John Young (naval officer)

John Young (ca. 1740-1781) was a captain in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War, commander of the "Saratoga" which was lost at sea.

He began his seafaring career at an early age in the colonial merchant marine and, at the start of the American Revolution, was commissioned 23rd on the list of captains in the Continental Navy. On 20 September 1776, the Continental Congress directed Young to take the sloop-of-war "Independence" to Martinique to protect American mercantile shipping in the West Indies. Collaterally, "Independence" was to raid British shipping whenever the opportunity arose.

On 5 July 1777, Young was ordered to Nantes, France, and subsequently arrived at Lorient with two prizes. On 17 February 1778, while in French waters, he sailed through the French Fleet, saluting that nation's government with a 13-gun salute. In return he received a nine-gun salute, one of the earliest salutes rendered by the French government to the fledgling American government. At the time, John Paul Jones was on board "Independence".

Young returned to America in the spring of 1778 and successively commanded two Pennsylvania privateers, "Buckskin" and "Impertinent", before he was given command of the sloop-of-war "Saratoga" - then fitting out at Philadelphia--in May 1780. Young took her to sea on 13 August 1780 and, in the course of the ship's first cruise, captured one prize before she returned to port for repairs and alterations.

Subsequent cruises were more successful, as Young commanded "Saratoga" on three more sweeps at sea in which he took a total of eight more prizes. Young proved himself a daring and resourceful commander. On one occasion, he took "Saratoga" between two British ships and captured both. Largely as a result of his dedication and emphasis on training, "Saratoga" compiled a distinguished, but altogether brief, record before her untimely and unexplained loss.

"Saratoga" set sail from Cap Francais, in what is now the Dominican Republic, on 15 March 1781. After taking a prize three days later, the sloop-of-war became separated from her later that day when a strong gale swept through the area, the high winds nearly swamping the prize commanded by Midshipman Penfield. After the storm passed by, "Saratoga" was nowhere to be seen, having vanished without a trace.

The United States Navy named two ships, USS "Young", and USS "John Young" (DD-973) in his honor.


* William Bell Clark, "The First Saratoga, Being the Saga of John Young and His Sloop-of-War" (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1953)

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