Bon Homme Richard vs Serapis - History

Bon Homme Richard vs Serapis - History

Bon Homme Richard vs Serapis
Account by Lieutenant Richard Dale.

On the 23d of September, 1779, being below, was roused by an unusual no~se upon deck. This induced me to go upon deck when I found the men were swaying up the royal yards, preparatory to making sail for a large fleet under our lee. I asked the coasting pilot what fleet it was?

He answered, "The Baltic fleet under convoy of the Serapis of 44 guns and the Countess of Scarborough of 20 guns."

A general chase then commenced of the Bon Homme Richard, the Vengeance, the Pallas and the Alliance, the latter ship being then in sight after a separation from the squadron of nearly three weeks, but which ship, as usual, disregarded the private signals of the Commodore. At this time our fleet headed to the northward with a light breeze, Flamborough Head being about two leagues distant. At 7 P.M. it was evident the Baltic fleet perceived we were in chance from the signal of the Serapis to the merchantmen to stand in shore. At the same time the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough tacked ship and stood off shore, with the intention of drawing off our attention from the convoy. When these ships had separated from the convoy about two miles, they again tacked and stood in shore after the merchantmen.

At about eight, being within hail, the Serapis demanded, "What ship is that? "

He was answered, "I can't hear what you say."

immediately after, the Serapis hailed again, "What ship is that? Answer immediately, or I shall be under the necessity of firing into you."

At this moment I received orders from Commodore Jones. to commence de action with a broadside, which indeed appeared to be simultaneous on board both ships Our position being to windward of the Serapis we passed ahead of her, and the Serapis coming up on our larboard quarter, the action commenced abreast of each other. The Serapis soon passed ahead of the Bon Homme Richard, and when he thought he had gained a distance sufficient to go down athwart the fore foot to rake us, found he had not enough distance,and that the Bon Homme Richard would be aboard him, put his helm a-lee, which brought the two ships on a line, and the Bon Homme Richard, having head way, ran her bows into the stern of the Serapis.

We had remained in this situation but a few minutes when we were again hailed by the Serapis, "Has your ship struck?"

To which Captain Jones answered, "I have not yet begun to fight!"

As we were unable to bring a single gun to bear upon the Serapis our topsails were backed, while those of the Serapis being filled, the ships separated. The Serapis bore short round upon her heel, and her jibboom ran into the mizen rigging of the Bon Homme Richard In this situation the ships were made fast together with a hawser, the bowsprit of the Serapis to the mizen- I mast of the Bon Homme Richard, and the action recommenced from the star- I board sides of the two ships. With a view of separating the ships, the Serapis | let go her anchor, which manouver brought her head and the stern of the Bon Homme Richard to the wind, while the ships lay closely pressed against each other.

A novelty in naval combats was now presented to many witnesses, but to few admirers. The rammers were run into the respective ships to enable the men to load after the lower ports of the Serapis had been blown away, to make room for running out their guns, and in this situation the ships remained until between 10 and 1l o'clock P.M., when the engagement terminated by the surrender of the Serapis.

From the commencement to the termination of the action there was not a man on board the Bon Homme Richard ignorant of the superiority of the Serapis, both in weight of metal and in the qualities of the crews. The crew of that ship was picked seamen, and the ship itself had been only a few months off the stocks, whereas the crew of the Bon Homme Richard consisted of part Americans, English and French, and a part of Maltese, Portuguese and Malays, these latter contributing by their want of naval skill and knowledge of the English language to depress rather than to elevate a just hope of success in a combat under such circumstances. Neither the consideration of the relative force of the ships, the fact of the blowing up of the gundeck above them by the bursting of two of the 1 8-pounders, nor the alarm that the ship was ~nh ing, could depress the ardor or change the determination of the brave Captain Jones, his officers and men. Neither the repeated broadsides of the Allic~ce, I given with the view of sinking or disabling the Bon Homme Richard, the frequent necessity of suspending the combat to extinguish the flames, with several times were within a few inches of the magazine, nor the liberation by the master-at-arms of nearly 500 prisoners, could charge or weaken the purpose of the American commander. At the moment of the liberation of the prisoners, one of them, a commander of a o-gun ship taken a few days before, passed through the ports on board the Serapis and informed Captain Pearson that if he would hold out only a little while longer, the ship alongside would I either strike or sink, and that all the prisoners had been released to save their I lives. The combat was accordingly continued with renewed ardor by the Serapis.

The fire from the tops of the Bon Homme Richard was conducted with so much skill and effect as to destroy ultimately every man who appeared upon the quarter deck of the Serapis, and induced her commander to order the survivors to go below. Nor even under the shelter of the decks were they more secure. The powder-monkies of the Serapis, find no officer to receive the 18-pound cartridges brought from the magazines, threw them on the main deck and went for more. These cartridges being scattered along the deck and numbers of them broken, it so happened that some of the hand-grenades thrown from the main-yard of the Bon Homme Richard, which was directly over the main-hatch of the Serapis, fell upon this powder and produced a most awful explosion. The effect was tremendous; more than twenty of the enemy were blown to pieces, and many stood with only the collars of their shirts upon their bodies. In less than an hour afterward, the flag of England, which had been nailed to the mast of the Serapis, was struck by Captain Pearson's own hand, as none of his people would venture aloft on this duty; and this too when more than 1500 persons were witnessing the conflict, and the humiliating termination of it, from Scarborough and Flamborough Head.

Upon finding that the flag of the Serapis had been struck, I went to Captain Jones and asked whether I might board the Serapis, to which he consented, and- jumping upon the gun-wale, seized the main-brace pennant and swung m~self upon her quarter-deck. Midshipman Mayrant followed with a party of men and was immediately run through the thigh with a boarding pike by source of the enemy stationed in the waist, who were not informed of the surrender of their ship.

I found Captain Pearson standing on the leeward side of the quarter-deck and, addressing myself to him, said, "Sir, I have orders to send you on board the ship alongside." The first lieutenant of the Serapis coming up at this moment inquired of Captain Pearson whether the ship alongside had struck to him, To which I replied, "No, Sir, the contrary: he has struck to us."

The lieutenant renewed his inquiry, "Have you struck, Sir?"

"Yes, I have."

The lieutenant replied, "I have nothing more to say," and was about to return below when I informed him he must accompany Captain Pearson on board the ship alongside. He said, "If you will permit me to go below, I will silence the firing of the lower-deck guns."

This request was refused, and with Captain Pearson, he was passed over to the deck of the Bon Homme Richard. Orders being sent below to cease firing, the engagement terminated, after a most obstinate contest of three hours and a half.

