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Ldot Vets - The American Revolution 1775-1783

Bonne Homme Richard vs. Serapis

September 23, 1779

The most remarkable single ship duel of the American Revolution was between the Bonne Homme Richard commanded by John Paul Jones and the HMS Serapis. Early in 1779, the French King gave Jones an ancient East Indiaman Duc de Duras, which Jones refitted, repaired, and renamed Bon Homme Richard as a compliment to his patron Benjamin Franklin. Commanding four other ships and two French privateers, he sailed 14 August 1779 to raid English shipping. On 23 September 1779, his ship engaged the HMS Serapis in the North Sea off Famborough Head, England. Richard was blasted in the initial broadside the two ships exchanged, loosing much of her firepower and many of her gunners. Captain Richard Pearson, commanding Serapis, called out to Jones, asking if he surrendered. Jones' reply: "I have not yet begun to fight!" It was a bloody battle with the two ship literally locked in combat. Sharpshooting Marines and seamen in Richard's tops raked Serapis with gunfire, clearing the weather decks. Jones and his crew tenaciously fought on , even though their ship was sinking beneath them. Finally, Capt. Pearson tore down his colors and Serapis surrendered. Bon Homme Richard sunk the next day and Jones was forced to transfer to Serapis.

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