Whitehaven, England

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Whitehaven, England

WHITEHAVEN, ENGLAND. 22-23 April 1778. On 10 April Captain John Paul Jones sailed in the eighteen-gun sloop Ranger from Brest, France. He was under the orders of the American commissioners in Paris to attack British commercial shipping in the Irish Sea and along Britain's west coast. After taking a number of prizes, including the revenue cutter Hussar, Jones headed for Whitehaven, a small port on the west coast of England, roughly due east of Belfast. The target had no particular value, but it was a location Jones knew intimately from his youth. Winds failed while the Ranger was far outside the harbor, requiring Jones to have his ships' boats row for three hours to reach their objective late on 22 April. Jones spiked the few guns and burned some small craft, and departed in the morning. Although there had been minimal physical damage, the psychological impact on the nation was enormous, as this marked one of the few times in a century when an enemy had actually landed in England. Jones then crossed to St. Mary's Island on the other side of Solway Firth, hoping to kidnap the earl of Selkirk (to exchange for captured American seamen); but his landing party learned that the nobleman was not home. The next day, back in Belfast Lough, he captured the fourteen-gun Royal Navy sloop Drake off Carrickfergus. Jones arrived at Brest with his prizes on 8 May.

SEE ALSO Jones, John Paul.


Fowler, William M., Jr. Rebels under Sail: The American Navy during the Revolution. New York: Scribners, 1976.

                         revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.