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Documents on the BoN Homme Richard vs Serapis - History

Documents on the BoN Homme Richard vs Serapis - History

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From John Paul Jones

This letter is of considerable historiographical interest because it forms the basis for most subsequent accounts of Jones’s cruise and his battle with H.M.S. Serapis .9 Central to these accounts is the premise here expounded by Jones that the Bonhomme Richard had to overcome the fire not only of his British opponent, but also that of the American frigate Alliance . Captain Pierre Landais of the Alliance argued in contrast that the Alliance came to the aid of the Bonhomme Richard and played a major role in the capture of the Serapis .1 Landais’ account of the battle is generally corroborated by the captain of the third ship participating in the battle, Denis-Nicolas Cottineau de Kerloguen, of the frigate Pallas .2 To give Landais a chance to rebut Jones’s charges Franklin held a hearing at Passy on November 15 and 24, but adjourned it because no other participant in the battle could be present to cross-examine him.

On board the Ship of War
Serapis at Anchor without the Texel
Octr. 3d. 1779.

When I had the honour of writing to you on the 11th. August3 Previous to my departure from the Road of Groa I had before me the most flattering prospect of rendering essential service to the common Cause of France & America. I had a full confidence in the Voluntary inclination & ability of every Captain under my Command to assist and support me in my duty with Cheerful Unremitting Emulation—and I was persuaded that every one of them would persue Glory in preference to Interest. Whether I was or was not deceived will best appear by a simple relation of circumstances.— The little Squadron under my command consisting of the Bon home Richard of 40 Guns the Alliance of 36 Guns the Pallas of 32 Guns the Serf of 18 Guns & the Vengeance of 12 Guns Join’d by two Privateers the Monsieur & the Grandvelle Sailed from the Isle of Groa at Day Break on the 14th. of August the same day we spoke with a large Convoy bound from the Southward to Brest on the 18th. we took a large Ship belonging to Holland laden chiefly with Brandy and Wine that had been destined from Barcelona for Dunkirk and taken eight days before by an English Privateer— The Captain of the Privateer Monsieur took out of this Prize such Articles as he pleased in the Night and the next day being astern of the Squadron & to windward he actually wrote Orders in his proper Name and sent away the Prize under one of his own Officers— This however I superceeded by sending her for L’Orient under my Orders in the character of Commander in Chief— The evening of the Day following the Monsieur Seperated from the Squadron—4 On the 20th. we saw and Chased a large Ship but could not come up with her She being to Windward— On the 21st we saw and Chased another Ship that was also to Windward and thereby Eluded our pursuit the Same afternoon we took a Brigantine Called the May Flower laden with Butter & Salt Provision bound from Limerick in Ireland for London this Vessel I Immediately expedited for L’Orient.5 On the 23 we saw Cape Clear and the S. West Part of Ireland that Afternoon it being Calm I sent some Armed Boats to take a Brigantine that appeared in the N.W. Quarter—soon after in the evening it became necessary to have a Boat a Head of the Ship to Tow as the Helm could not prevent her from laying across the Tide of Flood which would have driven us into a deep and dangerous Bay Situated between the Rocks on the south called the Skillicks [Skelligs] and on the North called the Blaskets— The Ships Boats being absent I sent my own Barge a head to tow the Ship— The Boats took the Brigantine She being called the Fortune and Bound with a Cargo of Oil Blubber & Staves from Newfoundland for Bristol— This Vessel I Ordered to proceed immediately for Nants or St. Malo.— Soon after Sunset the Villains who Towed the Ship cut the tow Rope and Decamped with my Barge.