At the start of the Revolutionary War, he was commissioned in the Continental Navy. He was promoted to Captain at age 29. His war time achievements were extraordinary, continuously seeking out and attacking British ships while commanding a succession of American warships. He became a close associate of Washington, Jefferson, and especially Franklin, his mentor.
While visiting in Paris after the war, John Paul Jones was offered a position as an Admiral in the Russian Navy by Empress Catherine II. He served in the war against the Turkish Navy in the Black Sea from 1788 to 1790.
After the French were defeated by the British at Trafalgar, Napoleon is said to have remarked, “Had Jones lived to this day, France might have had an Admiral.”
A friend paid for Jones’ metal coffin. Then a small group accompanied his body to the Saint Louis Cemetery in Paris where Jones was buried in an unmarked grave. There was no service and no clergy presided. Later, the cemetery fell into disrepair. It became a place to dispose of dead animals and where gamblers met to bet on animal fights. For more than 100 years, the remains of John Paul Jones, the Navy’s first hero, remained in the unmarked grave.
On John Paul Jones’ 159th Birthday in 1906, before 12,000 mourners, his body was ceremoniously interred in a gold and marble crypt in the Chapel of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. The hero had been found, again.
The inscription on the marble floor in front of his sarcophagus reads,
“HE GAVE OUR NAVY ITS EARLIEST TRADITIONS OF HEROISM AND VICTORY.”