Upon receiving Captain Pearson on board the Bon Homme Richard, Captain Jones gave orders to cut loose the lashings, and directed me to follow him | with the Serapis. Perceiving the Bon Homme Richard leaving the Serapis, I I sent one of the quartermasters to ascertain whether the wheel-ropes were cut I away, supposing something extraordinary must be the matter, as the ship
would not pay off, although the head sails were aback, and no after sail; the quartermaster, returning, reported that the wheel-ropes were all well, and the helm hard a port. Excited by this extraordinary circumstance, I jumped off the binnacle, where I had been sitting, and hiting upon the deck, found to my astonishment I had the use of only one of my legs. A splinter of one of the guns had struck and badly wounded my leg without my perceiving the injury until this moment. I was replaced upon the binnacle, when the sailing-master of the Serapis coming up to me observed that from my orders he judged I must be ignorant of the ship being at anchor. Noticing the second lieutenant of the Bon Homme Richard, I directed him to go below and cut away the cable, and follow the Bon Homme Richard with the Serapis. I was then carried on board the Bon Homme Richard to have my wound dressed.


John Paul Jones wins in English waters

During the American Revolution, the U.S. ship Bonhomme Richard, commanded by John Paul Jones, wins a hard-fought engagement against the British ships of war Serapis and Countess of Scarborough, off the eastern coast of England.

Scottish-born John Paul Jones first sailed to America as a cabin boy and lived for a time in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where his brother had a business. He later served on slave and merchant ships and proved an able seaman. After he killed a fellow sailor while suppressing a mutiny, he returned to the American colonies to escape possible British prosecution. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, he traveled to Philadelphia and was commissioned a senior lieutenant in the new Continental Navy. He soon distinguished himself in actions against British ships in the Bahamas, the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel.

In August 1779, Jones took command of the Bonhomme Richard and sailed around the British Isles. On September 23, the Bonhomme Richard engaged the Serapis and the smaller Countess of Scarborough, which were escorting the Baltic merchant fleet. After inflicting considerable damage to the Bonhomme Richard, Richard Pearson, the captain of the Serapis, asked Jones if he had struck his colors, the naval signal indicating surrender. From his disabled ship, Jones replied, “I have not yet begun to fight,” and after three more hours of furious fighting it was the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough that surrendered. After the victory, the Americans transferred to the Serapis from the Bonhomme Richard, which sank the following day.


Bon Homme Richard vs Serapis - History

Physical Description A hand colored line engraving depicting the action between the ships HMS SERAPIS and USS BONHOMME RICHARD on September 23, 1779 off the east coast of England. The moonlit nighttime scene depicts three ships locked in battle with the British ship SERAPIS on the left and the American BONHOMME RICHARD on the right. Additional sailing vessels can faintly be seen in the right background.

The full title of the engraving, attached below the image, is apparently from another copy of the print and reads: The memorable Engagement of Captn. Pearson of the Serapis, / with Paul Jones of the Bon Homme Richard & his Squadron, Sep. 23, 1779. A similar title in French is printed to the right. A dedication below title reads: To Sir Richard Pearson Knt. whose Bravery & Conduct saved the Baltic Fleet, under his Convoy tho' obliged to / submit to a much superior force, This representation of that Action, Is with great Respect Inscribed, by his most obedient Servant, Richard Paton.

To each side of the title and dedication are statements in English and French regarding the forces and losses of the two squadrons during the battle.

The makers' information appears beneath the title and dedication: Richd. Paton Pinxit[lower left] Lerpiniere & Fittler Sculpnt [lower right] J. Boydell excudit 1781 [middle] Published Decr. 12th 1780 by John Boydell, Engraver in Cheapside, London.

The engraving is glazed, matted, and framed in a modern ¼" oak frame with a light stain.
Historical Note Franklin Roosevelt was an avid, lifelong collector of prints, engravings, and paintings illustrating the history of the United States Navy. He purchased this engraving at the Holden Sale at the American Art Galleries in New York, NY in 1910 for $22.
Additional Details


Bonhomme Richard vs. Serapis: US Navy Art Collection

During the American Revolution , the U.S. ship Bonhomme Richard , commanded by John Paul Jones , wins a hard-fought engagement against the British ships of war Serapis and Countess of Scarborough , off the eastern coast of England.

Scottish-born John Paul Jones first sailed to America as a cabin boy and lived for a time in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where his brother had a business. He later served on slave and merchant ships and proved an able seaman. After he killed a fellow sailor while suppressing a mutiny, he returned to the American colonies to escape possible British prosecution. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, he traveled to Philadelphia and was commissioned a senior lieutenant in the new Continental Navy. He soon distinguished himself in actions against British ships in the Bahamas, the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel.

The piece above is by Anton Otto Fischer and is available for custom reproduction on RequestAPrint.

In August 1779, Jones took command of the Bonhomme Richard and sailed around the British Isles. On September 23, the Bonhomme Richard engaged the Serapis and the smaller Countess of Scarborough, which were escorting the Baltic merchant fleet. After inflicting considerable damage to the Bonhomme Richard, Richard Pearson, the captain of the Serapis, asked Jones if he had struck his colors, the naval signal indicating surrender. From his disabled ship, Jones replied, “I have not yet begun to fight,” and after three more hours of furious fighting it was the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough that surrendered. After the victory, the Americans transferred to the Serapis from the Bonhomme Richard, which sank the following day.

Jones was hailed as a great hero in France, but recognition in the United States was somewhat belated. He continued to serve the United States until 1787 and then served briefly in the Russian navy before moving to France, where he died in 1792 amidst the chaos of the French Revolution. He was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1905, his remains were located under the direction of the U.S. ambassador to France and then escorted back to the United States by U.S. warships. His body was later enshrined in a crypt at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

To order you’re own custom print of this piece visit RequestAPrint.


Manning the ‘Serapis’ and the ‘Bon Homme Richard’

Continuing “I Have Not Yet Begun to Fight!” ,
our selection from The Life of John Paul Jones by Alexander Slidell Mackenzie published in 1841. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.

Previously in “I Have Not Yet Begun to Fight!”

Time: September 23, 1779
Place: North Sea off Flambough Head, Yorkshire, Great Britain

Serapis vs. Bonhomme Richard
Public Domain Image From Wikipedia.

Jones was very anxious to keep the Richard afloat, and, if possible, to bring her into port, doubtless from the very justifiable vanity of showing how desperately he had fought her. In order to effect this object he kept the first lieutenant of the Pallas on board of her with a party of men to work the pumps, having boats in waiting to remove them in the event of her sinking. During the night of the 24th the wind had freshened, and still continued to freshen on the morning of the 25th, when all further efforts to save her were found unavailing. The water was running in and out of her ports and swashing up her hatchways. About nine o’clock it became necessary to abandon her, the water then being up to the lower deck an hour later, she rolled as if losing her balance, and, settling forward, went down bows first, her stern and mizzen-mast being last seen.

