Where 17th Street dead-ends in Independence Avenue, just to the south of the World War II Memorial, stands John Paul Jones, atop a Marble Platform. The monument, built in 1912 as the first in Potomac Park, stands as the memorial to our first great Naval hero. While his remains lie in the chapel of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, this memorial to Captain Jones stands looking North toward the White House.
Jones was born John Paul, a Scotsman who emigrated to the Colonies around the start of the Revolutionary War. He served aboard British merchant ships prior to his arrival in the Colonies, and had been master and commander of the brig John, where his troubles began. By the time he arrived in Fredericksburg, he’d had to assume another name, John Paul Jones, to avoid hanging for the murder of two sailors under his command: one through flogging, one through a swordfight over wages.
John Paul Jones Statue, Library of Congress, call number LC-F82-614
Through connections, he was able to obtain a Lieutenant’s commission in the Continental Navy. He would lead raids aboard the sloop Providence, and eventually the Ranger. Ranger would lead commercial raids against British commerce shipping off Ireland. After Ranger, came Bonhomme Richard, named for Benjamin Franklin. It was aboard this vessel that Jones would distinguish himself, taking out the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough, despite being outnumbered and outgunned, but at the cost of his own ship.
Jones was awarded the only Gold Medal given to the Navy during the Revolutionary War. Despite being one of our greatest heroes, he had to leave the service of our Navy to finish his career, with the Catherine the Great’s Navy in Russia. He would die in his apartment in Paris, in 1790.
The Bronze was cast by Charles Niehaus, and assembled on-site in 1912.
The monument itself is fairly easy to get to, provided you’ve parked far, far, far away first. It is on a traffic island as 17th Street sweeps into Independence. It is definitely worth the trek, though, to see the carving on the reverse of the monument, which I was unable to adequately capture in yesterday’s light. It’s definitely worth the walk, though.