Editor's Note: This material has been excerpted from a children's book by Eldrige S. Brooks. It is based on facts available to the author at the time, but previous to research presented by such authors as Samuel Elliot Morrison who disagreed with many historic conventions offered by earlier Jones biographers. For information on copyright, please read this important notice. This material used here courtesy of the Portsmouth Athenaeum.
With all the industry of Paul Jones it was not till the end of October that he could get ready for sea, and on November 1st the "Ranger" sailed from Portsmouth for Europe. On the way over he captured two brigantines laden with fruit and wine. He encountered ten sail of merchantmen, under the convoy of the "Invincible," seventy-four, but had no opportunity of doing anything against the convoy despite his strenuous efforts.
On his arrival in France he had a talk with Benjamin Franklin, and after he had refitted the " Ranger " and greatly increased her speed, he sailed through the whole French fleet and insisted on forcing a salute to the American flag, the first ever given to it by a foreign nation.
After this he sailed for the shores of England. The first few days saw no results. One vessel captured, being of little value, was burned at sea on the 17th of April. A large ship, the "Lord Chatham," of great value, was manned and sent to Brest as a prize. Paul Jones then proceeded up the Irish Channel. He attempted to destroy the shipping in the port of Whitehaven; boats were manned, but the wind suddenly shifted and the " Ranger" was forced out to sea and the attempt had to be abandoned.
The next morning he captured a schooner laden with barley and sunk her. On the 20th he captured a sloop laden with grain. After a few unimportant captures, and a splendid attempt to capture a British man-of-war, the " Drake," which 'failed only by accident or delay in dropping the anchor, Paul Jones squared away for Whitehaven to carry out his original plan to burn and destroy all the shipping. The breeze fell during the day and it was not till midnight that the attempt was made. Two boats were manned by volunteers, one commanded by Paul Jones himself, and the other by Lieutenant Wallingford. Directing W'allingford to set fire to the ships on the north side, Jones and his men advanced towards the fort which protected the harbor.
The weather was raw and cold. The fort was old and dilapidated and manned only by a few men; the sentry had calmly retired to his sentry box; the whole town was asleep. Paul Jones, climbing on the shoulders of one of his men, sprang over the ramparts and was quickly followed by his men. The garrison was captured without a blow struck and the guns were spiked. On his return, to his surprise, he saw no evidence of a conflagration. He was met by Wallingford, who explained that his light had gone out, and Jones found that the light in his boat had also gone out. It was now broad daylight, but Jones determined that he would not abandon his plan without some result. So he broke open a neighboring dwelling and lighted a torch from some glowing embers and with his own hand started a fire on one of the largest ships. To hasten the conflagration, a barrel of tar was poured on the flames, which were now burning freely.
One of, the boat party, an Englishman, in the confusion made his way into the town and alarmed the inhabitants, who now swarmed out in great numbers; but Jones, to allow time for the conflagration to develop, stood on the wharf with pistol in hand and kept back the crowd. Then he calmly entered his boat and returned to the " Ranger."
The soldiers whom the townspeople had released fired a few ineffective shots. But for the action of Wallingford in the first instance, and the defection of David Freeman and his alarming the town, the whole of the shipping would undoubtedly have been destroyed.
This descent created the greatest consternation in England, and a burning wave of indignation swept the land from sea to sea, and many schemes were planned for the capture of this pirate, as he was termed.
After this attack Paul Jones resolved on one still more audacious, which was no less than to seize the Earl of Selkirk at his beautiful seat, St. Mary's Isle, at the mouth of the river Dee, and hold the Earl as hostage to be exchanged for- some prominent captive, and thus force the British to recognize the principle of exchange which they had hitherto refused; but the plot failed through the absence of the Earl. Paul wanted to return to the ship without any plunder, but the men were mutinous, and reluctantly he gave permission to demand from Lady Selkirk the silver plate, which was gathered up by the butler, and the men retired without hurt or molestation to any one, after drinking her Ladyship's health in good Scots whiskey, which was served by the order of the Countess.
On the morning of the 24th the "Ranger" came in sight once more at Carrickfergus, where the "Drake" was stationed. The captain, with inconceivable stupidity, sent a boat off to the " Ranger " to report who she was; the boat, of course, was duly captured by Jones.
It was nearly evening when the "Drake," which had cleared for action, neared the "Ranger." Paul Jones had stood out to sea far enough to escape pursuit in case of defeat. The "Drake" was accompanied, by pleasure yachts, to see the fight and, as they imagined, the sure defeat of the " Ranger."
When within easy hailing distance an officer of the " Drake " demanded the name of the stranger. Jones, still keeping the stern of his ship towards the bow of the. enemy, replied through his trumpet, "This is the American Continental ship " Ranger." We are waiting, for you. The sun is scarce an hour high. It is time to begin. Come on!"
The "Ranger by smart handling, was rushed across the bow of the " Drake," which ran off by the side. of the "Ranger," and it was a square yard-arm to yard-arm fight. The lack of preparedness no doubt helped the rush of the Americans. In an hour and five minutes the " Drake " hauled down her flag. She was a complete wreck; many of, her guns were dismounted; forty-two men killed and wounded, including her captain.
Paul Jones had resolved, since he was unable to prevent the plunder of the Selkirk plate, to pay for it out of his own pocket, but this he was unable to do, until a year after, when, by strenuous effort and paying exorbitantly to the Prize Court, he recovered the silver plate; and owing to the state of the country it was not until peace was proclaimed in 1784 that he restored the plate to the Earl. This certainly was not the act of a pirate. The receipt of the plate was duly acknowledged in a handsome letter from the Earl.
The "Ranger's" successful cruise, and the rich vessels she had captured, the boldness and audacity with which Paul Jones had ventured into the very midst of the United Kingdom, and the capture of the " Drake," had terrorized the whole of England, and, as was natural, the hatred of the English meant the admiration of the French and helped to the secret treaty of alliance between the United States and France. Franklin felt that in Paul Jones he had a man to carry out his bold designs.
In America the news was received with universal rejoicing, and Congress knew they had rightly judged the man; but they omitted to send him funds to carry out his plans and he had 'to provide for his crew and prisoners by pledging his own credit for the necessary supplies which he obtained through the French naval authorities.
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