“A little after ten,” says Jones in his report, “I saw, with inexpressible grief, the last glimpse of the Bonhomme Richard.” The grief was a natural one, but, far from being destitute of consolation, the closing scene of the “Poor Richard,” like the death of Nelson on board the Victory in the moment of winning a new title to the name, was indeed a glorious one. Her shattered shell afforded an honorable receptacle for the remains of the Americans who had fallen during the action.

The Richard was called by Captain Pearson a forty-gun ship, while the Serapis was stated by the pilot, who described her to Jones when she was first made, to have been a forty-four. Jones and Dale also gave her the same rate. The Richard, as we have seen, mounted six eighteen-pounders in her gunroom on her berth deck, where port-holes had been opened near the water fourteen twelve, and fourteen nine-pounders on her main deck, and eight six-pounders on her quarter-deck, gangways, and forecastle. The weight of shot thrown by her at a single broadside would thus be two hundred and twenty-five pounds. With regard to her crew, she started from L’Orient with three hundred eighty men. She had manned several prizes, which, with the desertion of the barge’s crew on the coast of Ireland, and the absence of those who went in pursuit under the master and never returned, together with the fifteen men sent away in the pilot-boat, under the second lieutenant, just before the action, and who did not return until after it was over, reduced the crew, according to Jones’ statement, to three hundred forty men at its commencement.

This calculation seems a very fair one for, by taking the statement of those who had landed on the coast of Ireland, as given in a contemporary English paper, at twenty-four, those who were absent in the pilot-boat being sixteen in number, and allowing five of the nine prizes taken by the Richard to have been manned from her, with average crews of five men each, the total reduction from her original crew may be computed to be seventy men. Eight or ten more escaped, during the action, in a boat towing astern of the Serapis. To have had three hundred forty men at the commencement of the action, as Jones states he had, he must have obtained recruits from the crews of his prizes.

In the muster-roll of the Richard’s crew in the battle, as given by Mr. Sherburne from an official source, we find only two hundred twenty-seven names. This can hardly have been complete still the document is interesting, inasmuch as it enumerates the killed and wounded by name, there being forty-two killed and forty wounded. It also states the country of most of the crew by which it appears that there were seventy-one Americans, fifty-seven acknowledged Englishmen, twenty-one Portuguese, and the rest of the motley collection was made up of Swedes, Norwegians, Irish, and East Indians. Many of those not named in this imperfect muster-roll were probably Americans.

With regard to the Serapis, her battery consisted of twenty eighteens on the lower gun-deck, twenty nines on the upper gun-deck, and ten sixes on the quarter-deck and forecastle. She had two complete batteries, and her construction was, in all respects, that of a line-of-battle ship. The weight of shot thrown by her single broadside was three hundred pounds, being seventy-five pounds more than that of the Richard. Her crew consisted of three hundred twenty all Englishmen except fifteen Lascars and as such, superior to the motley and partially disaffected assemblage of the Richard. The superiority of the Serapis, in size and weight, as well as efficiency of battery, was, moreover, greatly increased by the strength of her construction. She was a new ship, built expressly for a man-of-war, and equipped in the most complete manner by the first of naval powers. The Richard was originally a merchantman, worn out by long use and rotten from age. She was fitted, in a makeshift manner, with whatever refuse guns and materials could be hastily procured, at a small expense, from the limited means appropriated to her armament.


Around 3:00 PM, lookouts reported sighting a large group of ships to the north. Based on intelligence reports, Jones correctly believed this to be a large convoy of over 40 ships returning from the Baltic guarded by the frigate HMS Serapis (44) and the sloop-of-war HMS Countess of Scarborough (22). Piling on the sail, Jones' ships turned to chase. Spotting the threat to the south, Captain Richard Pearson of Serapis, ordered the convoy to make for the safety of Scarborough and placed his vessel in a position to block the approaching Americans. After Countess of Scarborough had successfully guided the convoy some distance away, Pearson recalled his consort and maintained his position between the convoy and approaching enemy.

Due to light winds, Jones' squadron did not near the enemy until after 6:00 PM. Though Jones had ordered his ships to form a line of battle, Landais veered Alliance from the formation and pulled Countess of Scarborough away from Serapis. Around 7:00 PM, Bonhomme Richard rounded Serapis' port quarter and after an exchange of questions with Pearson, Jones opened fire with his starboard guns. This was followed by Landais attacking Countess of Scarborough. This engagement proved brief as the French captain quickly disengaged from the smaller ship. This allowed Countess of Scarborough's commander, Captain Thomas Piercy, to move to Serapis' aid.


A Desperate Sea Duel - the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis

Accordingly, in August, 1779, Captain Jones put to sea once more, this time with a fleet of four vessels. He named his flag-ship Bon Homme Richard (bo-nom&prime-rē-shär&prime), after the Richard of Poor Richard&rsquos Almanac, which you will remember Benjamin Franklin had written.

In this ship, which was old, he set out to cruise along the western coast of Ireland, in order to capture English merchant vessels. After reaching the southern point of Ireland, he cruised northward around Scotland and down its eastern coast. Then he sailed up and down the eastern coast of England, looking for merchant vessels.

At noon on the 23d of September Jones sighted a fleet of forty-two merchantmen, guarded by two English ships of war, all sailing from the north. He at once decided to make an attack. This took place early in the evening, the action being mainly between the Richard and the English man-of-war Serapis, which was a large ship, new and swift, and very much better than the Richard.

During the first hour the American vessel got the worst of the fight and &ldquowas leaking like a basket.&rdquo The English captain, feeling sure of victory, called out: &ldquoHas your ship struck?&rdquo Our hero, Paul Jones, shouted back: &ldquoI have not yet begun to fight!&rdquo

As the British vessel came alongside his own for a more deadly struggle, Jones with his own hands lashed the two together. Soon both were badly leaking, but the fighting went on as fiercely as ever. Presently both caught fire.

Then Jones turned his cannon upon the mainmast of the Serapis, and when it threatened to fall the English captain surrendered. So after all it was the English ship and not the American that &ldquostruck&rdquo the flag. But the Richard could not have held out much longer, for even before the surrender she had begun to sink.

When the English captain gave up his sword to John Paul Jones, he said: &ldquoIt is very hard to surrender to a man who has fought with a halter around his neck.&rdquo You see, Captain Jones would have been hanged as a pirate, if taken. Jones replied: &ldquoSir, you have fought like a hero. I hope your King will reward you.&rdquo

This was a desperate sea duel, and it lasted from half past seven in the evening until ten o&rsquoclock. It was important also in its results, for it won much needed respect for our flag and gave a wonderful uplift to the American cause. The victor, John Paul Jones, who was loaded with honors, from that day took rank with the great sea captains of the world.


