I went to Annapolis, Maryland, today. It was a beautiful fall day and I needed to get out of the house. I had seen photos of the crypt of John Paul Jones but I had not witnessed it in person. I wanted to go and it seemed like a good time to do it.
The US Naval Academy has a beautiful campus right on the Chesapeake Bay with lovely gardens.
John Paul Jones was a sailor who some would call a pirate. Born in Scotland in 1747, he became the great naval leader of the American Revolution. He died in Paris at the age of 45, alone in his apartment without financial means. He was buried in a local cemetery that was sold and then forgotten. After searching for six years, his grave was discovered in 1906 by Horace Porter, the American Ambassador to France.
Jones’ body was exhumed and amazingly, his corpse had been wrapped in cloth and placed in straw and alcohol and put into a tightly sealed lead casket and was very well preserved. They performed an autopsy and the head was compared to the sculptured portrait bust of Jones created in 1780 by Jean Antoine Houdon. They were able to prove that it was indeed Jones and he had died of the kidney ailment nephritis, complicated by pneumonia.
His body was then moved to a crypt in the Chapel at the US Navel Academy. Jones had written about the need to have such an academy and it was built 50 years after his death. He is considered the “father” of the US Navy. The sarcophagus is made of bronze and marble and is impressive although I’m not sure it is to my taste.
Annapolis is also the Capital of the State of Maryland. It is home to the country’s largest wooden dome built without nails. It was there that George Washington resigned his commission before the Continental Congress in 1783.
Thurgood Marshall was the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court. There is a memorial to him in front of the State House, in State House Square. This was where the Maryland Court of Appeals stood in 1935, when Marshall argued the Murray case before the court. This was one of the cases he used later in the Brown v. the Board of Education and other integration cases.
It was a lovely day.