Surrender? Never. Honoring a hero

July 07, 2006|By BRADLEY OLSON | BRADLEY OLSON,SUN REPORTER

The Naval Academy will celebrate John Paul Jones' birthday tomorrow beginning at 9 a.m. with a march to the crypt of the legendary naval hero for a wreath-laying ceremony.

A Revolutionary War re-enactor will give a lecture on Jones' life and his contribution to the war, followed by a flag raising ceremony at the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center near Gate 1 at King George and Randall streets. The festivities will include music from The Fifes and Drums of Prince William III, a Virginia-based musical group, and cannon-loading demonstrations.

Many of the day's events, which run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be repeated. Other activities include a scavenger hunt, knot-tying, macrame, coloring and crafts.

The Navy forefather is well-known for answering a British challenge to surrender with the words "I have not yet begun to fight!" while his ship, the Bonhomme Richard, was sinking. In that 1779 battle, he went on to capture a larger British frigate.

Born July 6, 1747, and raised in poverty in Scotland, Jones won renown for taking the Revolutionary War to British shores, repeatedly scoring victories with smaller ships. His ambitions still unmet, he went on to serve as a rear admiral in the Russian navy but left in disgrace amid allegations that he raped a 12-year-old girl. Jones retired to Paris, where he died in 1792 at the age of 45.

Last year, the academy completed a $920,000 renovation on the tomb that is believed to hold Jones' body, cleaning and polishing the surfaces of the crypt and installing a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system for better preservation.

In the April issue of Smithsonian magazine, a Washington College professor questioned whether the academy crypt actually holds Jones.

Adam Goodheart, a fellow at the college's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, and several other scholars have said the techniques used to identify Jones more than 100 years ago were rudimentary compared to what is available today. They also said political pressure from then-President Theodore Roosevelt on those searching for Jones' remains may have made them overzealous to declare the body they found in a desecrated Parisian cemetery to be Jones'.bradley.olson@baltsun.com

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