The Battle against HMS Serapis

On June 19, 1779, Jones sailed BONHOMME RICHARD from L’ Orient, France accompanied by ALLIANCE, PALLAS, VEGEANCE, and CERF. Their mission was to escort troop transports and merchant vessels under the convoy to Bordeaux, France, and cruise against the British in the Bay of Biscay. Forced to return to port for repairs, Jones’ squadron sailed again on August 14, 1779. Going northwest around the British Isles into the Northern Sea and down the eastern seaboard of Great Britain, the squadron swiftly took 16 merchant vessels as prizes. On the evening of September 23, 1779, they encountered the Baltic Fleet of 41 near the English shore of Flamborough Head. Sailing for England, the Fleet was under the fleet of the newly built frigate, HMS SERAPIS (50 guns) and the small sloop of COUNTESS OF SCARBOROUGH (20 GUNS).

Before the British fleet could respond, BON HOMME RICHARD lashed out at SERAPIS igniting a bitter struggle that would last the entire night. Early in the battle, the guns of Jones’ main battery exploded, temporarily disabling his ship.

To offset the SERAPIS’ speed, Jones lashed his flagship alongside and continued the fight long after his subordinates regarded the situation as hopeless.

Burning, sinking, and scattered with the dead and wounded, BONHOMME RICHARD lit up the darkness with a constant barrage. Jones struggled to keep his vessel afloat and, in one instance, an overwhelming number of prisoners in hold threatened to rush the deck to save from drowning. Jones defied all odds and continued the fight against Captain Pearson’s SERAPIS.

In the final hour, BONHOMME RICHARD’S mast was hit above the top-sail. Along with her Colors, a large section of the mast came crashing to the deck near Jones’s feet. In response to the downfallen colors, SERAPIS called out, “Have you struck your Colors?” Resoundingly, John Paul Jones exclaimed, “Struck Sir? I have not yet begun to fight!” With newfound will, his crew delivered decisive blows from all sides and aloft. Jones’ sent 40 Marines and Sailors into the rigging with grenades and muskets.

Decimated, SERAPIS could not avoid defeat and at 2230 she struck her Colors. Victorious, John Paul Jones commandeered SERAPIS and sailed her to Holland for repairs. Sadly, on September 24, 1779 at 1100, BONHOMME RICHARD sank never to rise from her watery grave.

This epic battle was the American Navy’s first-ever defeat of an English ship in English waters! Rallying colonial hope for freedom, Jones’ victory established him to many as “The Father of the American Navy.”

Jones’s first mission in his new command left him deeply frustrated. He was ordered to escort merchant ships to various ports in the Bay of Biscay, rather than pursue his ambition to wreak havoc on British shipping. Sartine took some of the sting out of the assignment by promising him almost unlimited discretion of how and where to use the squadron as soon as he had seen the convoy to a safe harbor. Even so, events on the escort cruise taxed Jones’s patience. Soon after leaving L’Orient, a storm arose and, as the allied ships were battling heavy seas that night, Bonhomme Richard and Alliance collided in the dark. Both vessels suffered significant damage, but fortunately not enough to prevent them from continuing their mission. Furthermore, the squadron repeatedly spied British warships, only to see them flee when they realized the strength of Jones’s force. Bonhomme Richard was far too slow to catch any of them, thanks to her pedigree as a lumbering East India merchantman, and Jones fumed at the realization that he would never be able to force battle on an unwilling enemy.

After seeing each of its charges safely into port, the squadron returned to L’Orient on 1 July 1779. Jones immediately set to work getting his ships repaired. While Bonhomme Richard received a new bowsprit and Alliance had a new mizzenmast stepped, their three French consorts cruised off Belle-Ile in search of British privateers which had been preying on French merchantmen in that vicinity. They returned without success and in need of repairs themselves. Meanwhile, the squadron lost one sailor when the unfortunate man fell off a main topsail yard and landed inches from Jones on the deck 60 feet below. He came so close to landing on his captain, in fact, that he knocked off Jones’s hat just before striking the deck. This tragedy aside, the squadron was again ready for sea by the end of the month. After contrary winds gave way to favorable breezes, Bonhomme Richard sailed with Pallas, Vengeance, and Le Cerf for waters off Ile de Groix where Alliance and two French privateers, Monsieur and Granville waited.

Jones set sail with a very particular vision of how to use his squadron. He was well aware the weakness of the American colonies’ maritime force against the massive British Navy. He understood that the rebelling colonies could never hope to compete with Britain for control of the seas. Rather, Jones hoped to use his squadron against British shipping and civilian targets to create fear on the English home front, drive up insurance rates, and pull as many British ships as possible away from the American coast and force them to patrol home waters. Accordingly, his plan was to conduct hit-and-run raids on British ports and extort ransom from cities under threat of burning them. He considered Britain’s coal supplies a particularly juicy target, since the threat of stripping the nation of fuel for the winter would occasion tremendous panic.

Shortly before dawn on 14 August 1779 the seven warships stood out from Groix Roadstead and set course for the southwestern corner of Ireland. Four days out, Monsieur took a prize. Unfortunately, she then abandoned the squadron to escort her victim into port on the 19th. Later that same day, Bonhomme Richard and her consorts began pursuing a large ship, but, after chasing her through the night, their prey vanished over the horizon at the first glimmerings of dawn. The next day, two broadsides convinced the brigantine Mayflower to surrender and Jones sent her to L’Orient, manned by a prize crew under Midshipman Reuben Chase. On the afternoon of the 23rd, the wind died completely, leaving the squadron totally becalmed off the Skelligs near the entrance to Dingle Bay. Even in the still waters, Bonhomme Richard added to her haul. A lookout sighted Fortune and Jones sent two armed boats out to seize her. Their quarry gave up without a fight, and Jones sent her to France under orders to either Nantes or Saint-Malo.

Later that day, Jones’ already strained relationship with Landais ruptured completely. Jones had sensed the calm’s coming on and, realizing that any of his ships stranded close to the Irish shore would be in great danger of being captured, he denied Alliance permission to pursue a vessel that had been sighted in shoal water just outside the breaker line. That order infuriated Landais, and on the 25th he came on board Bonhomme Richard and viciously berated Jones in front of his crew. Jones convinced him to move the conversation into the relative privacy of his cabin, but the change of venue did nothing to improve Landais’s mood. Addressing the commodore “in the most gross and insulting terms” Jones’s second-in-command declared that for the remainder of the cruise he intended to act as he wished, and ignore any orders he received from the commodore. He kept his promise, openly defying orders and drifting in and out of the squadron the rest of their time at sea. Whenever he and Jones did interact, the French captain repeatedly asserted that they would fight a duel once they reached land and that “they must kill one or the other.” Jones was outraged and frustrated by Landais’ behavior, but felt there was little he could do until the squadron got back into port, so he put up with it for the time being.

