Bonhomme Richard was a larger ship with a considerably greater crew).
The battle raged on for three hours as the crew of Bonhomme Richard tenaciously fought Serapis, raking her deck with gunfire. Eventually, Alliance a frigate in Jones’s squadron, began firing at both the attached ships indiscriminately. Bonhomme Richard began to sink, but Captain Pearson, unable to aim his guns at the frigate because he was tied to Jones’s ship, surrendered, handing Serapis over to the Americans.