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On this webpage you can read a chapter of
Stories of Heroism

William Mace

published by
Rand McNally & Company
New York, 1909.

It's all right to copy it or use it any way you want.

I checked this page carefully for mistakes,
and didn't find any:
but if you find one, please let me know!


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 p211  The Men Who Helped Win Independence by Fighting England on the Sea

Paul Jones, a Scotchman, who Won the Great Victory in the French Ship, "Bon Homme Richard"

118. John Paul Jones. In 1747, in far-away Scotland, on the arm of the sea called Solway Firth, a great sailor was born. John Paul played along the seashore, saw tall ships, and heard wonderful stories of a new land called America, whose ships filled with tobacco came into the firth.

John Paul did not get much schooling, and at the age of thirteen he went as a sailor lad on the "Friendship" to America. The ship sailed into Chesapeake Bay and up the Rappahannock River to the town of Fredericksburg, where he found his brother William living on a plantation. In the very same town where George Washington had just been to school, John Paul also went to school, and studied hard to make up for lost time, and left a great name among the boys.

He afterward returned to Scotland, and at the age of nineteen sailed as an officer on a slave-trading ship to Africa, and carried a load of negroes away from their native land. Many people did not then think it wrong to do this, but John Paul hated the cruel business, and left the slave ship as soon as he reached Jamaica.

 p212  On his way back to Scotland, the officers of the ship died, and John Paul, although but twenty years old, had to take charge. The owners of the vessel were so pleased with the way he handled it that they made him captain, and he went on many voyages to different countries.

After a time John Paul went to Virginia to take care of his dead brother's plantation. While he was living in Virginia he watched the quarrel between England and her colonies break out in open war.

119. John Paul Jones Enters the American Navy. He hastened to Philadelphia and offered his services to Congress. He knew that England would send thousands of soldiers to America; and that she would send her war ships along our seacoasts and up and down our bays and rivers, to capture and burn our towns. He also knew that the Congress did not own a single war ship when the war began.

Congress ordered war ships to be built. While these were being made, Congress ordered trading vessels to be fitted with cannon and sent out to capture British ships.

When John Paul went to Philadelphia he gave his name as Paul Jones, probably in honor of Willie Jones, a friend who lived in North Carolina. Some have thought that he did not want the British to know him, if they should capture him in a sea fight.

Although Paul Jones really knew more about war ships than most of the men in Philadelphia, Congress gave him a very low office. But that made no difference to him, for he really wanted to get into a sea fight. In 1775, he was made a lieutenant, and joined an expedition to capture cannon and powder from the British in the West Indies. He did so well that Congress made him captain and gave him a ship. He then went on a cruise to the West Indies where in six weeks he captured sixteen prizes and destroyed a number of small vessels.

 p213  Congress afterward gave him command of the ship "Ranger," and sent him to carry letters to Benjamin Franklin, who was in France trying to get the king to take sides with the Americans.

Franklin planned for Jones to take the "Ranger" to the coast of England, and show that American as well as English ships could burn, destroy, and fight. He captured two vessels, made straight for his old town of Whitehaven, "spiked" the cannon in the fort, set some ships on fire, and escaped without harm.

Near by this place, his sailors took all the silver from the home of a rich lady. This robbery troubled him so much that, afterward, at great expense to himself, he returned the silver to its owner.

"Look out for Paul Jones, the pirate!" the people said; and the "Drake," carrying two more cannon than the "Ranger," was sent to capture her. Five boat loads of people went to see the pirate captured. The fight lasted more than an hour. When the "Drake" surrendered, her captain and forty-two men had been killed. The "Ranger" had lost only two men. After this fight the English towns were still more afraid of Paul Jones.