Other evils also sprang from the calm to bedevil Jones and his squadron. On 23 August 1779, when Bonhomme Richard had drifted dangerously close to shoals off the Skelligs, Jones ordered his barge lowered so that it might tow the frigate into deeper water. Unfortunately, the coxswain was one of the 12 men flogged for abandoning Jones’s barge, and he was eager for a chance to escape from the commodore’s authority. He found ready accomplices in the boat’s Irish oarsmen, who were delighted by an opportunity to return home. Well after dark, they cut the hawser and sped shoreward toward freedom. A jolly boat sent in pursuit of the deserters was lost in a dense fog which settled during the night and remained through the following day. Later, Jones sent Le Cerf to look for the missing boats. After failing in that mission, the cutter was unable to find her way back to the squadron and returned to L’Orient alone.

The squadron’s troubles continued as even other consorts began dropping away. Granville, the remaining privateer, left to take a prize and never returned. Pallas, the French frigate, broke her tiller at night and dropped behind out of sight. Landais, without consulting Jones, took Alliance off in pursuit of prizes on his own, not returning until the end of the month. Moreover, when the deserters from Bonhomme Richard’s barge reached shore, they carried intelligence about Jones’ force to the Admiralty. Britain immediately sent out warships to search for the allied squadron that, for the time being, had been reduced to Bonhomme Richard and Vengeance.

The two ships continued to sail in a generally northerly direction west of the Outer Hebrides and then headed for Cape Wrath, the northwestern tip of Scotland. On the afternoon of 30 August 1779, Jones sighted three ships on his port bow and gave chase. Just before noon the following day, Bonhomme Richard overtook the letter of marque Union and persuaded her to strike. Shortly thereafter, Alliance reappeared with a prize of her own named Betsy. Pallas rejoined the squadron on the night of 1 and 2 September, and, on the latter afternoon, Vengeance captured an Irish brigantine returning from Norway.

About noon on the 3 September 1779, the squadron passed between the Orkney and Shetland Islands and then, after sending the two prizes to Bergen, Norway, turned south to begin the last leg of its cruise around the British Isles. Alliance took two more small prizes before Landais, after refusing to confer with Jones on board the flagship, again left the squadron. The weather soured on the 4th and drove the allied men-of-war away from the dangerous shores of Scotland. For nine days, Jones saw neither strange ships nor land. Finally, on the 13th, he found himself off Dunbar. The following day, Bonhomme Richard caught two ships carrying coal from Leith to Riga.

On 14 September 1779 the squadron reached the Firth of Forth, the entryway to Edinburgh, Scotland. Jones hoped to raid Leith, Edinburgh’s port, and demand a massive “contribution” or else “lay it [Leith] in ashes.” He also hoped to force Britain to free a sizable number of American prisoners by threatening the town. His plans stalled when Captains Denis Cottineau of Pallas and Philippe Ricot of Vengeance – the only two ships in the squadron still around – objected. It took Jones haggling all night and into the following morning to get them to agree to the mission. By the time he had enticed his subordinates to participate and got the squadron assembled, the wind had turned against them, making it extremely difficult to get up the Firth within sight of Leith. They approached the port under British colors, hoping to maintain the element of surprise, but locals soon figured out what was afoot and began preparing defenses. Jones doggedly pressed on, closing in during the dawn hours of 17 September, but a sudden gale stalled the squadron and then drove it back. Jones lamented that he made it within “cannon shot” of the town before realizing that an amphibious landing was hopeless.

Bonhomme Richard and her consorts lost their chance to attack Leith, but her commodore still refused to give up. His new plan was to raid nearby Newcastle and destroy its coal supplies. This would impose a great hardship on the population of London, who depended primarily on Newcastle to fuel their fires in the winter. But with all of Great Britain now thoroughly aware of their presence, Cottineau and Ricot feared such a raid would be suicidal. They flatly refused to participate, even if Jones ordered them. He reluctantly gave up the plan.

Shortly thereafter, the squadron seized another collier in ballast (loaded with coal) and the British sloop Speedwell. Jones, running short of men to use as prize crews, ordered the two prizes stripped of everything of value and sunk. Ricot ignored this order, and instead extracted a ransom from the crews and then let them go, much to Jones’s chagrin. During a long chase of a group of merchantmen on the night of the 21st and 22nd, Bonhomme Richard captured another collier and drove a second ship ashore south of Flamborough Head, Yorkshire. She also took a British brigantine inbound from Rotterdam. Early on the morning of the 22nd, the squadron sighted a group of merchant ships off the mouth of the Humber estuary, but failing wind frustrated the commodore in his efforts to pursue his quarry.

That evening, Jones reversed course and headed back north toward Flamborough Head to look for Pallas which had fallen behind while chasing local shipping. A little before dawn on the 23rd Jones eagerly called all hands on deck when a lookout sighted ships in the distance. He spirits sagged when he realized they were none other than Pallas and Alliance, the latter of which rejoined the squadron after vanishing for over two weeks. Although not the prizes Jones hoped for, the returns brought the squadron to full strength for the first time in over two weeks.

Propelled by a light breeze, Jones’ ships slowly moved north until early afternoon when a stillness descended almost completely becalming the squadron. About 3:00 p.m., a lookout shouted down from Bonhomme Richard‘s rigging that a large group of ships was approaching from the north. Guided by information he had received from captured pilots, he concluded that the vessels belonged to a 41-ship convoy coming from the Baltic under the protection of the British frigate Serapis and the sloop-of-war Countess of Scarborough. Eager to prey upon such juicy game, Jones bent on maximum sail to close the enemy, but the wind was still so light that some three and a half hours passed before the adversaries reached striking distance. In the meantime, Capt. Richard Pearson, commanding the convoy from the deck of Serapis, eyed the approaching ships suspiciously. Because of the distance, he could not tell what nationality the approaching vessels were, and in any case Jones was flying British colors as a ruse to lure unsuspecting prey within range of his guns. Pearson was cautious, however, and ordered the merchant ships under his protection to move towards the shoreline where coastal defenses could defend them.

While the merchant vessels hastily took cover under the guns of Castle Scarborough, Capt. Richard Pearson led both Royal Navy ships out to determine the identity of the approaching squadron and insure the safety of his valuable charges. As he closed with the two escorts, Jones raised signal flags for the rest of the squadron to form a line of battle. They not only ignored these orders, but turned away entirely and left Bonhomme Richard alone as she closed with Serapis. Pallas eventually engaged and captured Countess. Vengeance sat out the entire battle and, based on what happened later, Jones probably wished Alliance had done the same. For the moment, at least, Bonhomme Richard was entirely on her own.

