Thursday, November 5, 2015

John Paul Jones' Raid on Whitehaven

John Paul Jones
USNA Museum, Annapolis, MD

Pay a visit to the US Naval Academy chapel in Annapolis, MD and you will find the crypt that is the final resting place for John Paul Jones -- the father of the American Navy.  Jones was born the son of a gardner in Scotland.  He took to the sea at an early age.

When the American Revolution broke out he joined the Patriot cause against England.  Here is our account of the Whitehaven raid from our work, America Invades...

"In April of 1778, Captain John Paul Jones, the founding father of the American navy, and the crew of the Ranger, an 18-gun sloop, arrived in Britain and, unlike many Americans today, they weren’t there to visit Westminster Abbey or have a taste of fish and chips.

Jones selected the English fishing village of Whitehaven on the Irish Sea as his target; Whitehaven was Britain’s third busiest seaport at that time. He would attempt to destroy its shipping and to kidnap the Earl of Selkirk. The harbor of Whitehaven was protected by two small forts. In the early hours of April 23, 1778, he and about forty volunteers from his crew scaled the fortress wall. They kicked in the door of the guardhouse. The sleeping guards surrendered without a shot. Jones’s men proceeded to spike about thirty-six guns of the battery with nails driven into the cannon’s touchholes. About half of his crew then broke into a local tavern and proceeded to get drunk. This caused a commotion and roused the local townspeople. Jones beat a hasty retreat and set fire to a merchant ship, a collier (that’s a coal ship and nothing to do with Lassie) named Thompson.

John Paul Jones bust
USNA Chapel
Annapolis MD
Soon after, the Ranger sailed about twenty miles to enter the bay off St. Mary’s Isle. Jones took about a dozen men armed with cutlasses and muskets to a Georgian manor house owned by the Fourth Earl of Selkirk. Jones soon discovered that the earl was not in residence and could not be kidnapped. Instead, he demanded the silver plate be delivered up. The loot was hauled back to the Ranger. Shortly after, the 18-gun Ranger fought and captured the 20-gun Drake of the Royal Navy in an action that Jones described as “warm, close and obstinate.”

Jones’s raid on Whitehaven had succeeded in bringing the American Revolution “home to their own doors,” as he put it. The English press was incensed. The London Public Advertiser asked, “When such ravages are committed all along the coast, by one small privateer, what credit must it reflect on the First Lord of the Admiralty?” No one was killed or even injured in the Whitehaven raid, but insurance rates doubled. The Whitehaven raid lasted about two and a half hours and was an even shorter invasion than the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. Jones had second thoughts about the silver he stole from the Earl of Selkirk and later returned most of the loot.
Herman Melville described John Paul Jones as “a mixture of gentleman and wolf.” At a critical moment in his later sea battle with the Serapis, when called upon to surrender, Jones uttered the immortal words, “I have not yet begun to fight.” 

John Paul Jones Tomb, USNA Chapel, Annapolis, MD
Jones is buried with full honors at the US Naval Academy chapel in Annapolis...

In 1999, the town of Whitehaven in Cumbria officially pardoned John Paul Jones and the Freedom of the Harbor was granted to the USN. In 2003, the USS Leyte Gulf, a missile cruiser, paid a friendly visit to Whitehaven."

Whitehaven, UK

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Italy Invades the USNA, Annapolis!

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