— Sundry Shot were fir’d to bring them too without effect— In the mean time the Master of the Bon homme Richard without Orders Manned one of the Ships Boats & with 4 Soldiers pursued the Barge in Order to stop the deserters— The Evening was then Clear & Serene—but the Zeal of that Officer Mr. Cutting Lunt induc’d him to pursue too far, and a Fog which came on soon afterwards Prevented the Boat from Rejoyning the Ship altho I caused Signal Guns to be frequently fired— the Fog & Calm continued the next day till towards the Evening— In the Afternoon Captain Landais came on board the Bonhomme Richard and behaved towards me with great disrespect Affirming in the most indelicate language and manner that I had lost my Boats and People thro’ imprudence in sending Boats to take a Prize—6 He persisted in his reproaches tho’ he was assured by Messieurs De Wybert & Chamillard7 that the Barge was actually Towing the Ship at the time of the Elopement and had not been sent in pursuit of the Prize— He was affronted because I would not the Day before Suffer him to Chase without my Orders and to approach the dangerous Shore I have already mentioned, where he was an entire Stranger and where there was not a Sufficient wind to govern a Ship— He told me that he was the only American in the Squadron and was determined to follow his own Opinion in Chasing when and where he thought proper and in every other matter that concerned the Service—8 and that if I continued in that Situation three days longer the Squadron would be Taken &c, By the advice of Captain Cottineau and with the free consent and Approbation of M. De Verage9 I sent the Serf in to Reconnoitre the Coast and endeavour to take up the Boats and People the next day while the Squadron stood off and on in the S.W. Quarter in the best Possible Situation to intercept the Enemies Merchant Ships whether outward or Homeward Bound.— The Cerf had on board a Pilot well acquainted with the Coast and was Ordered to Join me again before Night,— I approached the Shore in the Afternoon but the Serf did not appear— This induced me to stand off again in the Night in order to return and be rejoyned by the Serf the Next Day—but to my great concern and disappointment tho’ I ranged the Coast along and hoisted our private Signal neither the Boats nor the Serf Joined me—1 The evening of that day the 26th. brought with it Stormy Weather with an appearance of a Severe Gale from the South West Yet I must declare I did not follow my own Judgment but was led by the assertion which had fallen from Captain Landais when I in the evening made a Signal for to steer to the Northward and leave that Station, which I wished to have Occupied at least a Week longer— The Gale increased in the Night with the thick Weather— To prevent seperation I carried a Toplight and fired a Gun every Quarter of an hour I carried also a Very moderate Sail and the Course had been clearly Pointed out by a Signal before Night. Yet with all this precaution I found myself accompanied only by the Brigantine Vengeance in the Morning—the Grand Velle having remained astern with a Prize as I have since understood the Tiller of the Pallas broke after MidNight in which disenabled her from keeping up—but no apology has yet been made in behalf of the Alliance.—On the 31st we saw the Flannin Islands Situated near the Lewises on the N.W. Coast of Scotland and the next morning off Cape Wrath we gave Chase to a Ship to Windward at the same time two Ships appearing in the N.W. Quarter which proved to be the Alliance and a Prize Ship which She had taken bound as I Understood from Liverpool for Jamaica.—The Ship which I chased brought too at Noon— She proved to be the Union Letter of Mark bound from London for Quebec with a Cargo of Naval Stores on Account of Government, Adapted for the Service of the British Armed Vessels on the Lakes.2 The Public dispatches were lost as the Alliance very imprudently hoisted American Colours tho’ English Colours were then Flying on board the Bon homme Richard.— Captain Landais sent a small Boat to ask whither I would Man the Ship or he should—as in the latter Case he would suffer no Boat nor Person from the Bon homme Richard to go near the Prize.— Ridiculous as this appeared to me I yielded to it for the sake of Peace and received the Prisoners on board the Bon homme Richard while the Prize was manned from the Alliance.—3 In the Afternoon another Sail appeared and I immediately made the Signal for the Alliance to Chase—but instead of Obeying He wore and laid the Ships Head the other way The next morning I made a Signal to speak with the Alliance to which no attention was shewn— I then made Sail with the Ships in Company for the second Rendezvous which was not far distant and where I fully expected to be Join’d by the Pallas and the Serf— The 2d. of Sepr. we saw a Sail at Day break and gave Chase— That Ship proved to be the Pallas and had met with no Success while seperated from the Bon homme Richard— On the 3d. the Vengeance brought too a small Irish Brigantine bound homewards from Norway.

