John Paul Jones was born John Paul, named after his father, who was a Scottish gardener on the estate of a Mr. Craik.
In 1773, while he was merchant captain of the Betsy, selling wine and butter on the island of Tobago, John Paul killed a mutinous sailor. Exactly what happened is unclear, but John Paul was advised by his friend the Governor of Tobago to flee and remain incognito. At some point during the next two years, John Paul adopted the surname "Jones", calling himself John Jones, and then adding back his former name of Paul.
Paul Jones served in the Continental Navy and then in the new United States Navy. He is famous for conducting raids on shipping around Ireland, Scotland, and England, and for actually landing a party on British soil -- something that had not happened since the Dutch invaded in the 1600's.
His most famous battle, in the Bonhomme Richard, was fought off Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, against the British ship Serapis. The two ships were, on the surface, evenly matched, but nearly all of Bonhomme Richard's cannon were disabled early in the battle.
Through crafty seamanship Paul Jones maneuvered his ship head to tail with the Serapis and grappled fast. His crew shot and hand grenaded anyone who came on the upper decks of the Serapis, and three nine-pounder guns were able to shoot away her masts and rigging. Serapis' big guns could only fire into the Richard's hull. The two ships pounded each other in this deadly embrace until well after dark; horrified yet fascinated spectators gathered on Flamborough Head to watch.
Finally a boarding party forced Serapis to surrender. The next day the Bonhomme Richard sunk; Paul Jones transferred his flag into his prize the Serapis.