Brother John Paul Jones was the leading naval figure of the American Revolution and today is considered one of “the fathers of the American Navy”. Born on the Arbigland estate in Kirkbean, Kirkcudbright, Scotland on July 6, 1747, as John Paul, he became a member of St. Bernard’ s Masonic Lodge No. 122 Kirkudbright, Scotland and was raised to Master Mason on November 27, 1770. John Paul left school at age 12 and at 13 became an apprentice to a local shipper. He worked aboard a series of commercial ships, finally earning his own command. While serving as the captain of the vessel Betsy in 1773, Jones was confronted by several mutinous crewmembers. Jones killed one of crewmen in what appeared to be an act of self-defense. The incident took place in waters off the British held island of Tobago. Warned that authorities on the island planned to arrest and put him on trial, Jones fled to America making his way to Philadelphia (its at this point he is said to have added Jones to his name). In 1775, he offered his services to the Continental Congress, and was assigned as First Lieutenant aboard the Alfred, the first ship commissioned in the fledgling Continental Navy. His performance in the early stages of the Revolutionary War, led to Jones being given his own command – the Providence. Shortly after he was named commander of a squadron that included his former ship, the Alfred .
In June of 1777, the Continental Congress ordered John Paul Jones to Portsmouth, N.H., to oversee the completion and take command of the newly built 18 gun sloop-of-war Ranger. Jones was said to have visited St. John’s Lodge No. 1 during his stay in Portsmouth. In November he sat sail for France. After conferring with American commissioners in Paris (which included fellow mason Benjamin Franklin), Jones began a series of costal and commerce raids against the British Isles. Although theses raids did little actual damage, the hope was the embarrassment caused the British government would force the Royal Navy to bring some of its fleet stationed in America back to England to better protect “British home waters.” During one of these raids, the Ranger engaged the British warship HMS Drake in the Irish Sea. In an hour long battle, the Ranger defeated and captured the Drake, marking the first time during the Revolution a British warship was captured by the Americans.
Upon returning to France, Jones was promised command of a new and larger vessel. After some time he finally received orders to take command of an aging French commercial vessel that had been converted to a 42-gun warship. Jones gave the ship the name Bonhomme Richard in honor of Benjamin Franklin. In August of 1779, Jones departed France in command of a five ship squadron with the Bonhomme Richard as his flagship. On September 23, Jones squadron encountered the British warships HMS Countess of Scarborough and HMS Serapis. All the ships in Jones squadron, with the exception of the Bonhomme Richard engaged the Countess of Scarborough, Jones vessel alone engaged the Serapis. Despite an incredible amount of punishment being inflicted on the Bonhomme Richard, Jones managed to defeat Serapis and force its surrender. The other ships in Jones squadron successfully defeated and captured the Countess of Scarborough. On September 25, Jones had to abandon the sinking Bonhomme Richard and return to France with the remaining four ships of his squadron plus the captured Serapis and Countess of Scarborough. The victory made Jones a hero both in France and America. Upon returning to the states, Jones was again ordered to Portsmouth N.H. in June of 1781 to oversee the construction of the 74 gun warship America (the largest ship in the Continental Navy). Jones was disappointed when in 1782 Congress decided to turn the ship over to the French as a sign of appreciation for their help in the American Revolution (also to compensate the French for a ship they had lost off Boston Harbor).
With the war officially ending in 1783, Jones along with other Continental Navy Officers found himself being discharged from service and facing an uncertain future. When offered, he accepted a commission as Admiral in the Navy of Russian Empress Catherine the Great whose antiquated and poorly led fleet was in desperate need of modernization. He also led the Russian Black Sea fleet against the Turkish navy. Although successful, Jones was constantly being undermined by officers who resented a “foreigner” holding such a high position in the Russian navy. Eventually Jones was relieved of his command, and soon moved back to France in May of 1790. Two years later he died alone in his Paris apartment. At the time of his death, Jones was near penniless, and friends (some who were said to be masons) had to raise the money for his burial in a French Protestant cemetery reserved for foreigners.
In 1899, the U.S. Ambassador to France, General Horace Porter, began a search for John Paul Jones grave: in 1905 he found it. American authorities arranged to exhume Jones body and have the remains shipped back to the U.S. for internment at the U.S. Naval Academy. Eleven U.S. warships escorted Jones body across the Atlantic to Maryland. The eulogy for Jones’ internment at the U.S. Navy Academy chapel in Annapolis was given by U.S. President, and fellow mason, Teddy Roosevelt.