A Hero Comes Home at Last

Today in History, January 26: 1913 –  – John Paul Jones is laid to rest at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  I know I’ve told this story before, but I believe it is interesting enough to repeat. John Paul was born in Scotland and went to sea with British merchant ships at 13. In the West Indies he killed another sailor whom he said was a mutineer and had to flee. He settled in the American colonies and changed his name to John Paul Jones. He joined the Continental Navy when the Revolution began and became famous for his daring and courage; capturing several ships as prizes, raiding the English coast and fighting a horrific battle with his ship “Bonhomme Richard” (French for Poor Richard in honor of Benjamin Franklin) during with he responded to a demand for surrender with “I have not yet begun to fight!” After the war he served briefly in the Russian Navy as an admiral, but wanted to return to American Naval Service. The “Father of the US Navy” died without fanfare in Paris and was buried in an unmarked grave. Over 100 years later, in 1905, US Ambassador to France Gen. Horace Porter led the search to find Jones’ body, and with the help of the French, succeeded. Jones was taken back to America aboard the cruiser USS Brooklyn and was escorted into port by 7 battleships and 2 other cruisers. President Theodore Roosevelt, a naval history enthusiast, spoke at a ceremony at the US Naval Academy honoring Jones. Jones was eventually moved to his current tomb in the chapel at the Academy. An interesting aside; Gen. Porter had quite a history of his own. He was a Medal of Honor recipient for valor during the Civil War, was aide-de-camp to Gen. US Grant, was present in the room at Appomattox when Lee surrendered, and was Grant’s personal secretary during his Presidency.

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