On the morning of September 25, 1779 from the deck of his new prize, the British frigate Serapis, John Paul Jones watched his former ship, Bonhomme Richard slide beneath the waves off Flamborough Head on Britain’s east coast. It had been a brutal fight before the Americans prevailed over a well-handled, better-armed British vessel and became one of the most famous sea-duels in American history. A floating wreck, Serapis’ condition made it unfit to continue with Jones’ original plan of taking the war to England by cruising for prizes. Moreover, he was due in the Texel, a roadstead near Amsterdam where ships gathered for safer transit over waters regularly patrolled by the British fleet. The French had a convoy gathering there and wanted an armed escort. After spending days repairing Serapis, Jones, his small naval squadron (Alliance, Pallas, Vengeance), and his prizes (Serapis, Countess of Scarborough), reached Dutch shores on October 3.Continue reading “￼John Paul Jones Endangers Dutch Neutrality”
Tag: Bonhomme Richard
What’s So Bonhomme about Richard?
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Dwight Hughes
The recent disastrous conflagration aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) in San Diego harbor brings to mind the original warship by that name and its fiery fate, a tale excellently told in a previous post by Eric Sterner (“I Have not Yet Begun to Fight!” or Words to that Effect (September 23, 1779)). “Bonhomme Richard” means “good man Richard” in French. So, who is Richard? What was good about him? Why is his name on a man-of-war?
The United States Navy likes to carry forward the labels of famous vessels. This is one of the oldest and most revered monikers in navy history, originally assigned in 1779 by Captain John Paul Jones to a rather decrepit French merchantman armed with a motley collection of guns. The French government donated the former Duc De Duras to Jones to sail against their mutual enemies, the British.
Jones famously engaged the powerful frigate HMS Serapis on September 23, 1779 in English waters off Flamborough Head, Yorkshire. The ships grappled together and blasted away at point blank range. Both were battered and ablaze in sinking condition with many casualties when the British captain surrendered. With Bonhomme Richard going down fast, the Americans took over Serapis and managed to save her.
John Paul Jones became the “Father of the U. S. Navy” (or one of them). Bonhomme Richard entered legend as the warship that won and sank. She and her successors also represent those rare U. S. Navy vessels whose names are rendered in a foreign language.Continue reading “What’s So Bonhomme about Richard?”
“I Have not Yet Begun to Fight!” or Words to that Effect (September 23, 1779)
During the night of September 23/24, 1779, Captain John Paul Jones led his frigate, Bonhomme Richard, into its legendary fight with Serapis. In the midst of a battle that was not going well for the Americans, British Captain Richard Pearson asked if Jones was ready to strike his colors and surrender. Jones offered one of the most famous replies in American naval history: “I have not yet begun to fight!” Or did he? Continue reading ““I Have not Yet Begun to Fight!” or Words to that Effect (September 23, 1779)”