Monday, November 9, 2009

John Paul Jones Autopsy & Repatriation

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The Repatriation of John Paul Jones from Paris to Annapolis

During the French Revolution, Commodore John Paul Jones, the great naval leader of the American Revolution, died in Paris at the age of 45. Lacking official status and without financial security, Jones died alone in his apartment on July 18, 1792. An admiring French friend arranged for his funeral and provided for a handsome lead coffin. John Paul Jones was buried in St. Louis Cemetery, the property of the French royal family. Four years later France's revolutionary government sold the property and the cemetery was forgotten.

Over a century later, a search began to find the body of John Paul Jones for the purpose of returning his remains to the United States. The American Ambassador to France, General Horace Porter, personally led in the research to relocate the forgotten cemetery, provided the funds to excavate the casket and coordinated the efforts to repatriate the mortal remains of the great naval hero. Correspondence, antique maps and other records in the French national library and archives provided Ambassador Porter the information which helped in the discovery of the built-over cemetery. After weeks of tunneling through basement walls and streets, the casket of Jones was found and disinterred.

Remarkably, his corpse, which had been wrapped in a winding cloth and placed in straw and alcohol in a tightly sealed lead casket, was nearly perfectly preserved. He was taken to the University of Paris where a complete autopsy was performed. There the head of the corpse was compared to the sculptured portrait bust of Jones executed in 1780 by Jean Antoine Houdon, who had taken a plaster impression directly for his subjects's head. The autopsy and forensic study proved conclusively that the body was John Paul Jones. He had died of the kidney ailment nephritis, complicated by pneumonia.

Following an impressive parade, a religious service in Paris and a special train arranged by the French government to the port of Cherbourg, the remains of John Paul Jones were transferred to the USS Brooklyn, flagship of a special naval squadron sent by President Theodore Roosevelt to bring Jones home to his "country of fond election" and to the nation for which he immeasurably helped gain independence. On July 24, 1905, the naval tug Standish carried the casket ashore at Annapolis, Md., for placement in a temporary vault across the street from the new U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, which was under construction.

On April 24, 1906, elaborate and impressive ceremonies in commemoration of John Paul Jones were held in Dahlgren Hall, the new Naval Academy armory. Incidently, this day was the anniversary of the battle between the Jones's Ranger and HMS Drake, fought in the Irish Sea in 1778. It had been the first major naval battle fought under the newly adopted "starred and striped" flag and had resulted in Jones' capture of an important warship in Great Britain's home waters. President Roosevelt, Ambassador Porter, Admiral George Dewey and many other dignitaries attended the ceremonies. France sent an entire naval fleet up the Chesapeake Bay to mark the occasion.

Afterwards the casket of John Paul Jones was placed in the Academy's Bancroft Hall to await completion of his permanent tomb, in the new Naval Academy Chapel.

Jones was bid to rest in the crypt of the Naval Academy Chapel on Jan. 26, 1913. The crypt was designed by Beaux Arts architect Whitney Warren, and the 21-ton sarcophagus and surrounding columns of black and white Royal Pyrenees marble were the work of sculptor Sylvain Salieres. The sarcophagus is supported by bronze dolphins and is embellished with cast garlands of bronze sea plants. Inscribed in set-in brass letters around the base of the tomb are the names of the Continental Navy ships commanded by John Paul Jones during the American Revolution: Providence, Alfred, Ranger, Bonhomme Richard, Serapis, Alliance and Ariel. American national ensigns (flags) and union jacks are placed between the marble columns. Set in brass in the marble floor at the head of the sarcophagus is the inscription:

JOHN PAUL JONES, 1747-1792
U.S. NAVY, 1775-1783

Important historic objects related to Jones' life and naval career are exhibited in niches around the periphery of the circular space. Visitors today the Naval Academy can see an original marble copy of the Houdon portrait bust, the gold medal awarded to Jones by the Congress in 1787, the gold-hilted presentation sword given by Louis XVI of France and Jones commission as Captain, Continental (U.S.) Navy, signed by John Hancock. Here, too, is a plaque to Ambassador Porter, who was responsible for repatriating the great naval leader.

