The father of America’s Navy is well known for shouting the famous phrase, “I have not yet begun to fight,” in response to a request for his surrender at the Battle of Flamborough Head during the American Revolutionary War.
Less well known is the fact that for over a century after his death, the location of Jones’ body remained a mystery. Following his victories with the American Navy, Jones soon found his employment opportunities in America running dry. As a result, Jones joined and served with the Russian Imperial Navy for a short time. In May 1790, Jones retired to Paris. He died there two years later and was buried in a cemetery belonging to the French royal family. In 1796, France’s revolutionary government sold the property and the cemetery was forgotten. The area was later used as a garden, a place to dispose of dead animals and where gamblers bet on animal fights. It wasn’t until 1905 that Jones’ remains were re-discovered by America’s Ambassador to France and returned to the United States.
Today, Jones rests in an extravagant sarcophagus below the chapel of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The incredible coffin is covered in sculpted barnacles and is held up by legs in the shape of stylized dolphins. The whole thing is sculpted out of a black and white marble that makes it look as though it has been weathered by untold ages beneath the waves.
It was a long, strange voyage for Jones’ body to reach its final destination but his grand maritime tomb is a fine place for a man of the sea to spend his long sleep.