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John Paul Jones: A Sailor's Biography

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  202 ratings  ·  17 reviews
This book vividly portrays the illustrious career of John Paul Jones, from his early training at sea in the British West Indian merchant trade to his exploits in the newly independent American navy and his appointment as an admiral in the Russian navy and command of a squadron in the Black Sea. With compelling detail and remarkable insight, the dramatic narrative captures ...more
Paperback, 534 pages
Published August 30th 1999 by US Naval Institute Press (first published 1959)
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4.09  · 
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 ·  202 ratings  ·  17 reviews

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Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Samuel Eliot Morison was one of the great historians of the 20th century, and the finest to write about the United States Navy. His won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for a biography of Christopher Columbus, and another for this one of John Paul Jones. He also wrote the standard history of the U.S. Navy in World War II, fifteen volumes long and still cited today. He was known for his extensive research and ability to clearly describe complicated situations. His biography of Jones is interesting, insig ...more
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone looking for a thorough, detailed and unvarnished biography of the man known today as the father of the U.S. Navy this must be the quintessential volume. Born in poverty to a Scottish estate gardener in 1747 and christened John Paul, he later added Jones as a surname to facilitate his legal entry into America after an unfortunate adventure in the Caribbean. An avid patriot and supporter of the American revolution he became a mythical figure as a naval strategist. He was hated by the Br ...more
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it
John Paul Jones, "the father of the U.S. Navy" could also be known as the first social media celebrity--through the medium of the day, ballads, and with his rousing quote "I have not yet begun to fight." The author has a clear and engaging style and I particularly enjoyed the first part of the book which made colonial America, with the broad acceptance of slavery, the importance of connections in getting ahead and references to many of the founding fathers and people new to me such as Phillis Wh ...more
John Paul Jones is a name that is part of American mythology. As an officer in the Continental Navy, he became the new country's greatest naval hero. Yet he often complained, was impatient with supervisors, and was haughty toward his peers and a tyrant among his crews. He prided himself on defending "the violated rights of mankind", yet after the American Revolution he went on a venture battling the Turks in the service of the Russian Tsar. He was in many ways a paradox and his idiosyncrasies ma ...more
Rex Cluff
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent biography that does not glamorize the life of his subject not of those around him. I find his human descriptions very reasonable and realistic. He calls out the many fables that have been told about John Paul Jones. I learned much about JPJ that made me feel sorry for him but also understand that he was the author of his own fate in many ways. It is a shame that he was a one shot wonder and that his abilities were never given their full potential. It is also a shame that so ...more
Richard Derus
Oct 29, 2010 rated it liked it
The Book Report: Rear Admiral Morison, USNR, was also a professor of American History at Harvard back when that meant something. His reconsideration of the life of Scottish naval hero John Paul Jones did much to strip away false and misleading stories accreted around the American Revolution's most famous navy man, and issuer of the famously defiant "I have not yet begun to fight," which has ensured his place in the American Pantheon of Heroes. What emerges is not quite a modern warts-and-all dim ...more
Erik Graff
Aug 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Morison/Jones fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
Father turned me on to Samuel Eliot Morison during high school, he having read the author himself in college and having served with the Signal Corps shipboard in both theatres covered by the historian in his series on naval actions during the war. John Paul Jones I'd heard about much earlier, he being a saint of the American secular religion inculcated into us during elementary school.

This biography is both fun and an easy read. Morison seamlessly gives such background information as on the hist
Aug 23, 2012 is currently reading it
i make it a point to re-read this classic at least once per year. in my opinion, this is the best book on this US Navy Hero.
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Over 46 years this author has produced a number of highly regarded histories including the 13 volume History of US Naval Operations in WWII; the Gold standard. This terrific book, the biography of John Paul Jones, sets a similar high standard. In addition to providing a thorough, well documented history of J. P. J.'s life it is also a primer on the life of a tall ship master in peacetime commerce and in battle. The book provides a factual record of this somewhat flawed man, in some way his own w ...more
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent biography of this iconic figure. Any Navy out there? Read about this guy. History buffs will also enjoy. Outstandingly researched and presented in readable style. I liked it and recommend to any & all interested in Western history.
John Todaro
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the greatest biographies ever written!!!!!
Kim Zinkowski
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good read
May 21, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A biography that is based for a good part on hearsay, conjecture and rumor (accompanied with a good dose of ballads) is not much of a biography. Morison seems to have erred on siding too much with Jones here and summarily dismisses, as jealousy and spite, many of the disparaging tales told about Jones. These are mostly told or written by his own crew. But even Morrison can't do much for a man whose naval career includes such lows as marching to his own homestead in Scotland and stealing the Baro ...more
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
John Paul Jones: a literate biography with blemishes and all
By Walter H. Pierce on March 14, 2002

A hero of my youth, this book appears to tell the full story. This is a scholarly work which reads easily. I only wish I would have read this book in my twenties. There are some wonderful life lessons in this biography. If you read it you will learn his flaws, his good and fine attributes, and some mysteries. This is first-rate biography and detective work by the author. I recommend it.
Russ Bingaman
Apr 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Mr. Morison gives a very detailed account of this great sea warrior who sailed during the American Revolutionary War. Even though this was an easy read there was evidence that Mr. Morison spent a considerable amount of time in researching John Paul Jones's life, both as a human being and as a naval commander. Highly recommend.
Tom Leland
Found in front of a house in Toronto. Although this book won the Pulitzer, unless you're a huge fan, or VERY into naval history, this book doesn't offer much beyond financial doings, some mild political intrigue and a lot of minutia. Jones only ever fought in one exciting battle -- and as always, I find myself questioning many of the suppositions made by any historian.
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Samuel Eliot Morison, son of John H. and Emily Marshall (Eliot) Morison, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on 9 July 1887. He attended Noble’s School at Boston, and St. Paul’s at Concord, New Hampshire, before entering Harvard University, from which he was graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1908. He studied at the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques, Paris, France, in 1908-1909, and retu ...more