On February 14, 1778, Captain John Paul Jones and his crew aboard the 18-gun sloop-of-war USS Ranger received the first official 9-gun salute to the American Stars and Stripes flag from a foreign power – the flagship of the French fleet, lead by Admiral Piquet in Quiberon Bay, France.
Two key pieces of information to note:
- France was the only nation to officially recognize our fledgling republic at the time, and had done so via the Treaty of Alliance and the Treaty of Amity and Commerce – both of which had been signed in Paris just eight-days earlier on February 6, 1778.
- On June 14, 1777, the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.“
|The Stars and Stripes – one of the “official” flags of the United States in 1778 – via Wikipedia|
Some maintain that John Paul Jones received the second salute and that the first salute had actually occurred close to 18-months earlier. That may be the case, but it was not official and official is the key word here, as the 14-gun brig USS Andrew Doria received an 11-gun salute from the Fort Orange batteries on November 16, 1776, by the Dutch Governor Johannes de Graaff, of the West Indian island of St. Eustatius. However, the Andrew Doria was flying the unofficial Grand Union flag (not the Stars and Stripes – see below) and the Netherlands did not officially recognize us as a country at the time. This caused quite a diplomatic incident, by which the British lodged a furious protest to the Dutch government and De Graaff was recalled to the Netherlands to explain his actions, only returning to St. Eustatius sometime later.
|The Grand Union Flag – the unofficial “first” flag of the United States – via Wikipedia|