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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
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Ranger

 

One who wanders; a military scout.

 

I

 

(Ship Sloop: displacement 308; length 116 (on gun deck); beam 28; depth of hold 136; complement 140; armament 18 6-pounders)

 

The first Ranger, an 18-gun Continental Navy ship sloop, initially called Hampshire, was launched 10 May 1777 by James K. Hackett, master shipbuilder, at Portsmouth, N.H.; Capt. John Paul Jones in command.

 

After fitting out, she sailed for France 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 Dr. Franklin. On 14 February 1778, Ranger received the first official salute to the new American flag, the "Stars and Stripes," given by the French fleet at Quiberon Bay.

 

Ranger sailed from Brest 10 April 1778, for the Irish Sea and 4 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 daring raid on the British port of Whitehaven, 23 April, spiking the guns of the fortress, and burning 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 to obtain better treatment for American prisoners of war. However, since the Earl was absent, the plan failed. Several cruisers were searching for Ranger, and Captain Jones sailed across North Channel to Carrickfergus, Ireland, to induce HMS Drake, 20 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 two Americans and 40 British killed in the combat. Having made temporary repairs, and with a prize crew on Drake, Ranger continued around the west coast of Ireland, capturing a stores ship, and arrived at Brest with her prizes 8 May.

 

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

 

The sloop departed Portsmouth 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 23 November, Ranger was ordered to Commodore Whipple's squadron, arriving Charleston 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, Ga. The British assault force 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 the city fell 11 May 1780. Ranger was taken into the British Navy and commissioned under the name Halifax.


16 September 2005