by Joseph F. Callo
Naval Institute Press, March 2006
This is a new and different view of one of the American Revolution’s best known and least understood naval heroes. With an insightful view of John Paul Jones’s astonishing life, the author advances him beyond a narrow naval context and establishes him firmly as a key player in the War of Independence. His dramatic military achievements—including his improbable victory off Flamborough Head, England in the Continental Ship Bonhomme Richard—are related in the full context of his times, rather than as stand-alone events.
The question of what drove Jones to his achievements is addressed fully, and the author’s view is very different from that of Jones’s early myth-building biographers as well as that of today’s deconstructionist writers.
This penetrating new look at Jones also focuses on several interesting, lesser known aspects of his naval career. His relationship with such civilian leaders as Franklin is an example. How Jones handled those often difficult dealings helped form our nation’s concept of civilian control of the military. Another often neglected aspect of Jones’s career that gets attention and analysis is his brief tour in the Russian navy of Catherine the Great. That revealing chapter of his career, at a time when there was no active Continental Navy command for him, has been generally under reported in the 200 years since Jones’s death.
Perhaps the most valuable feature of this book is that, instead of looking at Jones in a rear view mirror, the author illuminates how this unique naval hero is linked to our present and future. As a result, he has given us a sea saga that can tell us much about our own lives and times.
* The Samuel Eliot Morison Award for excellence in naval literature is given by the Naval Order of the United States. It is named for the noted educator, historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author.