The same evening I sent the Vengeance in the N.E. Quarter to bring up the two Prize Ships that appeared to me to bee too near the Islands of Schetland— while with the Alliance & Pallas I endeavoured to Weather Fair Isle and to get into my second Rendezvous where I directed the Vengeance to Join me with the three Prizes. The Next Morning having weathered Fair Isle and not seeing the Vengeance nor the Prizes—I spoke the Alliance and ordered her to Steer to the Northward and bring them up to the Rendezvous. On the morning the 5th the Alliance appeared again and had brought too 2 very Small Coasting Sloops in Ballast but without having Attended properly to My Orders of Yesterday.— The Vengeance Joined me soon after And informed me that in consequence of Captain Landais Orders to the Commanders of the two Prize Ships they had refused to follow him to the Rendezvous. I am to this moment Ignorant what Orders these Men received from Capt. Landais—4 nor Know I by Virture of what Authority he ventured to give his Orders to Prizes in my Presence and without either my Knowledge or Approbation. Captain Ricot further informed me that he had Burnt the Prize Brigantine because that Vessel Proved leaky and I was sorry to understand afterwards that the Vessel was Irish Property the Cargo was the Property of the Subjects of Norway—

In the evening I sent for all the Captains to come on board the Bon homme Richard to consult on future Plans of Opperation. Captains Cottineau & Ricot Obeyed me, but Captain Landais Obstinately refused and after sending me Various uncivil Messages wrote me a very extraordinary letter in Answer to a written Order which I had sent him on finding that he had trifled with my Verbal Orders—5

The next day a Pilot Boat came on board from Shetland by which Means I received such advices as induced me to change a Plan which I otherwise meant to have Pursued, And as the Serf did not appear at my second Rendezvous I determined to steer towards the 3d. in hopes of meeting her there— In the Afternoon a Gale of Wind came on which continued four Days without intermission. In the 2d. Night of that Gale the Alliance with her 2 little Prizes Again seperated from the Bon homme Richard—

I had now with me only the Pallas and Vengeance Yet I did not abandon the hopes of performing some Essential service— The Winds continued contrary so that we did not see the Land ’till the Evening of the 13th when the Hills of Chevot [Cheviot] in the S.E. of Scotland appeared— The Next day We Chased Sundry Vessels and took a Ship & a Brigantine both from the Firth of Edinborough laden with Coal Knowing that there lay at Anchor in leith Roads an Armed Ship of 20 Guns with two or three fine Cutters— I formed an Expedition against Leith which I purposed to lay under a large Contribution or otherwise to reduce it to Ashes— Had I been alone the Wind being favourable I would have proceeded directly up the Firth and must have Succeeded as they lay there in a State of perfect indolence and security which would have Prov’d their Ruin. Unfortunately for me the Pallas and Vengeance were both at a considerable Distance in the Offing they having Chased to the Southward— This Obliged me to Steer out of the Firth again to meet them— The Captains of the Pallas and Vengeance being come on board the Bon homme Richard I communicated to them my Project—to which many difficulties and Objections were made by them— at last however they appeared to think better of the design after I had assured them that I hoped to raise a Contribution of 200,000 Pounds Sterling on Leith, and that there was no Battery of Cannon there to oppose our landing.—6 So much time however was unavoidably spent in Pointed Remarks and Sage Deliberation that Night that the Wind became contrary in the Morning—We continued Working to windward up the Firth without being able to reach the Road of Leith till on the Morning of the 17th. when being almost within Cannon Shot of the Town having every thing in readiness for a Descent a very severe Gale of Wind came on and being directly contrary Obliged us to bear away after having in Vain endeavoured for some time to withstand Its Violence the Gale was so severe that one of the Prizes that had been taken the 14th. sunk to the Bottom the Crew being with difficulty saved— As the alarm had by this time reached Leith by means of a Cutter that had watched our motions that Morning,— & as the Wind continued contrary (tho’ more moderate in the evening) I thought it impossible to pursue the Enterprize with a good prospect of success especially as Edinborough where there is always a Number of Troops is only a Mile distant from Leith therefore I gave up the Project— on the 19th. having taken a Sloop and a Brigantine in Ballast with a Sloop laden with Building Timber— I Proposed another Project7 to Mr. Cottineau which would have been highly Honorable tho’ not Profitable many difficulties were made and our Situation was represented as being the most Perulous the Enemy he said would send against us a superiour Force and that if I Obstinately continued on the Coast of England two days longer we should all be Taken.

