John Paul Jones: Man of Action

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
Plans for the Grand Cruise

The skiff-boat neared: I heard them talk, Why, this is strange, I trow! Where are those lights so many and fair, That signal made but now?"


I

ON February 6, 1778, France made public her Treaty of Alliance with the American colonies and Jones at once saw an opportunity to shorten the war. On February 10 he wrote to the commissioners at Paris advising a plan of attack on the English which " would prove their Ruin and insure our Success." He proposed that ten or twelve French ships of the line, accompanied by frigates, should secretly sail, attack, and overwhelm Lord Howe's blockading fleet off the American coast. "Small squadrons might then be formed, to secure the coast and cut off the Enemie's supplies while our army settled the Account current." This plan Captain Alfred Mahan, author of The Influence of Sea Power, accepts as a token "of the great general officer that might have been." It was finally laid before the French court, and Jones afterward, without adequate grounds, accused Silas Deane of presenting it as his own. Count d'Orvilliers, admiral of the Brest fleet, approved, but de Sartine, minister of the French marine, was a hopeless dilatory, and it was midsummer before the French fleet, under Count d'Estaing, reached the Delaware, just too late to catch the British squadron which had helped General Howe evacuate Philadelphia. It was the assistance of another French fleet under Count de Grasse, who drove the British Admiral Graves

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