Posts Tagged ‘Continental Navy’

The Washington Navy Yard

The Washington Navy Yard

The United States Navy recognizes October 13, 1775, as the date of its official establishment, when the Continental Congress passed a resolution creating the Continental Navy.  So to celebrate the upcoming 239th birthday of the Navy, on this bike ride I decided to ride to the Washington Navy Yard, which is located in and takes up approximately half of the Near Southeast neighborhood on the Anacostia River (MAP) in Southeast D.C.

The Washington Navy Yard, or The Yard is it is often referred to, was established in October of 1799.  The Yard was built under the direction of Benjamin Stoddert, the first Secretary of the Navy, under the supervision of the Yard’s first commandant, Commodore Thomas Tingey, and is the oldest shore establishment of the U.S. Navy.  It was formerly the shipyard and ordnance plant of the U.S. Navy.  From its first years, the Washington Navy Yard became the navy’s largest shipbuilding and shipfitting facility, with 22 vessels constructed there.

The Yard currently serves as a ceremonial and administrative center for the U.S. Navy, home to the Chief of Naval Operations, and is headquarters for the Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Historical Center, the Department of Naval History, the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Naval Reactors, Marine Corps Institute, the United States Navy Band, and other more classified facilities. The Yard also includes the Navy Museum which houses the Navy Art Collection and its displays of naval art and artifacts that trace the Navy’s history from the Revolutionary War to the present day.  A museum ship, the destroyer USS Barry, is also at The Yard and is open to tourists. The Barry is frequently used for change of command ceremonies for naval commands in the area.

The Yard is just one of 42 Navy bases in the United States, with a number of other bases overseas, either in U.S.-controlled territories or in foreign countries under a Status of Forces Agreement.  A large number of bases and installations are needed to support the Navy’s size, complexity, and international presence of the Navy’s personnel and operations.

The U.S. Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined.  It operates 289 deployable battle force ships and more than 3700 operational aircraft.  The U.S. Navy also has the world’s largest carrier fleet, with 11 in service, one under construction, two planned, and one in reserve.

The service currently has 325,143 active duty personnel and 107,524 in the Navy Reserve. It operates 286 ships in active service and more than 3,700 aircraft.  It also has approximately 201,000 Navy Department civilian employees.

So in recognition of the Navy’s upcoming anniversary, I’d like to say happy birthday to the Navy, and to all those who have and are serving.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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The John Paul Jones Memorial

The John Paul Jones Memorial

The John Paul Jones Memorial near the Potomac River was my destination on this bike ride. Located in West Potomac Park near the National Mall, the memorial is situated at the terminus of 17th Street near Independence Avenue (MAP) on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin in southwest D.C.

The memorial consists of a 10-foot bronze statue by American sculptor Charles Henry Niehaus, mounted on a 15-foot marble pylon. On the sides of the monument are ducts, out of which water flows into a small pools on either side. And the back of the pylon includes a relief of Jones raising the U.S. flag on his ship, the Bonhomme Richard, an event which is believed to be the first time the flag was flown on an American warship. The memorial was dedicated on May 16, 1914, and is the oldest monument in Potomac Park. It is part of a group of fourteen statues in D.C. known collectively as the “American Revolution Statuary.” These statues are scattered across the city, mainly in squares and traffic circles, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

John Paul Jones was the United States’ first well-known naval hero of the Revolutionary War. Despite having made enemies among America’s political elites and never rising about the rank of Captain in the Continental Navy, his actions in British waters during the Revolution earned him an international reputation which persists to this day. Based on this, he is sometimes referred to as the “Father of the United States Navy”, an appellation he shares with Commodore John Barry. He is also widely remembered as the Captain of the USS Bonhomme Richard, who, in response to a taunt about surrender from the enemy captain of the HMS Serapis during Revolutionary War’s Battle of Flamborough Head, exclaimed, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

But despite his eventual success and fame, John Paul Jones came close on several occasions to losing out on his place in history. He had an inauspicious start in life, and there were several events early in his career that had the potential to not only end his career, but could have landed him in prison for the rest of his life.

John Paul (he added “Jones” later) was born to John Paul, Sr. and Jean McDuff on July 6, 1747 in Scotland. He started his maritime career as an apprentice at the age of 13, with many of his destinations being near Fredericksburg, in the Province of Virginia, where his older brother William Paul had settled. He worked his way up the ranks on a number of different sailing ships until, having become disgusted with the cruelty in the slave trade, he abandoned his prestigious position as first mate on a profitable ship named “Two Friends” while docked in Jamaica, and found his own passage back to Scotland.

After eventually obtaining another position on a different ship, John Paul’s maritime career unexpectedly took off when both the captain and a ranking mate suddenly died of yellow fever. He was able to navigate the ship back to a safe port, for which the vessel’s grateful Scottish owners rewarded him by making him the ship’s captain.

However, as quickly as his reputation had been earned, it was nearly destroyed during a subsequent voyage. John Paul viciously flogged one of his sailors, which resulted in accusations that his discipline was “unnecessarily cruel.”  When the disciplined sailor died a few weeks later, he was arrested and imprisoned for his involvement in the man’s death. After being released on bail, he fled Scotland.

Leaving Scotland behind, John Paul commanded a London-registered vessel named The Betsy, which he sailed to Tobago in the southern Caribbean and made a fortune engaging in commercial speculation. This ended after approximately 18 months, however, when he killed a member of his crew named Blackton with a sword in a dispute over wages. He would later claim that it was in self-defense but, nonetheless, fled Tobago to avoid the hangman’s noose.  Leaving his fortune behind, he fled to his brother’s home back in Fredericksburg.

It was at this time that John Paul began using the alias John Jones. At the suggestion of his brother, he began using the name John Paul Jones. Shortly after settling in North America, he went to Philadelphia and volunteered his services to the newly founded Continental Navy at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. And the rest, as they say, is history.