Keeping his British colors aloft, Jones closed in with Pearson’s ship. The British captain called out to him via trumpet “What ship is that?” Hoping to move in just a little closer, Jones responded that he was Princess Royal. Unconvinced, Pearson called out again “Where from?” and when he received no answer, bellowed “Answer directly or I’ll fire into you.” Jones gave his answer by hauling down his British colors and raising the flag of the American rebellion. Immediately, both ships unleashed full broadsides into each other.

“The battle being thus begun, was Continued with Unremitting Fury,” Jones wrote in his narrative of the cruise. It was an apt description, for the ensuing fight was one of the longest, and bloodiest, single-ship engagements of the Age of Sail. Pearson enjoyed a substantial firepower advantage, having shipped 50 guns, instead of the rated 44, a common practice at the time. Jones’s ship mounted only 40. The total weight of metal for Serapis was 285 pounds to Bonhomme Richard’s 265. Within two broadsides, Jones’s disadvantage worsened dramatically when two 18-pounders exploded. The twin blasts tore a hole in the side of his ship and killed or horrifically injured their gun crews, but their effect was even greater than that: Jones realized that the remaining 4 18-pounders were too old and defective to risk using, and he ordered the gun crews to abandon them as well. His 40-gun frigate was now challenging Pearson with only 34 light cannon.

Jones, knowing that he had no chance by blasting away at the enemy with his now markedly inferior firepower, instead tried to maneuver close enough to board. Bonhomme Richard came alongside Serapis at a poor angle, however, where her men could only board along a narrow point. Pearson’s marines easily repelled them, and Jones pulled away. Pearson then made another attempt at firing a broadside at Bonhomme Richard, but Jones was careful to keep his ship from presenting itself at an advantageous angle for Pearson’s guns.

In their maneuvering, the two ships again collided, this time with Bonhomme Richard’s bow striking Serapis’ stern. Jones now decided his best chance was if the two ships remained coupled together. He scrambled across the deck to grab the enemy ship’s forestay (a rope connected to the primary mast) which had been cut and fallen across Bonhomme Richard’s deck. Seizing this and tying it to his own ship, the commodore called out for more rope. Jones and his crew managed to lash the two ships together, and the men-of-war remained locked in a deadly embrace for the rest of the battle. That slashed Pearson’s firepower advantage significantly, since half his guns were pointed away from the enemy, essentially useless.

The two vessels thus entangled, Jones set to work firing what guns he still had at Serapis’ rigging in hopes of disabling her, while also unleashing small arms fire and grenades to deplete the enemy crew. He ordered his men to prepare for a second boarding attempt. Although the spirited resistance from Pearson’s crew made boarding impossible for the moment, the attempt still forced British seamen out onto the decks, creating easy targets for Bonhomme Richard’s sharpshooters.

With Serapis’ advantages neutralized, Jones had the fight exactly where he wanted it. Then disaster struck again from a surprising quarter. To this point, Landais, in Alliance, had lingered far from the fighting, watching his commodore’s flagship battered to pieces. Now the French captain moved in, unleashing a broadside not on Serapis but Bonhomme Richard. The first cannonade killed two American sailors before Landais pulled back, but later he crossed the entangled vessels again and poured more shot into his supposed ally. As she maneuvered past them a third time, seamen rushed to the rail, screaming out “Don’t fire, you have killed several of our men already!” while another officer on the main tops shouted “for God’s sake don’t sink us!” Landais either did not hear or ignored their cries. Alliance unleashed its third, and deadliest, broadside into Bonhomme Richard killing Midshipman Jonas Coram and an unspecified number of seamen. Finally, Landais turned away, and sat out the rest of the battle. Alliance had suffered no casualties and no damage.

Caption: This famous oil-painting of the Battle of Flamborough Head by Thomas Mitchell currently hangs in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, MD. It features Bonhomme Richard and Serapis in the heat of their engagement, just at the moment when Alliance opened fire on the American ship. The battle between Pallas and Countess of Scarborough is visible in the lower-left corner (KN 10855).

For the rest of his life, Jones claimed that Landais had acted deliberately, and the evidence seems to bear him out. There was a full moon that night, and Serapis and Bonhomme Richard looked nothing alike, so a case of mistaken identity seems highly suspect. According to one Jones biographer, Landais later confided to a fellow Frenchman that he had hoped Jones would sink, and that he could then snatch up the wounded British vessel and claim all the glory for himself. Regardless of the truth of that story, at the very least Landais provided no help to and significantly injured Bonhomme Richard during her most momentous engagement.

At that moment, however, Jones knew his feud with Landais would have to wait, for after three hours of brutal combat, both ships were in dire straits. Acrid smoke engulfed the decks as fires sprang up amid the debris of shattered timbers and shredded sails and rigging. As they scrambled to fight the battle, the men of Bonhomme Richard also worked to contain the blazes and make sure the flames did not reach the powder magazine. There was even a short lull in the fighting as both sides had to devote their full effort to fighting fires and not each other. For the Americans, at least, there was no shortage of water to do so, as their ship was taking on so much that her master at arms was forced to free the prisoners and set them to work manning the pumps. One fled to Serapis, but the rest set to work rather than risk going down with the ship, or being shot by the imperious officer. The lone escapee had a crucial impact, however, for he reassured Pearson that over five feet of water lay in Bonhomme Richard’s hold and she would surely sink soon. The British captain had been on the brink of surrendering, but this intelligence steeled his nerves, and he ordered his men to press on.

While Bonhomme Richard’s small-arms fire was having a devastating effect on Serapis’s crew, the British cannon were equally successful in decimating American cannon. During the third hour of battle, Jones found himself left with only three small 9-pounders on the quarterdeck. When one of the gunners suffered a severe, possibly fatal, head injury, the commodore himself took over firing away at the enemy mainmast. While he was hunched over a gun, other officers came up from below, where they had found themselves chin-deep in water. Unable to find Jones and concluding that he or Lieutenant Richard Dale would surely have surrendered by now if either were still alive, Gunner’s Mate Henry Gardner assumed he was now the senior surviving officer. He grabbed two nearby gunner’s mates, and the three began screaming at the top of their lungs “Quarter! Quarter!” while trying to make their way to the mainmast and haul down the broad pennant. Jones, hearing their cries, exploded in rage. Turning on the officers, he chased them across the deck and finally hurled his pistol at Gardner, striking him in the head and rendering him unconscious. Pearson, meanwhile, had heard their cries too, and dared to hope that his stubborn opponent was finally giving up the fight. “Have you struck? Do you ask for quarter,” he called out across the deck of Bonhomme Richard, not even bothering to use his speaking trumpet as the two ships still lay lashed together.

