USS Ranger (1777)

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First Recognition of the American Flag by a Foreign Government.jpg
USS Ranger receiving the salute of the French fleet at Quiberon Bay, France, 14 February 1778.
United States
Name: USS Ranger
Builder: James Hackett (shipbuilder), Badger's Island, Kittery, Maine
Launched: 10 May 1777
Captured: 11 May 1780
Naval Ensign of Great Britain (1707–1800).svgGreat Britain
Name: HMS Halifax
Acquired: 11 May 1780
Decommissioned: 1781
General characteristics
Type: Sloop-of-war
Displacement: 308 long tons (313 t)
Length: 116 ft (35 m)
Beam: 28 ft (8.5 m)
Draft: 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)
Complement: 140 officers and enlisted
Armament: 18 × 6-pounder guns
Service record
Commanders: Capt. John Paul Jones (1777–1778)
Operations: Siege of Charleston (1779–1780)
Victories: North Channel naval duel (1778), captured 31 prizes worth well over $1,000,000

USS Ranger was a sloop-of-war in the Continental Navy in active service in 1777–1780, the first to bear her name. Built at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Badger's Island in Kittery, Maine, she is famed for the one-ship raiding campaign waged by her captain, Captain John Paul Jones, during naval operations of the American Revolutionary War.[1] In six months spent primarily in British waters she captured five prizes (mostly merchantmen), staged a single failed attack on the English mainland at Whitehaven, and caused Royal Navy ships to be dispatched against her in the Irish Sea.

Jones was detached in Brest, France to take charge of Bonhomme Richard, turning over command of Ranger to his first officer, Lieutenant Thomas Simpson. Under Simpson Ranger went on to capture twenty-four more prizes abroad the Atlantic and along the U.S. coast during 1778 and 1779.

Sent to the South in late 1779 to aid the U.S. garrison at Charleston, South Carolina, during the British siege, she continued her raiding career until ultimately forced to take station on the Cooper River, and was captured on May 11, 1780 with the fall of the city.

She was brought into the Royal Navy as HMS Halifax. Decommissioned in 1781 in Portsmouth, England, she was sold that year as a merchant ship.


Ranger (initially called Hampshire) was launched 10 May 1777 by James Hackett, master shipbuilder, at the shipyard of John Langdon on what is now called Badger's Island in Kittery, Maine; Captain John Paul Jones in command.[1]

Continental Navy[edit]

After fitting out, she sailed for France on 1 November 1777, carrying dispatches telling of General Burgoyne's surrender to the commissioners in Paris. On the voyage over, two British prizes were captured. Ranger arrived at Nantes, France, 2 December, where Jones sold the prizes and delivered the news of the victory at Saratoga to Benjamin Franklin. On 14 February 1778, Ranger received a nine-gun salute to the new American flag, the "Stars and Stripes" from the ship of the line Robuste, under Lamotte-Picquet, at Quiberon Bay. This was the first salute from a warship and, the second to an American fighting vessel by a foreign power (the first salute was received by Andrew Doria when on 16 November 1776 she arrived at St. Eustatius and the Dutch island returned her 11-gun salute). [2]

Ranger sailed from Brest 10 April 1778, for the Irish Sea and four days later captured a prize between the Scilly Isles and Cape Clear. On 17 April, she took another prize and sent her back to France. Captain Jones led a raid on the English port of Whitehaven, 23 April, spiking the guns of the fortress, but failing in his attempt to burn the ships in the harbor. Sailing across the bay to St. Mary's Isle, Scotland, the American captain planned to seize the Earl of Selkirk and hold him as a hostage and use him to make several political demands. However, since the Earl was absent, the plan failed. Several Royal Navy vessels were searching for Ranger, and Captain Jones sailed across the North Channel to Carrickfergus, Ireland, to induce HMS Drake of 14 guns, to come out and fight. Drake came out slowly against the wind and tide, and, after an hour's battle, the battered Drake struck her colors, with eight sailors being killed in action during the engagement. Having made temporary repairs, and with a prize crew on Drake, Ranger continued around the west coast of Ireland, capturing a lone storeship, and arrived at Brest with her prizes on 8 May.

Captain Jones was detached to command Bonhomme Richard, leaving Lieutenant Simpson, his first officer, in command. Ranger departed Brest 21 August, reaching Portsmouth, New Hampshire on 15 October, in company with Providence and Boston, plus three prizes taken in the Atlantic.

The sloop departed Portsmouth on 24 February 1779 joining with the Continental Navy ships Queen of France and Warren in preying on British shipping in the North Atlantic. Seven prizes were captured early in April, and brought safely into port for sale. On 18 June, Ranger was underway again with Providence and Queen of France, capturing two Jamaicamen in July and nine more vessels off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Of the 11 prizes, three were recaptured, but the remaining eight, with their cargoes, were worth over a million dollars when sold in Boston.

Underway on 23 November, Ranger was ordered to Commodore Whipple's squadron, arriving at Charleston on 23 December, to support the garrison there under siege by the British. On 24 January 1780, Ranger and Providence, in a short cruise down the coast, captured three transports, loaded with supplies, near Tybee, Georgia. The British army tasked with capturing Charleston was also discovered in the area. Ranger and Providence sailed back to Charleston with the news. Shortly afterwards the British commenced the final push. Although the channel and harbor configuration made naval operations and support difficult, Ranger took a station in the Cooper River, and was captured when Charleston fell on 11 May 1780.

Royal Navy[edit]

Ranger was taken into the British Royal Navy and commissioned under the name HMS Halifax. She was decommissioned in Portsmouth, England, in 1781, then sold as a merchant vessel for about 3 percent of her original cost.[1]


Ranger's specifications were:[1]

  • Begun:January 11, 1777
  • Launched:May 10, 1777 into the Piscataqua River
  • Location:Rising Castle, now Badger's Island, Kittery, Maine
  • Departed:Nov 1, 1777
  • Builder:John Langdon
  • Designer:James Hackett
  • Yard Boss:Tobias Lear IV (father of Tobias Lear V, Secretary to President George Washington)
  • Officers:
    • John Paul Jones, Captain
    • Thomas Simpson, Portsmouth, 1st Lt.
    • Elijah Hall, Portsmouth, 2nd Lt.
    • Samuel Wallingford, Lt of Marines
    • Dr Ezrah Green, Dover, Surgeon
    • Mr Joseph Frazer, Sr Officer of Marines
    • Capt Matthew Parke
  • Crew:145 men including nearly half from Piscataqua area
  • Cost:$65,000 Continental dollars
  • Rating:Sloop of war
  • Rigging:Square rigged on all three masts with royals, topgallant, and a full set of studding sails
  • Arms:18 nine-pounder guns
  • Painting:Topside black with broad yellow stripe and masthead
  • Dimensions:(Recorded by Royal Navy after capture)
    • 97' 2" at gundeck (est 110' overall)
    • 77' 9" keel
    • 27' 8" beam
    • 12' depth of hold


  1. ^ a b c d The Importance of Ranger, J. Dennis Robinson
  2. ^ "Centre d'études stratégiques de la Marine - CESM". Retrieved 15 February 2020.

External links[edit]