An honor guard stands duty whenever the crypt is open to the public. Normal public visiting hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Closed on Federal Holidays. For information call 410-293-1100.

The Two Burials of John Paul Jones
Direct from Paris, the report

In a 1905 "Scientific American"

Finding the Body of Admiral Paul Jones in Paris
Scientific America, May 1905

The news that the body of Admiral Paul Jones had been discovered in Paris naturally awakened a considerable sensation. The body was found in fact in one of the ancient cemeteries of the city, and was then removed to the Medical College, where an autopsy was made. Gen. Horace Porter, the United States ambassador, and Col. Bailly-Blanchard, second secretary of the embassy, had been making researches to this end for some time past. It was known that the body had been buried in Paris in one of the old cemeteries, and for more than six years Gen. Porter was occupied in making different excavations, in the hope of recovering the ' body of the renowned admiral, the "Father of the American Navy," who died, it will be remembered, in 1792.

At last his perseverance was rewarded, and the body came to light in a better state of preservation than could be hoped for. The discovery is naturally one which will awaken great interest in America, and it is proposed to transport the remains to Washington as soon as the plans are fully decided upon. It was in the old St. Louis Cemetery, where Protestants of foreign birth were buried, that success finally awaited the excavators after so long a time. The cemetery lies near the St. Louis Hospital in the Rue Grange aux Belles, in the northeast quarter of the city. The excavations in the cemetery were commenced by Gen. Porter about the first of February last. Some difficulty was experienced, as it was not known just where the body might be found, and so considerable excavating had to be done in the premises. Several lead coffins were brought to light, but each time the explorers were disappointed, as they all had plates with inscriptions. One of the latter mentioned simply "Anglois" (Englishman) with the date, on a copper plate. However, the fourth time proved to be successful, and the coffin by its exterior signs seemed to contain the remains of some eminent person, as it was of better quality than the others and of more solid build.

It appears likely that a body had been buried above it, and some vestiges of this grave were found at the same time. It is supposed that when the upper grave was dug, they came upon the plate which no doubt had covered the lower coffin, and removed it, as no plate was found, and it was also noticed that the lower coffin had been pierced as if it had received a blow with a pick. The lead coffin was no doubt inclosed in a wood casket, and a few traces of the latter were found. The lead case is in the form of the mummy coffins which were used'at that time.

Opened Coffin

Upon removal to the Ecole de Medecine, it was opened in the presence of the representatives of the American embassy and some of the city officials. The body was found to be in a good state of preservation, (click to see photos - BEWARE of macabre content) and had been well packed so as to avoid movement, by means of hay and straw placed in the spaces. The limbs were covered with tinfoil. It is supposed that the good preservation is due to an immersion in alcohol. The body was dressed in a shirt and wrapped in a sheet. The shirt was found to be marked with a small embroidered initial, which might be taken either for a P or a J, according to the way in which it is read. There was no other clothing, nor were any other objects found, but this is not surprising, as we already know that the uniform, sword, and decorations of the admiral had been preserved by his family. Dr. Papillault, the distinguished anthropologist and Dr. Capitan, another high medical authority, were chosen to examine the body. They made a certain number of measurements, and to give greater surety, the latter were taken before any other information as to the admiral's characteristics had been furnished. Such documents were not wanting, however, and Gen. Porter brought all the busts and portraits he could secure, so as to make the comparison. The examination was quite convincing, leaving no possible doubt as to the identity of the body.

The preservation is remarkable, and it was even found that the flesh is soft and yielding, so that the head and members could be moved without any difficulty. The face as it appeared is clean shaven and is of a dark color. The hair is abundant and quite long, according to the fashion of the time.The principal documents of comparison were two busts of the admiral, both by the eminent French sculptor Houdon. One of these was loaned by Marquis de Biron of Paris, and the other came from Trocadero Museum and is a copy of the bust now possessed by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. The former bust represents the admiral in a court costume with his hair arranged in the mode of the period with masses at the sides of the head. The bust is more lifelike, and shows him in his military costume, with the hair drawn back from the forehead. Besides, we possess different documents relating to the color of the hair, different dimensions of the body, etc.