It was at this moment that Jones uttered the words forever associated with his name: “I have not yet begun to fight!” Or at least he said something like that. His lieutenant, Richard Dale, was the first to attribute the immortal words to him when he was interviewed for a biography 46 years later. Dale also has the exchange occurring much earlier in the battle, immediately after the two ships collided a second time. Jones’s own narrative put the exchange here, as do all other contemporary accounts. In the narrative, however, Jones only says that he “answered him in the most determined negative.” As to the exact words that “most determined negative” consisted of, accounts given shortly after the battle have him saying either “No sir, I will not. We have had but a small fight as of yet,” or “No sir, I have not yet thought of it, but I am determined to make you strike.” Some contemporary accounts also include more colorful language. British sailors who escaped after the battle have Jones announcing that “I’ll be damned before I’ll strike.” Another version has Pearson calling “out to Jones to strike else he would sink him. To which the latter replied that he might [go ahead and sink Bonhomme Richard] if he could, for whenever the Devil was ready for him, he would rather obey his summons than strike to anyone.” Most likely, Dale paraphrased Jones’s response, but his pithy version soon cemented itself in popular culture, and has been attributed to Revolutionary naval hero as a verbatim quote ever since.

Whatever Jones’s precise wording, Pearson got the message: the fighting would continue. Locked together as they were, Pearson tried a boarding action of his own, but his sailors fell back against stalwart resistance from Bonhomme Richard’s tars. At about 10:15 p.m., an enterprising seaman managed to make his way onto one of the yards overhanging the British deck and drop a grenade into an open hatch. The blast ignited powder cartridges that had been left scattered about the deck in the heat of battle, and triggered a series of explosions that blew guns off their carriages and blasted gaping holes in the side of the ship. Flames engulfed the gun deck, where many of the crew now confined themselves to avoid the constant sniper fire topside. Seamen whose bodies were not blown to pieces leaped, in flames, into the sea.

By this point both vessels were in dire condition, and it was only a matter of time before one had to surrender. Reportedly, a seaman ran up to Jones and begged him “for God’s sake, captain, strike!” Jones bellowed in reply “No! I will sink I will never strike.” Pearson, on the other hand, had had enough of the carnage. Whatever the damage to his enemy his own crew had been gutted, and at 10:30 p.m. his mainmast started to totter. After over four hours of savage combat, Pearson struck.

To some degree, the British captain could claim he accomplished his mission. Jones’s squadron was far too damaged after the battle to think of pursuing the merchant ships that were their original target. All 41 successfully reached their destination. That said, the immediate tactical significance of the battle should not obscure its larger impact on the war effort. Jones’s fame skyrocketed in both America and Europe as a result of his capture. British citizens, terrified of follow-up, remained in panic long after “the pirate Jones” returned to American soil. Meanwhile the Royal Navy dispatched a host of ships to search for him. Back in the United States, the story of the victory over the vaunted Royal Navy captured the imagination of Americans and provided a desperately-needed sense of victory after a ghastly year of fighting on land.

Jones’s crew spent a day and a half desperately working to salvage Bonhomme Richard. It was a hopeless effort. The old Indiaman was riddled with too many leaks, and most of those were too large to get the ship safely into any friendly port. At about 11:00 AM on 25 September Jones watched “with inexpressible grief” from the deck of his new flagship as Bonhomme Richard disappeared beneath the waves.

The human losses of the battle were likewise staggering. Jones reported 150 killed and wounded among his crew of 322. He did not, then or later, specify the exact number of dead. Pearson reported to the Admiralty that he had 49 killed and 68 wounded. Jones later claimed that this number was too low, and that the British surgeon on board Serapis identified over 100 killed. Regardless, this means that both ships saw roughly half their crews either killed or seriously injured, an incredibly high percentage for the era.

For Jones, although the battle insured his immortality, it also proved to be his last cruise. He spent several more months begging for a ship in both America and France. Congress finally rewarded his service with command of the new 74-gun ship-of-the-line America in June 1782, but by the time he got her seaworthy, the war was over and the United States gave his new command to France in partial repayment of war debts. He served a brief stint as an officer in the Russian Navy, before dying penniless in Paris on 18 July 1792.

Caption: Jean Antoine Houdon’s bust of John Paul Jones, reportedly the best likeness of the celebrated captain in existence (NH 48618).

In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt has his body exhumed and transported to the United States. On 26 January, 1913, the captain’s body was reinterred in a grand ceremony on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD. Its magnificent sarcophagus remains visible on the campus to this day.

Periodically, underwater archaeologists attempt to locate Bonhomme Richard’s remains in the North Sea, but, as of this writing, such attempts have never been successful, and she remains in her watery grave off Flamborough Head.


RELATED ARTICLES

The USS Bonhomme Richard had been involved in a ferocious battle before it eventually succumbed to the sea.

US revolutionary captain John Paul Jones had sailed the 20-gun converted former French ship along the English coast pillaging merchant vessels in the North Sea.

But on September 23, 1779, the 50-gun HMS Serapis engaged the Bonhomme Richard off Flamborough Head close to Filey, North Yorks.

The USS Bonhomme Richard had been engaged in a fierce battle with the Royal Navy HMS Serapis on September 23, 1779. Pictured is an artist's representation of the battle from the Library of Congress

Pioneering satellite technology (pictured) was used to find the precise location of the wreck (in red). Merlin Burrows, the British satellite firm behind he find, said the location of the wreck is near Filey, North Yorkshire

How the USS Bonhomme Richard arrived at the Yorkshire coastline (pictured). It had previously sailed from Lorient to cruise against the British in the Bay of Biscay, but had to return to port after coming under fire. It set out again on August 14, 1779

WHAT WAS THE USS BONHOMME RICHARD?

The USS Bonhomme Richard was a warship in the Continental Navy - the navy of the United States during the American Revolutionary War.

It was originally built as a merchant ship in France for the French East India Company in 1765.

But in February 1779, the ship was given to well-known American naval commander John Paul Jones.

He sailed the 20-gun converted former French ship along the English coast pillaging merchant vessels in the North Sea.

But on September 23, 1779 it encountered the Royal Navy's HMS Serapis and was engaged in a bitter battle.

Both ships sustained horrific damage in the fight, but Jones and his fleet was victorious.

Despite this the Bonhomme Richard sunk beneath the waves.

Within sight of the cliffs of Flamborough Head the two vessels were locked in a vicious firefight.

Realising he was outgunned captain Jones lashed his ship to HMS Serapis in the hope of overcoming her greater firepower with his greater crew numbers.

Both ships sustained horrific damage in the fight, each losing nearly half their crew, but despite staring defeat in the face Captain John Paul Jones refused to surrender.

He eventually won the battle after reportedly responding to his British counterpart who asked if he was surrendering with the immortal line 'I have not yet begun to fight'.

