Bonhomme Richard–Serapis Encounter

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BONHOMME RICHARD–SERAPIS ENCOUNTER (23 September 1779), one of the most notable victories in American naval history. John Paul Jones's flag-ship, the Bonhomme Richard, an Indian merchantman that had been renamed in honor of Benjamin Franklin, was proceeding with Jones's tiny fleet up the east coast of England in quest of English cargoes. Although worn-out and

unseaworthy, it carried forty-two guns. At about noon, Jones sighted two enemy ships of war, the Serapis and the Countess of Scarborough, convoying ships loaded with naval stores. Jones maneuvered his ship close to the Serapis, and both ships opened broadside fire. Jones had placed some of his guns below, and two of the larger ones on the lower deck burst, killing and wounding several men. This catastrophe necessitated using only the lighter guns and musketry. The slaughter on both sides was terrible, and the American ship leaked badly. After an hour of fighting, Jones answered the British challenge to surrender, saying, "I have not yet begun to fight." The two vessels became locked together, and the battle raged for more than two hours longer. Jones was hampered by the treachery of a captain in his own fleet, but using British prisoners to work the pumps, he kept his ship afloat and wore down the enemy to the point of exhaustion and surrender.


Boudroit, Jean. John Paul Jones and the "Bonhomme Richard." Translated by David H. Roberts. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1987.

Dean, Nicholas. "John Paul Jones Came Awfully Close to Being a Loser." Smithsonian 11, no. 9 (September 1980): 139–154.

Jones, John Paul. Battle Between the "Bon Homme Richard" and the "Serapis." Boston: Directors of the Old South Work, 1904.

Arthur R.Blessing/a. r.

See alsoWarships .