CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — 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 noted captain 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.
"At present we have no Navy System or Board of Admiralty without which we can never have a respectable Navy," Jones wrote in one letter. In another, he outlines "A plan for the regulation and equipment of the Navy." In it he suggests three shipyards be built — one in New England, one in the Middle Atlantic states and one in the South.
They also depict a man who wasn't reticent about extolling his own virtues.
"I am determined never to draw my sword under command of any man who was not in the Navy as early as myself, unless he has merited a preference by his Superior Services and abilities," Jones writes in one letter.
As to serving under such an officer, Jones writes in another "I would lay down my life for America but I cannot trifle with my Honor."