CHARLESTON, S.C. — When John Paul Jones famously said “I have not yet begun to fight,” he certainly had begun to write as evidenced by letters from the American naval hero that recently surfaced at the Charleston Library Society.
The library has 11 letters totaling 13 pages by the famous Revolutionary War captain many consider the father of the United States Navy.
The letters were written in 1777, two years before Jones is credited with making the defiant taunt in the fight between his ship, the Bonhomme Richard, and the HMS Serapis during the war. They were donated to the library in the 1830s but resurfaced only recently.
“They had completely fallen out of institutional memory,” said Rob Salvo, the library’s assistant librarian.
The letters provide a rare glimpse at correspondence between Jones and officials of the fledgling government as the nation tried to build a Navy. Many are addressed to Joseph Hewes, then secretary of the Navy. One was written to Benjamin Franklin, in France at the time, and inquires about the possibility of getting French-built ships.