John Paul Jones (pictured in 1781 in a portrait by French artist Jean Michel Moreau) captained the USS Bonhomme Richard

Although Cpt Jones went on to sail another day, the Bonhomme Richard was not so lucky and her flaming body sank beneath the waves.

The battle is seen by many historians as a pivotal moment in US naval history and of the War of Independence and saw Cpt Jones established for many as 'the Father of the American Navy'.

But despite being relatively close to the coast, and even US Navy attempts to recover the wreck, no definitive location has been recorded for her final resting place.

Now Mr Akers, along with British specialist satellite firm Merlin Burrows, believe they found the ship - which is arguably the most important wreck in US naval history and could be worth millions in tourism.

HM Coastguard Receiver of Wreck – which receives reports of new wrecks – has now written to Merlin Burrows to confirm receipt of the find.

Mr Akers, along with business partner Mr Blackburn, believe they have discovered the precise location of the wreck. Dives have already recovered timbers which they claim show evidence of the fire the ship succumbed to.

For now, the site is registered, Merlin Burrows said the location is near Filey, and if correct, it could have implications for tourism and interest in the local area.

Mr Akers said the Bonhomme Richard was the equivalent to the HMS Victory in importance to US history.

Tim Akers (left) and business partner Bruce Blackburn (right) used satellite techniques to find the precise location of the vessel. The find could have huge implications for tourism and interest in the local area

Divers have already recovered timber believed to be from the sunken vessel. To date divers have recovered identifiable wooden timbers (pictured), mast sections and planks with extensive burning evidence

Experts had previously thought the wreck was the remains of another ship, called the HMS Nautilus. But Mr Akers is convinced it belongs to the Bonhomme Richard due to the charred nature of the remains (pictured)

Mr Akers believes this wreck is littered with objects which can be identified in relation to the battle and burning it suffered as a result. Underwater filming shows burst guns, multiple artefacts and cannon balls

Mr Akers said: 'I had long thought this wreck was the remains of the Bonhomme Richard (BHR) but many marked down the site as belonging to the HMS Nautilus, a ship which sank in 1799.

'After researching the Nautilus and her loss, I found it could not be her because the description of her loss differed from this location.

'On our very first dive we knew we had found the BHR. From the finds and identifiable evidence, combined with the descriptions of the battle and both ships logs, we are convinced this is indeed the famous ship.'

Previous diving expeditions on the Filey coast hunting for the BHR had discovered a wrecked wooden warship, but it has never been confirmed as the Bonhomme.

Mr Akers said: 'There are only two wooden warship wrecks in the bay, one is the HMS Nautilus, the other is the BHR.

'The Nautilus broke up in a storm with no loss of life and the Royal Navy stripped the wreck of everything.

'Our wreck is littered with objects which can be identified in relation to the battle and burning. Our underwater filming clearly shows the burst guns, multiple artefacts and cannon balls.

'Ship stern decoration, ships bells, a figure head of a rampant lion and rigging are also all visible.

'It's difficult to give the wreck a monetary value, how do you put a price on the HMS Victory for example, if something like a canon or the lion head were recovered you are probably talking over a million each.'

A satellite image believed to show the precise location of the sunken vessel. The Bonhomme Richard is in green. The elongated green lengths are beams, wood timbers or other objects detected amongst the debris

Mr Akers said the firm had only recovered what they could by hand in accordance with regulations.

He said: 'We have to date recovered identifiable wooden timbers, mast sections and planks with extensive burning evidence.

'Unfortunately, I believe researchers of the area were getting confused over the 36-hour duration after the battle leading them to believe the wreck was further out from the shore.

'I also believe efforts to find the BHR might have been hampered because the currents off Flamborough Head move north counter to the outer sea currents, which move south, so the wreck was actually taken north not south.

'The ships in the battle had no wind beneath the cliffs and were becalmed, locked together in their death struggle.'

Mr Akers said the ship would still be owned by the US Navy and that its discovery after all these years could have a significant benefit to the local area.

He said: 'The local community could benefit profoundly from this discovery bringing in tourism and investment to an area already known for its beauty but with little employment prospects.

'Every American child is taught the history of John Paul Jones so it could become a site of significant historical pilgrimage.'

Mr Akers said Merlin Burrows was working with the local community and had been in contact with American authorities. At present a protection order is being sought for the site to prevent looting.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bradford, James C. "The Battle of Flamborough Head." In Great American Naval Battles. Edited by Jack Sweetman. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1998.

Commager, Henry Steele, and R. B. Morris. Spirit of '76: The Story of the American Revolution, as Told by Participants. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs Merrill, 1958.

Gawalt, Gary, ed. John Paul Jones' Memoir of the American Revolution. Washington, D.C.: American Revolution Bicentennial Office, Library of Congress, 1979.

Schaeper, Thomas J. John Paul Jones and the Battle off Flamborough Head: A Reconsideration. New York: P. Lang, 1989.

Walsh, John Evangelish. Night on Fire: The First Complete Account of John Paul Jones's Greatest Battle. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978.


Bonhomme Richard vs. Serapis: US Navy Art Collection

During the American Revolution , the U.S. ship Bonhomme Richard , commanded by John Paul Jones , wins a hard-fought engagement against the British ships of war Serapis and Countess of Scarborough , off the eastern coast of England.

Scottish-born John Paul Jones first sailed to America as a cabin boy and lived for a time in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where his brother had a business. He later served on slave and merchant ships and proved an able seaman. After he killed a fellow sailor while suppressing a mutiny, he returned to the American colonies to escape possible British prosecution. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, he traveled to Philadelphia and was commissioned a senior lieutenant in the new Continental Navy. He soon distinguished himself in actions against British ships in the Bahamas, the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel.

The piece above is by Anton Otto Fischer and is available for custom reproduction on RequestAPrint.

In August 1779, Jones took command of the Bonhomme Richard and sailed around the British Isles. On September 23, the Bonhomme Richard engaged the Serapis and the smaller Countess of Scarborough, which were escorting the Baltic merchant fleet. After inflicting considerable damage to the Bonhomme Richard, Richard Pearson, the captain of the Serapis, asked Jones if he had struck his colors, the naval signal indicating surrender. From his disabled ship, Jones replied, “I have not yet begun to fight,” and after three more hours of furious fighting it was the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough that surrendered. After the victory, the Americans transferred to the Serapis from the Bonhomme Richard, which sank the following day.

Jones was hailed as a great hero in France, but recognition in the United States was somewhat belated. He continued to serve the United States until 1787 and then served briefly in the Russian navy before moving to France, where he died in 1792 amidst the chaos of the French Revolution. He was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1905, his remains were located under the direction of the U.S. ambassador to France and then escorted back to the United States by U.S. warships. His body was later enshrined in a crypt at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

To order you’re own custom print of this piece visit RequestAPrint.


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