Disrupting British trade to North America was a common tactic throughout the War of Independence. But one particular raid stood out from the rest. John Paul Jones was Scottish by birth and he joined the American Navy in the fight against Britain. After enjoying a string of successes attacking British merchant ships he decided to lead an assault on British soil, specifically Whitehaven, which was a thriving port at the time. This was also the port that Jones himself had sailed out of many years ago. He moored his ship off the port and led two boats of sailors to the shore with the aim of setting fire to all the ships there.
Jones and his men spiked the town’s guns to prevent them firing, then moved on to set fire to the ships. The men were forced to raid a public house to get fuel, but became distracted on the way and stopped for a quick drink. Finally returning to the port, they set fire to a single ship hoping the fire would spread. But the fire was quickly spotted and the men were forced to retreat as the flames were put out. Although Jones’s attack had been a failure, it led to huge changes in British coastal defences due to the ease with which he carried it out.
To discover more lost stories of history, pick up a copy of All About History today.