The Ranger Sets Sail from Brest, France

On April 10, 1778, The USS Ranger set sail from Brest, France to begin a campaign of Naval Guerrilla Warfare against the British Navy. At the helm of the Ranger was Captain John Paul Jones a man who would become a legend of naval warfare and a star of the United States Navy. The Ranger was a ‘Sloop-of-War’ launched on May 10, 1777 with a large part of her 140 person crew being from Portsmouth and the Piscataqua River area. The ship carried 18 nine-pounder guns, had a 110 foot (33.5 meters) long, and a 78 foot (23.75 meter) keel (width). The Ranger was a square-rigged, three mast ship.

The Campaign that Captain Jones started would be a serious challenge for the British and would stoke claims of piracy against the American fleet for acting in “uncivilized warfare.” After just four days patrolling the Irish Sea, the Ranger captured it’s first British ship placing American officers in command and sending the ship back to France as a prize of war. On the 23rd of April, Jones and his crew raided the British port of Whitehaven, spiking the cannons at the two forts that protected the harbor, but failing to burn the ships there. The Ranger continued on towards St. Marie’s Island, Scotland to capture the Earl of Selkirk at his home, however, the Earl was not home. The crew captured silver and valuables at the Earl’s residence, including his wife’s teapot, with hot breakfast tea still in it.

Now knowing of the Ranger’s actions, several British vessels were dispatched to the Irish Sea to seek out Jones and his crew. On the sea near Carrickfergus, Ireland, Jones enticed the HMS Drake to come close, the Drake carried 14 guns. The drake sailed in against the wind and tide to capture the American vessel. A battle ensued that lasted nearly an hour, the HMS Drake struck her colors after the captain and first officer had been killed. After taking the Drake as a prize, the Ranger and her crew continued down the west coast of Ireland. Further down the coast, the two ships lay siege to a stock ship, capturing her and returning both captured prizes to Brest on May 8, 1778. The naval tactics employed by John Paul Jones, that began with this one month sail, made Jones both famous and infamous in the history of 18th century naval warfare.

Captain John Paul Jones

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