There was great joy in France when Paul Jones sailed into port. The king, who was now making war on England, promised him a larger fleet of war vessels. So, in 1779, he found himself captain of a large ship armed with fifty cannon. He called the ship the "Bon Homme Richard" in honor of Franklin's Almanac, the "Poor Richard." Three smaller vessels joined him, and he again set sail for the English coast. The news of his coming caused great alarm.

 p214  120. A Great Sea Fight and a Great Victory. As Paul Jones sailed along the British coasts he captured many trading ships and frightened the people. At last he came upon two British war ships. Just at dark the "Richard" attacked a larger English ship, the "Serapis." At the first fire two of Jones's cannon burst, tearing up the deck and killing a dozen of his own men.

The fight went on for an hour, when the "Serapis" came near, and Jones ran the "Richard" into her. "Have you struck your colors?" called out the English captain. "I have not yet begun to fight!" replied Captain Jones. When the ships came together again Paul Jones himself seized a great rope and tied them together. Now the fighting was terrific. The cannon tore huge holes in the sides of the ships.

A great explosion on the "Serapis" killed twenty of her men. Both ships were on fire, and the "Richard" began to fill with water. The men on each ship had to fight fire. It was ten o'clock at night. The British prisoners on the "Richard" had to help pump out water to keep the ship from sinking.

Only a few cannon on each ship could be fired. The decks of both ships were covered with dead and wounded, but neither captain would give up. Finally Paul Jones, with his own hands, pointed two cannon at the great mast of the "Serapis." Just as it was about to fall, the English captain surrendered.

All night Jones and his men were kept busy fighting fire and pumping water, while the wounded were removed to the "Serapis."  p215 The "Good Man Richard" sank the next day at ten o'clock. Paul Jones sailed to France with his two English ships, where he was praised and rewarded by the King of France. He was a great hero in the eyes of the French people, and in the eyes of the Americans, too.

After the war Paul Jones was an officer in the Russian navy. He died in France in 1792. His grave was forgotten for many years, but was discovered in 1905, and his bones were brought to America with great honor, and buried at Annapolis, Maryland.

John Barry, who won more Sea Fights in the Revolution than Any Other Captain

121. John Barry. Although born on a farm in Ireland (1745), John Barry wanted to be a sailor lad. While still young he was put to service on board a merchant ship. Here young Barry learned more than being a mere sailor. Between voyages he used his time well in hard study, and soon gained a useful education. At the age of fifteen he came to Philadelphia, and was so pleased with the country and the people that he resolved to make America his home.

He rose rapidly as a sailor and soon came to be a master of a merchant ship. When the news of the first bloodshed between England and her Colonies came he had already been captain of half a dozen vessels. He now offered his services to Congress.

 p216  In 1776, Congress made him captain of the ship "Lexington," the first Continental vessel to sail from William Penn's old city. Barry immediately put to sea, and met and capture the "Edward" after a fierce fight. Thus the "Lexington" was the first ship to bear the American flag to victory.

Congress, pleased with the result, put him in charge of a larger ship, called the "Effingham." She did not do much, as the British bottled her up in the Delaware.

But Barry was not idle. He armed four boats full of men, and, with muffled oars, rowed down the Delaware at night. Just as the sun was rising Barry saw a British vessel of ten guns. With this ship were four transports loaded for forage for the British army. Barry's boats made for British ship. His men climbed on board with guns and swords in hand. The British soldiers threw down their arms and ran below. Barry fastened down the hatchways, and then turned his attention to the four transports, which quickly surrendered. Barry took the five prizes across the river to an American fort. There he found he had captured a major, two captains, three lieutenants, and more than one hundred soldiers and sailors. Not a bad day's work for thirty Americans!

 p217  Washington and the Americans were loud in their praises of Barry. The British general, Howe, it is said, offered him $100,000 and the command of a British ship if he would desert the Americans. "Not the value and command of the whole British fleet can seduce me to desert the cause of my country," was Barry's answer.

