Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Photo of the Day: John Paul Jones Memorial, Washington, DC

I snapped this photo of the John Paul Jones Memorial while down in our nation’s capital last November. The memorial, just past the Tidal Basin, can be combined (as I did that afternoon) with a trip to the far more sprawling World II Memorial. I would argue that the first steps on the long trip toward the navy’s going into harm’s way in that two-ocean war were taken by Jones in late September 1779, when he captured the British ships, Serapis and Countess of Scarborough, off Flamborough Head, England.

As much as any other sailor in the history of the republic, Jones (the last name was added after he fled a charge of killing a sailor under his command before the American Revolution) has become synonymous with daring. That reputation resulted from Jones’ response when the captain of the Serapis, noticing the beating taken by the American captain’s vessel, the Bonhomme Richard, asked if he had struck his colors: "I've not yet begun to fight." Despite the Bonhomme Richard being raked badly, Jones succeeded in lashing his boat to the Serapis, allowing another one of his vessels to approach and compel the enemy’s surrender, after a four-hour battle that cost half the lives of the British and American sailors involved.

This memorial was created by Charles Henry Niehaus (1855-1935), a sculptor long active in New Jersey—who, in fact, died not from from where I live in Bergen County, in the town of Cliffside Park. New Yorkers might also know his work without tying it specifically to the artist: he designed the bronze doors for Trinity Church in the city, for instance.

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