Proof Positive

In this way, after a careful examination, it became evident that the person could be no other than the admiral. The height, upon measuring, was found to be exactly the same, or 5 feet 7.inches. The hair, which is of a dark brown, is of the same color as that which he was known to possess, and is slightly gray in some places. Examination of the head shows that it resembles the original documents as closely as possible and in all the details. Especially noteworthy is the high forehead. The hair is quite long and flowing, with slight curls at the sides of the head.

The coffin is narrow at the feet, and gradually widens at the upper part to contain the shoulders, then finishes in a rounded part at the top for the head. The lead is quite thick, thus enabling the body to be well kept, and it was no doubt tightly sealed from the air until the hole had been made in it with the pick, as, is supposed. It seems as if the wrapping of the limbs in tinfoil was done in order to prepare the body for a long transportation by sea. In fact, we have a letter of Col. Blackden, an intimate friend of Paul Jones and one of his pallbearers, which reads as follows: "His body was put in a leaden coffin on the 20th that, in case the United States, which he had so essentially served and with so much honor , should claim his remains, they might be more easily remove."

Only a few persons specially authorized by the embassy were admitted to view the remains, as it was not intended to make a public celebration of the event before obtaining advice from America in regard to the matter. The writer is indebted to the courtesy of Col. Bailly-Blanchard for the permission to take the present photograph for the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. The embassy had some photographs of the body taken, but these are to be kept as documents, and it is not intended to have them published, at least at present. The casket is draped with two large American flags, with small flags and palm branches on the top. The remains are to be placed in a vault in the American church in Paris until it is decided what steps are to be taken for bringing them to America. It is probable that the American and French governments will come to accord for a great celebration in honor of the admiral, which will take place in French waters, and it is likely that the American cruiser squadron will come over to take the body back to the United States some time in June.

( editors note: The pictures of the body of Paul Jones were published by the US Government the very next year. Whether by coincidence or through some editor's sense of humor, the next article on the same page in Scientific American is a discussion of preserving food using a new invention - aluminum foil.)

The complete text of the commemoration eulogy by President Theodore Roosevelt at the interment of John Paul Jones at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis on April 24, 1906.

Roosevelt and Paul Jones

Theodore Roosevelt is best known in Seacoast, NH as the peacemaker who orchestrated the famous Treaty of Portsmouth in 1905. The treaty brought together the warring nations of Russia and Japan, a conflict that many feared would escalate into a world war. Roosevelt was also, when he chose to be, a war maker. His 1898 charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba with the "Rough Riders" (plus his own film crew) turned the six-week Spanish American War into a public relations victory for the media-savvy politician.

Roosevelt had jumped at the chance to fund an archeological search for the body of John Paul Jones and appropriated funds in 1905. Roosevelt saw himself as the fulfillment of Jones' Revolutionary War call for an organized American navy and he had no guilt about using the exhumed mummified body of Jones to woo the public and legislators to his vision of a giant naval fleet. Indeed, in the following speech, he implies that any one who thinks otherwise is not fit to attend the funeral of the "Father of the American Navy." With his plans to create a great fleet begun and the building of the Panama Canal underway, Roosevelt was in top form at the time of this speech.

Unafraid, even enamored of war, Roosevelt was not unlike the driven, energetic John Paul Jones. Both were self-possessed and outwardly self-assured, yet private, contemplative, even lonely figures. Both adored poetry, wrote extensively, loved to dress in the finest military outfits, were extremely image conscious and highly moralistic.

Roosevelt must have studied Jones for a history of the US Navy he began writing while at Harvard. By 1896, "Teddy" himself was Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President McKinley. By 1891, after the assassination of McKinley, he became President and Commander in Chief of the US military. He used his clout to prod America into becoming, as he was, an aggressive world power. By 1907 only the British Navy outgunned America.

It is possible that John Paul Jones was a role model to Roosevelt. Like Jones, Roosevelt never backed away from a fight, not with political bosses, foreign countries or billionaire J.P. Morgan. Roosevelt was guided by his father's high standards and high moral purpose. His father had died at 47. Jones died at 45, and Roosevelt himself was in his 40s when he delivered the following speech. Just as Jones left his native Scotland and returned to attack its shores, Roosevelt came to attack the wealthy and priviledged society from which he had sprung.

