John Paul Jones: Man of Action

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
The First Cruise

The ship was cheered, the harbor cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the light-house top.


I

JOHN PAUL, then 29 years old, was appointed a senior naval lieutenant under the name of John Paul Jones on December 22, 1775. He was at once given the task of arming and manning the flagship Alfred moored off the foot of Walnut Street, Philadelphia. We can imagine the exhilaration with which he went about his new duties. His twenty months of wandering and uncertainty were over. He had made his confession regarding the Tobago misfortune to Hewes. He had that powerful man's friendship and support. He had stepped from the deck of an ordinary trading ship to that of a war vessel about to enter the lists against the most formidable sea-power in the world. Here was his chance to retrieve past errors and to win renown. His letters to Hewes and Morris written during this period reveal his hope, zeal, pride and anxiety.

In January, 1776, Commodore Ezek. Hopkins arrived in Philadelphia, and escorted by an eager throng of citizens, went down to the Delaware where lay eight ships of the new fleet. On his boarding the Alfred, Captain Saltonstall gave the signal and Lieutenant Jones pulled up to the masthead the first American naval flag. This was not the banner with thirteen stripes, but a rectangle of yellow silk bearing a picture of a rattlesnake

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