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USS Ranger (1777)
Name: USS Ranger
Builder: James Hackett (shipbuilder), Badger's Island, Kittery, Maine
Launched: 10 May 1777
Fate: Captured, 11 May 1780
Career Naval Ensign of Great Britain (1707–1800).svg
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: HMS Drake (1778)

The first USS Ranger was a sloop-of-war in the Continental Navy in active service in 1777-1780; she received the second salute to an American fighting vessel by a foreign power (the first salute was received by the USS Andrew Doria when on 16 November 1776 she arrived at St. Eustatius and the Dutch island returned her 11-gun salute). She was captured in 1780, and brought into the Royal Navy as HMS Halifax. She was decommissioned in 1781.

History[edit | edit source]

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.

Continental Navy[edit | edit source]

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 an 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 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 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 Royal Navy cruisers 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 three Americans and five 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 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 $3.

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.

Royal Navy[edit | edit source]

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 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 on 11 May 1780. Ranger was taken into the British Royal Navy and commissioned under the name HMS Halifax. She was decommissioned the following year.

References[edit | edit source]

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

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