J. Dennis Robinson
© 1997

Address by President Roosevelt
At Annapolis Commemoration

April 24, 1906

SECRETARY OF THE NAVY CHARLES J. BONAPARTE introduced the President in the following words: FELLOW COUNTRYMEN: We have met to honor the memory of that man who gave our Navy its earliest traditions of heroism and victory, The Commander in Chief of the Navy is of right the first to speak of such a man at such a time. You will hear the President.

ON BEHALF of the American people I wish to thank our ancient ally, the great French nation, that proud and gallant nation to whose help we once owed it that John Paul Jones was able to win for the Stars and Stripes the victory that has given him deathless fame, and to whose courtesy we now owe it that the body of the long dead hero has been sent hither, and that to commemorate the reception of the illustrious dead a squadron of French war ships has come to our shores.

The annals of the French navy are filled with the names of brave and able seamen, each of whom courted death as a mistress when the honor of his flag was at stake; and among the figures of these brave men there loom the larger shapes of those who, like Tourville, Duquesne, and the Bailli de Suffren, won high renown as fleet admirals, inferior to none of any navy of their day in martial prowess.

In addition to welcoming the diplomatic and official representatives of France here present, let me also express my heartiest acknowledgments to our former ambassador to Paris, Gen. Horace Porter, to whose zealous devotion we particularly owe it that the body of John Paul Jones has been brought to our shores.

When the body was thus brought over the representatives of many different cities wrote to me, each asking that it should find its last resting place in his city. But I feel that the place of all others in which the memory of the dead hero will most surely be a living force is here in Annapolis, where year by year we turn out the midshipmen who are to officer in the future the Navy, among whose founders the dead man stands first. Moreover, the future naval officers, who live within these walls, will find in the career of the man whose life we this day celebrate, not merely a subject for admiration and respect, but an object lesson to be taken into their innermost hearts. Every officer in our Navy should know by heart the deeds of John Paul Jones. Every officer in our Navy should feel in each fiber of his being an eager desire to emulate the energy, the professional capacity, the indomitable determination and dauntless scorn of death which marked John Paul Jones above all his fellows.

The history of our Navy, like the history of our nation, extends over a period of only a century and a quarter; yet we already have many memories of pride to thrill us as we read and hear of what has been done by our fighting men of the sea, from Perry and Macdonough to Farragut and Dewey. These memories include brilliant victories, and also, now and then, defeats only less honorable than the victories themselves; but the only defeats to which this praise can be given are those where, against heavy odds, men have stood to the death in hopeless battle. It is well for every American officer to remember that while a surrender may or may not be defensible, the man who refuses to surrender need never make a defense. The one fact must always be explained; the other needs no explanation. Moreover, he who would win glory and honor for the nation and for himself, must not too closely count the odds; if he does, he will never see such a day as that when Cushing sank the Albemarle.

In his fight with the Serapis Jones's shipwas so badly mauled that his opponent hailed him, saying "Has your ship struck?" to which Jones answered, "I have not yet begun to fight." The spirit which inspired that answer upbore the man who gave it and the crew who served under him through the fury of the battle, which finally ended in their triumph. It was the same spirit which marked the commanders of the Cumberland and the Congress, when they met an equally glorious though less fortunate fate. The Cumberland sank, her flag flying, and her guns firing with the decks awash, while, when summoned to surrender, Morris replied, "Never! I'll sink alongside!" and made his words good. Immediately after the Cumberland was sunk the Congress was attacked, and her commander, Lieut. Joe Smith, was killed. After fighting until she was helpless, and being unable to bring her guns to bear, the ship was surrendered; but when Smith's father, old Commodore Joe Smith, who was on duty at Washington, saw by the dispatches from Fort Monroe that the Congress had hoisted the white flag, he said quietly, "Then Joe's dead!" Surely no father could wish to feel a prouder certainty of his boy's behavior than the old commodore showed he possessed when he thus spoke; and no naval officer could hope to win a finer epitaph.

