JOHN PAUL JONES: FRIEND
In addition to the multitude of other affairs in which he was involved, Chaumont also came to play a critical role in the career of the man who is perhaps America's most celebrated naval hero. John Paul Jones first arrived in France in December 1777, by which time he had already garnered a reputation for bravery, expert seamanship, and hot-headedness. Born in Scotland in 1747, the young man named John Paul quickly established himself as a trustworthy and capable master of merchant vessels during the late 1760s and early 1770s. As a result of a mutiny during which he killed a member of his crew, he fled to the American colonies in 1773 and added "Jones" to his name.
In December 1775 he obtained a commission as lieutenant in the new American navy. At different times during the summer and fall of 1776 he had command of the sloop Providence and the frigate Alfred. In those ships he conducted successful expeditions off the Grand Banks, capturing over 20 British prizes. Congress rewarded him in October 1776 by elevating him to the rank of captain. This promotion did not please him much, however, because he was ranked only eighteenth on the list of captains. His hurt feelings were soothed somewhat when he learned that he was to take command of the new sloop of war Ranger.
After working for several months in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to prepare that vessel for its maiden voyage, Jones finally set sail on 1 November 1777. His destination was France. The purpose of the voyage was twofold. Jones was to capture as many prizes as he could while en route. Even more important, after landing in France he was to leave the Ranger and travel to Holland. There he