John Paul Jones, born in Scotland simply "John Paul" in 1747, served on English slave ships and rose to command a merchant ship in the West Indies in 1769. He emigrated to Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1773 and added "Jones" to his name. The Continental Congress commissioned him a lieutenant in 1775, and as commander of the Providence, he captured 16 enemy ships. He was raised to the status of captain in 1777 and carried out raids on British shipping in his vessel, Ranger.
In 1779, Jones remodeled an old French ship and renamed it the Bonhomme Richard. In September 1779, he met the more powerful British ship Serapis off the east coast of England. Hours of heavy fighting at close quarters resulted in the Serapis being taken, but the Bonhomme Richard was so damaged that it sank two days later. It has been widely stated that Jones, during the battle, announced, "I have not yet begun to fight," but there is no supporting evidence.
Congress gave Jones a gold medal in 1787 in acknowledgement of his wartime services. Despite his professed ardor for democracy, he accepted a commission with the navy of Empress Catherine of Russia and saw action against the Turks. He resigned the commission in 1789 and went to Paris, where he spent the rest of his life.