We have met to-day to do honor to the mighty dead. Remember that our words of admiration are but as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals if we do not by steady preparation and by the cultivation of soul and mind and body fit ourselves so that in time of need we shall be prepared to emulate their deeds. Let every midshipman who passes through this institution remember, as he looks upon the tomb of John Paul Jones, that while no courage can atone for the lack of that efficiency which comes only through careful preparation in advance, through careful training of the men, and careful fitting out of the engines of war, yet that none of these things can avail unless in the moment of crisis the heart rises level with the crisis. The navy whose captains will not surrender is sure in the long run to whip the navy whose captains will surrender, unless the inequality of skill or force is prodigious. The courage which never yields can not take the place of the possession of good ships and good weapons and the ability skillfully to use these ships and these weapons.

I wish that our people as a whole, and especially those among us who occupy high legislative or administrative positions, would study the history of our nation, not merely for the purpose of national self gratification, but with the desire to learn the lessons that history teaches. Let the men who talk lightly about its being unnecessary for us now to have an army and navy adequate for the work of this nation in the world remember that such utterances are not merely foolish, for in their effects they may at any time be fraught with disaster and disgrace to the nation's honor as well as disadvantage to its interest. Let them take to heart some of the lessons which should be learned by the study of the War of I8I2.

As a people we are too apt to remember only that some of our ships did well in that war. We had a few ships -- a very few ships -- and they did so well as to show the utter folly of not having enough of them. Thanks to our folly as a nation, thanks to the folly that found expression in the views of those at the seat of government, not a ship of any importance had been built within a dozen years before the war began, and the Navy was so small that, when once the war was on, our opponents were able to establish a close blockade throughout the length of our coast, so that not a ship could go from one port to another, and all traffic had to go by land. Our parsimony in not preparing an adequate navy (which would have prevented the war) cost in the end literally thousands of dollars for every one dollar we thus foolishly saved. After two years of that war an utterly inconsiderable British force of about four thousand men was landed here in the bay, defeated with ease a larger body of raw troops put against it, and took Washington.

I am sorry to say that those of our countrymen who now speak of the deed usually confine themselves to denouncing the British for having burned certain buildings in Washington. They had better spare their breath. The sin of the invaders in burning the buildings is trivial compared with the sin of our own people in failing to make ready an adequate force to defeat the attempt.

This nation was guilty of such shortsightedness, of such folly, of such lack of preparation that it was forced supinely to submit to the insult and was impotent to avenge it; and it was only the good fortune of having in Andrew Jackson a great natural soldier that prevented a repetition of the disaster at New Orleans. Let us remember our own shortcomings, and see to it that the men in public life to-day are not permitted to bring about a state of things by which we should in effect invite a repetition of such a humiliation.

We can afford as a people to differ on the ordinary party questions; but if we are both farsighted and patriotic we can not afford to differ on the all-important question of keeping the national defenses as they should be kept; of not alone keeping up, but of going on with building up of the United States Navy, and of keeping our small Army at least at its present size and making it the most efficient for its size that there is on the globe.

Remember, you here who are listening to me, that to applaud patriotic sentiments and to turn out to do honor to the dead heroes who by land or by sea won honor for our flag is only worth while if we are prepared to show that our energies do not exhaust themselves in words; if we are prepared to show that we intend to take to heart the lessons of the past and make things ready so that if ever, which heaven forbid, the need should arise, our fighting men on sea and ashore shall be able to rise to the standard established by their predecessors in our services of the past.

Those of you who are in public life have a moral right to be here at this celebration to-day only if you are prepared to do your part in building up the Navy of the present; for otherwise you have no right to claim lot or part in the glory and honor and renown of the Navy's past.

So much for what we in civil life outside of public office and within it are to do for you, and must do for you, in the Navy. Let you in the Navy remember that you must do your part. You will be worth less in war if you have not prepared yourselves for it in peace. You will be utterly unable to rise to the needs of the crisis if you have not by long years of steady and patient work fitted get the last ounce of work out of every man, every gun, and every ship in the fleet; if you have not practiced steadily on the high seas until each ship can do its best, can show at its best, alone or in conjunction with others in fleet formation.

Remember that no courage can ever atone for lack of that preparedness which makes the courage valuable; and yet if the courage is there, if the dauntless heart is there, its presence will sometimes make up for other shortcomings; while if with it are combined the other military qualities the fortunate owner becomes literally invincible.

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