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The first USS Ranger was a sloop-of-war in the Continental Navy, and received the second salute to an American fighting vessel by a foreign power (the first salute was received by the USS Andrew Doria when on 16 November 1776 she arrived at St. Eustatiusmarker and the Dutch island returned her 11-gun salute).

Ranger (initially called Hampshire) was launched 10 May 1777 by James K. Hackett, master shipbuilder, at the shipyard of John Langdon on what is now called Badger's Islandmarker in Kitterymarker, Mainemarker; Captain John Paul Jones in command.

After fitting out, she sailed for Francemarker on 1 November 1777, carrying dispatches telling of General Burgoyne's surrender to the commissioners in Parismarker. On the voyage over, two British prizes were captured. Ranger arrived at Nantesmarker, France, 2 December, where Jones sold the prizes and delivered the news of the victory at Saratoga to Dr. Franklin. On 14 February 1778, Ranger received an official salute to the new American flag, the "Stars and Stripes," given by the French fleet at Quiberon Baymarker. Ranger sailed from Brestmarker 10 April 1778, for the Irish Seamarker and four days later captured a prize between the Scilly Islesmarker and Cape Clear. On 17 April, she took another prize and sent her back to France. Captain Jones led a daring raid on the British port of Whitehavenmarker, 23 April, spiking the guns of the fortress, and burning the ships in the harbor. Sailing across the bay to St. Mary's Isle, Scotlandmarker, the American captain planned to seize the Earl of Selkirk and hold him as a hostage to obtain better treatment for American prisoners of war. However, since the Earl was absent, the plan failed. Several cruisers were searching for Ranger, and Captain Jones sailed across the North Channelmarker to Carrickfergusmarker, Irelandmarker, to induce of 20 guns, to come out and fight. Drake came out slowly against the wind and tide, and, after an hour's battle, the battered Drake struck her colors, with three Americans and five British killed in the combat. Having made temporary repairs, and with a prize crew on Drake, Ranger continued around the west coast of Ireland, capturing a stores ship, and arrived at Brestmarker with her prizes 8 May.

Captain Jones was detached to command , leaving Lieutenant Simpson, his first officer, in command. Ranger departed Brest 21 August, reaching Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 15 October, in company with and , plus three prizes taken in the Atlanticmarker.

The sloop departed Portsmouth on 24 February 1779 joining with the Continental Navy ships and in preying on British shipping in the North Atlanticmarker. Seven prizes were captured early in April, and brought safely into port for sale. On 18 June, Ranger was underway again with Providence and Queen of France, capturing two Jamaicamenmarker in July and nine more vessels off the Grand Banksmarker of Newfoundlandmarker. Of the 11 prizes, three were recaptured, but the remaining eight, with their cargoes, were worth over a million dollars when sold in Bostonmarker.

Underway on 23 November, Ranger was ordered to Commodore Whipple's squadron, arriving at Charlestonmarker on 23 December, to support the garrison there under siege by the Britishmarker. On 24 January 1780, Ranger and Providence, in a short cruise down the coast captured three transports, loaded with supplies, near Tybeemarker, Georgiamarker. The British assault force was also discovered in the area. Ranger and Providence sailed back to Charleston with the news. Shortly afterwards the British commenced the final push. Although the channel and harbor configuration made naval operations and support difficult, Ranger took a station in the Cooper Rivermarker, and was captured when the city fell 11 May 1780. Ranger was taken into the British Royal Navy and commissioned under the name HMS Halifax.

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