3. John Paul Jones
“I have not yet begun to fight!” may only be the second most badass line of the Revolutionary War, but when he delivered it, John Paul Jones was literally looking down the barrels of a broadside of British battleship cannons.
In his first command mission as the captain of the 21 gun sloop Providence, Jones took command of no less than 16 British vessels. Later, Jones actually attacked a British coastal town which rattled the enemy considerably. Then, of course, there is his comeback victory as the captain of the Bonhomme Richard after being offered a chance to surrender which led to his immortal, defiant response.
While the Continental Navy hardly swept the mighty Royal Navy from the seas, it was an important factor in making the war against the colonists simply too costly for the British to continue.
It would be nearly 200 years before another man rose from the enlisted ranks to command an American warship in wartime (my friend, the late Lt. Command Henry Dale); but John Paul Jones is more than just a war hero.
While some might be surprised to see him in a list of Founding Fathers, John Paul Jones is certainly the founding father of the United States Navy. Unfortunately, the Continental Navy was disbanded after the war — despite Jones’s urging that the ability to project naval power would be a deterrent to future aggression — but Jones would be considered the inspirational father of the United States Navy, without which the young nation would have had no means of projecting power in a hostile world.