The first USS "Ranger" was a sloop-of-war in the Continental Navy and received the first government-sanctioned salute to an American fighting vessel by a foreign power.
"Ranger", initially called "Hampshire", was launched 10 May 1777 by James K. Hackett, master shipbuilder, at Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Capt. John Paul Jones in command.
After fitting out, she sailed for France on 1 November 1777, carrying dispatches telling of General Burgoyne's surrender to the Commissioners in Paris. On the voyage over, two British prizes were captured. "Ranger" arrived at Nantes, 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 the first official salute to the new American flag, the "Stars and Stripes," given by the French fleet at Quiberon Bay. "Ranger" sailed from Brest 10 April 1778, for the Irish Sea and four days later captured a prize between the Scilly Isles 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 Whitehaven, 23 April, spiking the guns of the fortress, and burning the ships in the harbor. Sailing across the bay to St. Mary's Isle, Scotland, 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 Channel to Carrickfergus, Ireland, to induce HMS|Drake|1777|6 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 Brest with her prizes 8 May.
Captain Jones was detached to command USS|Bonhomme Richard|1765|2, leaving Lieutenant Simpson, his first officer, in command. "Ranger" departed Brest 21 August, reaching Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 15 October, in company with USS|Providence|1776|2 and USS|Boston|1777|2, plus three prizes taken in the Atlantic.
The sloop departed Portsmouth on 24 February 1779 joining with the Continental Navy ships USS|Queen of France|1777|2 and USS|Warren|1775|2 in preying on British shipping in the North Atlantic. 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 Jamaicamen in July and nine more vessels off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Of the 11 prizes, three were recaptured, but the remaining eight, with their cargoes, were worth over a million dollars when sold in Boston.
Underway on 23 November, "Ranger" was ordered to Commodore Whipple's squadron, arriving at Charleston on 23 December, to support the garrison there under siege by the British. On 24 January 1780, "Ranger" and "Providence", in a short cruise down the coast captured three transports, loaded with supplies, near Tybee, Georgia. 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 River, 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".