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Bonne Homme Richard vs Serapis September 23, 1779


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The Bon Homme Richard was no match for the newer and more heavily armed Serapis. That did not deter Jones from entering battle. He called his men to battle stations at 5PM. The sun set a little after 6PM. However, that night the seas were illuminated by the full moon. By 7PM, the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis had drawn close enough together that the men on the ships could hear the orders being given on the enemy ship.

 

At 7:15PM the first cannon was fired. Both ships fired broadsides, with the Serapis getting off three full broadside, s causing devestation on the decks of the Bon Homme Richard.

 

Jones concluded that his only chance against a more heavily armed and more nimble Serapis was to try to board her, and gain control in hand to hand combat. Jones' attempt failed. Then Serapis tried to to ram the Bon Homme Richard and failed. As a result, the two ships became entangled. Both fired at each other at point blank range, causing more and more devestation. The Serapis crew tried to board the American ship and failed. At 9:15PM the Alliance, one of Jones' ships arrived on the scene. But instead of hitting the Serapis it hit the Bon Homme Richard. At this point the British commander, Captain Pearson shouted to Jones "ave you struck? ", meaning are you ready to surrender?. The exact words that Jones responded are not known, but he clearly replied, "No". The battle accounts, after the fact, edited his words to the famous phrase: "I have not yet begun to fight", which became immortalized in American military lore.

 

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USS USS Bonhomme Richard

 

"I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way."

Capt. John Paul Jones

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