In 1778 Congress promoted John Barry to the command of the "Raleigh," a fine ship with a noble name. He set sail for Boston, and on his way met a British ship carrying thirty-two guns. His sailors had taken an oath never to surrender. They fought with great bravery, and had every hope of winning the fight, when a British 64‑gun ship came in sight. To keep their oaths, they ran the "Raleigh" ashore on an island, and set her on fire. The British put out the fire and saved the ship.

122. Barry Given Command of the "Alliance." In 1781 Barry was placed in command of the "Alliance," a ship whose name was given in honor of France's helping America in this war. He carried important news to France. On the voyage home, Barry captured a number of vessels.

In May the "Alliance" met two British ships, and a hard battle  p218 followed. Barry was dangerously wounded. Eleven of his men were killed, and twenty-one wounded. Barry would not surrender, but fought on and forced the British ships to strike their colors.

He next took General Lafayette to France. After his return to America he went on a cruise and captured several vessels.

In 1783, Barry, in the "Alliance," sailed on his last voyage of the Revolution. His companion ship was the "Luzerne." Three British ships discovered the Americans and quickly gave chase. The "Luzerne" was slow and threw overboard her guns.

Another vessel came into view; it was a French ship of fifty guns. With her aid Barry immediately decided to fight. He made a speech to his men, and went from gun to gun urging the men not to fire until ordered. A terrific battle with the foremost British ship followed. The "Alliance" soon had the British ship badly cut up. Most of her guns were silenced, and after fifty minutes fighting, she showed signals of distress.

The remaining British ships now came up to rescue her, and the "Alliance" sailed away. The French ships took no part in the battle.

The Revolution was now over, and the colonies were free states. There were no more war ships to command. But John Barry was born for the sea. He immediately took command of a merchant ship, and began to add to his own fortune.

When Congress provided a navy, General Knox, Washington's Secretary of War and of the Navy, named John Barry as first  p219 commodore. He superintended the construction of the war ship, the "United States," and served on board her as the senior command of the American navy, until his death, at Philadelphia, in 1803. The people of Philadelphia have erected a monument to his memory (1907).

Suggestions Intended to Help the Pupil

The Leading Facts. 1. John Paul was born a sailor in Scotland and went to America. 2. He was in America when war broke out; offered his service and was made lieutenant. 3. Congress sent him to France, and Franklin sent him to prey on English commerce. 4. Paul Jones won the great sea fight in the "Bon Homme Richard." 5. John Barry was born in Ireland, but went to sea early. 6. Congress made him captain in 1776, in charge of the "Lexington." 7. Barry set the country talking by capturing a war vessel and four transports. 8. John Barry won more naval victories in the Revolutionary War than any other officer. 9. Named first commodore in 1794 by the Secretary of the Navy.

Study Questions. 1. Give an account of John Paul's boyhood. 2. What of his first visit to America? 3. How did Paul happen, at so early an age, to have full charge of a vessel? 4. Why did he go to Virginia a second time? 5. Why did he hasten to Congress as soon as war began? 6. How did Paul Jones prove his right to be a captain? 7. Tell the stories of the battle between the "Drake" and the "Ranger." 8. Picture the battle between the "Bon Homme Richard" and the "Serapis." 9. What rewards came to Paul Jones? 10. Where is he buried?

11. Give an account of John Barry's youth. 12. When the war came, what was Barry's action? 13. What was the first victory on the part of the navy? 14. Commit to memory Barry's reply to the offer of the British. 15. What was the outcome of the battle on the "Raleigh"? 16. What were Barry's experiences in the "Alliance"? Picture Barry's last battle.

Suggested Readings. Paul Jones: Beebe, Four American Naval Heroes, 17‑68; Abbot, Blue Jackets of '76, 83‑154; Frothingham, Sea Fighters, 226‑266; Hart, Camps and Firesides of the American Revolution, 285‑289; Hart, How Our Grandfathers Lived, 217‑219; Seawell, Paul Jones.

John Barry: Griffin, Commodore John Barry, 1‑96.

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Page updated: 11 Sep 06