John Paul Jones. What name more staunchly represents true-hearted seamanship? And yet, unfortunately, that name was maligned and disregarded during his entire lifetime…
John Paul was the name that was given to him at his birth. “Jones” was the name that he assumed later, after the sailors on his ship mutinied against him and threatened to testify falsely should he bring the issue of their mutiny to trial. Although John was a man of stout heart and great experience – he began his seaman’s career when he was but thirteen – he knew that in a foreign court with naught but false witnesses to beset him, he would be convicted of murder, despite the fact that the mutineer he killed had threatened him with a belaying pin. Thus, with a bitter taste in his mouth against the injustices of the world, he sailed off to the American Colonies, where it mattered not what background a man had, only what fighting arm he could ploy against the enemy.
Although friendless and with hardly a connection in the world, John Paul Jones was chosen as captain for one of the few ships the American Navy could equip when the American War for Independence began. His confidence and knowledge made the officers over him furious, but they could not deny his talent for sailing and fighting. He soon began to haul in beautiful British ships as the prize of his skills.
However, those who controlled the American Navy were not wise in their appointment of leaders. Several times, Jones would return with news of his successes only to have his command taken from him and given to another, less competent seaman. This unfair treatment, confounded with the previous injustices committed against him and later schemes to undermine his reputation, served to make Jones a hardened man, and by the time of his death at the age of forty-five, he was a disappointed man as well.
I really, really enjoyed this biography. Of course – I rather thought I would, for not only is it about ‘The Pirate Patriot’, but it was also written by Armstrong Sperry, author of one of my favorite stories, Call it Courage. The events of Jones’ life are told in a fast-paced, action-packed manner, and emphasis is placed on the exciting battles he participated in.
Also included were helpful sections explaining a ship’s rigging, different phrases used as battle commands, different jobs aboard ship, and the respective strengths of various man o’ war ships.
Really the only thing that bothered me about The Pirate Patriot were the typos that I found scattered throughout the text. They really surprised me, considering how well the book was written and how nicely published.
Conclusion. Superb. Would serve well during studies of the American War for Independence, heroes of history, or naval warfare.
Review © 2014 Laura Verret