John Paul Jones was born on July 6, 1747, in Kirkcudbright, Scotland. He was the son of a Scottish gardener and was originally named John Paul. At the age of 12 he entered the British merchant marine and went to sea for the first time, as a cabin boy. He sailed aboard merchantmen and slavers, becoming a first mate on a slaver brigantine by 1766 and receiving his first command in 1769. In 1773, as the commander of a merchant vessel, he killed a mutinous crewman at Tobago in the West Indies and, rather than stay in prison and wait for trial, he fled to North America. From that point the British considered him to be a pirate. A fugitive from British justice, he attempted to conceal his identity by adding the surname of Jones.
At the outbreak of war with Britain in 1775, John Paul Jones went to Philadelphia, and, with the help of two friendly members of the Continental Congress, obtained a lieutenant's commission in the Continental Navy.
The following year he became captain of the sloop Providence. In his first adventure aboard the Providence he destroyed the British fisheries in Nova Scotia and captured 16 British prize ships.
In 1777 he took command of the sloop Ranger. Sailing to France in 1778, Jones received from the French the first salute given to the new American flag by a foreign warship. During the spring he terrorized the coastal population of Scotland and England by making daring raids ashore and destroying many British vessels.
His reputation in Paris greatly enhanced, Jones received from the French government a converted French merchantman, the Duras, which he renamed Bonhomme Richard (Good Man Richard) in honor of Benjamin Franklin.
Jones was then promoted to commodore and placed in command of a mixed fleet...