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The Struggle For Sea Power: A Naval History Of The American Revolution

As the sound ricocheted off Flamborough Head, both ships ran up their colors and fired broadsides. Predictably, Serapis maneuvered around Bonhomme Richard , methodically inflicting heavy damage. As casualties aboard the American ship mounted, Pearson shouted to Jones, asking if he would strike his colors. Given the course of the battle to that point, it was a rational question. It later morphed into the phrase that has since echoed in U. Perhaps due to slight wind shifts or a few prescient maneuvers by Jones or overconfidence by Pearson, the ships came together twice.

The second time, Jones and his crew managed to hurl over grappling hooks, and the flow of battle shifted. He struck, and British citizens again witnessed an American victory at sea. The shock rippled across America and Europe, particularly in London. On Oct. Jones had roiled the coasts of the British Isles, captured or destroyed British merchant ships and outfought a modern British frigate in single-ship combat, a victory that made him a hero in America and a celebrity in Paris and other European capitals. In naval terms, the Battle of Flamborough Head was what the Battle of Yorktown was to the land campaigns of the American Revolution: It shifted the paradigm.

The same unbreakable determination Jones exhibited in combat drove his dealings with civilian leaders, and as America grappled for its independence, he continued to push his forward thinking.

In September , he again wrote Robert Morris of the long-term future of the Navy. Was it a proof of madness in the first corps of sea officers, at so critical a period, to have launched out on the ocean … to make war against such a power as Great Britain? Jones contrasted British and French naval tactics and assessed the difference between single-ship combat and fleet tactics. The letter also discussed a revised rank structure for officers, a signaling system for use in combat and a naval constitution that would govern the growing U.

It was the germ of an idea that would eventually be realized with the October founding of the Naval School, precursor to the U. Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland. Jones also suggested that a single frigate in his command be sent to Europe under the U. If such an expedition proved too expensive, Jones offered to travel to Europe as a passenger to pursue the agreements.

It was a visionary proposal for a new country struggling to emerge from the exigencies of war. In time of peace it is necessary to prepare, and be always prepared, for war by sea. In fact, in America entered a nine-year period when she had no Navy at all. That lack of ships in support of national interests would contribute significantly to the onset of the Quasi-War with France , the Barbary Wars and the War of But if Jones — whose strategic sense of naval power was visionary and who continually lobbied for a professional Navy with global reach — does not qualify for fatherhood status, there is another title he can legitimately claim: First Sea Power Visionary.

The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of the American Revolution

He died alone, and a century later no one actually knew where he was buried — or seemed to care. Only now do we realize that Jones also foresaw the critical role the U.

This article originally appeared in the August issue of Military History, a sister publication of Navy Times. To subscribe, click here. By: Joseph F. For more newsletters click here. Fear of missing out? Thanks for signing up. John Paul Jones, oil on pressboard painting by A. Naval History and Heritage Command. Library of Congress.


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