Front Matter Our Country Long Ago The Barbarous Indians The Mounds Where the Northmen Went The Northmen in America Queer Ideas Prince Henry the Navigator Youth of Columbus Columbus and the Queen "Land! Land!" Columbus and the Savages Home Again Columbus Ill-treated Death of Columbus How America Got its Name The Fountain of Youth "The Father of Waters" The French in Canada French and Spanish Quarrels The Sky City Around the World Nothing but Smoke Smith's Adventures The Jamestown Men Smith Wounded Pocahontas Visits England Hudson and the Indians The Mayflower Plymouth Rock The First Thanksgiving Snake Skin and Bullets The Beginning of Boston Stories of Two Ministers Williams and the Indians The Quakers The King-Killers King Phillip's War The Beginning of New York Penn and the Indians The Catholics in Maryland The Old Dominion Bacon's Rebellion A Journey Inland The Carolina Pirates Charter Oak Salem Witches Down the Mississippi La Salle's Adventures Indians on the Warpath Two Wars with the French Washington's Boyhood Washington's Journey Washington's First Battle Stories of Franklin Braddock's Defeat Wolfe at Quebec England and her Colonies The Stamp Tax The Anger of the Colonies The Boston Tea Party The Minutemen The Battle of Lexington Bunker Hill The Boston Boys The British leave Boston Declaration of Independence A Lady's Way of Helping Christmas Eve The Fight at Bennington Burgoyne's Surrender Winter at Valley Forge The Quaker Woman Putnam's Adventures Indian Cruelty Boone in Kentucky Famous Sea Fights The "Swamp Fox" The Poor Soldiers The Spy A Traitor's Death Two Unselfish Women Surrender of Cornwallis British Flag hauled down Washington's Farewell

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

Famous Sea Fights

While American patriots were busy fighting the British on land, others, equally brave, were fighting them at sea. As soon as the war began, Congress gave seamen letters of marque, which were permissions to attack and seize any British vessel they met.

The bravest and best known of all the American seamen of this time was John Paul Jones. Although born in Scotland, he adopted this country for his own, and, when the War of Independence began, offered his services to Congress. He proved such an able seaman that in 1777 he was sent to France on an important errand. Although the French did not give him a large ship, as he had hoped, he boldly cruised around in a little American vessel called the Ranger, on which he hoisted the first American flag ever seen and saluted at sea.

Paul Jones sailed boldly along, capturing and sinking English vessels, and even running into the port of Whitehaven, where he tried to burn all the shipping. Then, as his boat was no longer good enough to continue fighting, he went back to France, in quest of a long-promised new ship. But after five months' weary delay, he was still ashore and waiting.

One day he read in "Poor Richard's Almanac": "If you would have your business done, go; if not, send." This saying seemed so true that he immediately set out for Paris. There he managed to talk to the French minister, who again promised him a fine ship. But when the young seaman saw this craft, five days later, he was sorely disappointed, for it was both old and clumsy.

Still, any kind of a ship was better than no ship at all; so Paul Jones named it Bonhomme Richard, a French translation of "Poor Richard." Then he set sail in it, accompanied by a few smaller vessels, and coasted along the North Sea. There Jones ran near the shore, where his visits were so dreaded that, we are told, an old Scotch minister at Kirkcaldy once prayed: "Now, dear Lord, don't you think it a shame for you to send this vile pirate to rob our folk of Kirkcaldy? You know that they are poor enough already, and have nothing to spare."

Still, Paul Jones was not so vile a pirate as the old minister supposed, for whenever he landed for provisions, he paid the poor people for the food and cattle he took. We are also told that, his men having once robbed a castle of its silver plate, Jones sent it all back, eight years later, with a polite note.

The Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis


But while Jones did not wish to harm the poor, he did want to damage the British navy as much as he could. He therefore cruised about until he met the Serapis, a British man-of-war, off Flamborough Head (1779). Here was waged one of the fiercest naval battles ever fought. Although Jones's ship was afire from the very beginning, his guns all disabled, the vessel shot away between decks and slowly sinking, he boldly lashed it fast to the Serapis. While doing so he heard one of his men swear, and turning to him, quietly said: "Don't swear, sir; in another moment we may all be in eternity."

By this time the smoke was so thick that the British captain could not see whether the American flag had been hauled down. He therefore shouted: "Have you struck your colors?" But Jones coolly answered: "I have not yet begun to fight." Such was Jones's pluck that the British commander finally yielded; but when he gave up his sword to Paul Jones, he haughtily said: "It is with great reluctance that I surrender my sword to a man who fights with a halter round his neck."

Paul Jones gave him back the weapon, politely saying: "Captain Pearson, you have fought like a hero, and I have no doubt that your sovereign will reward you for it in the most ample manner." These words came true, for after Captain Pearson had been duly exchanged, George III. called him to court and made him a knight.

As the Bonhomme Richard was sinking, Jones transferred his men and prisoners to the Serapis. Then he sadly watched his own ship settle down and vanish beneath the waves. The Serapis was next taken to France, where it was discovered that Captain Landais, the French commander of one of the smaller vessels in Jones's fleet, was insane. Paul Jones and his men had known this for some time, because Landais had disobeyed orders several times, and when the Bonhomme Richard was fighting against the Serapis, he had even used his cannon against it instead of attacking the enemy.

The news of Paul Jones's victory caused great rejoicings both in America and in France, and when the young captain returned to the latter country, he was invited to court with Franklin. King Louis XVI. heard Jones's account of the fight, and told him that his enemy, Captain Pearson had just been knighted, and had received a new ship. Paul Jones then gayly answered: "Well, he deserved the honor, and if I meet him in his new ship I'll make a lord of him."

This answer greatly amused the king; but at the same time it showed that Paul Jones, hero as he was, had one great fault that of boasting. When he came back to America, Congress honored him; but as the young sailor did not think his services were well enough appreciated in America, he left our country soon after the war was ended, and went to serve Russia.

Paul Jones was not the only hero on the seas at this time, for we are told the American privateers captured five hundred British vessels in three years, secured much booty, and did great harm to the shipping in several English ports.