The Vengeance having Chased Along Shore to the Southward Capt. Cottineau said he would follow her with the Prizes as I was unable to make much Sail having that day been Obliged to strike the Main Topmast to repair its damages and as I afterwards Understood he told M. De Chamillard that unless I Joined them the next Day both the Pallas & the Vengeance would leave that Coast.— I had thoughts of attempting the Enterprize alone after the Pallas had made Sail to Join the Vengeance— I am persuaded even now that I should have succeeded And to the honour of my Young Officers I found them as ardently disposed to the Business as I could desire. Nothing prevented me from pursuing my design but the reproach that would have been cast upon my Character as a Man of prudence had the Enterprize miscarried— It would have been said was he not forewarned by Captain Cottineau & Others—

I made Sail along Shore to the Southward and next Morning took a Coasting Sloop in Ballast which with another that I had taken the Night before I Ordered to be sunk.— In the Evening I again met with the Pallas and the Vengeance off Whitby— Captain Cottineau told me he had sunk the Brigantine and ransomed the Sloop Laden with Building Timber that had been Taken the Day before— I had told Captain Cottineau the day before that I had no Authority to Ransom Prizes— On the 21st. We saw and Chased Two Sail off Flambrough Head— The Pallas Chased in the N E Quarter while the Bon home Richard followed by the Vengeance Chased in the S.W.— The one I Chased a Brigantine Collier in Ballast belonging to Scarborough was soon Taken and sunk immediately Afterwards— As a Fleet then appeared to the Southward this was so late in the Day that I could not come up with the Fleet before night at length however I got so near one of them as to force her to run ashore between Flamborough Head and the Spurn— soon after I Took another a Brigantine from Holland belonging to Sunderland and at Day light the Next Morning seeing a Fleet Steering towards me from the Spurn I immagined them to be a Convoy bound from London for Leith which had been for some time expected—one of them had a Pendant Hoisted and appeared to be a Ship of Force— They had not however Courage to come on but kept back all except the one which seemed to be Armed and that one Also kept to Windward very near the Land and on the Edge of Dangerous Shoals where I could not with safety Approach— This induced me to make a Signal for a Pilot and soon afterwards two Pilot Boats came off— They informed me that the Ship that wore a Pendant was an Armed Merchantman And that a Kings Frigate lay there in sight at Anchor within the Humber waiting to take under Convoy a number of Merchant Ships bound to the Northward. The Pilots imagined the Bon homme Richard to be an English Ship of War and consequently communicated to me the Private Signal which they had been required to make— I endeavoured by this means to decoy the Ships out of the Port, but the wind then changing and with the Tide becoming Unfavourable for them the deception had not the desired Effect and they wisely put back.— The entrance of the Humber is exceedingly difficult and Dangerous— And as the Pallas was not in sight I thought it imprudent to remain off the Entrance—therefore Steered out again to Join the Pallas off Flamborough Head. In the Night We saw and Chased two Ships untill 3 OClock in the Morning When being at a very small distance from them I made the Private Signal of Reconnoisance which I had given to each Captain before I Sailed from Groa— One half of the Answer only was returned— In this Position both sides lay too till day light When the Ships proved to be the Alliance & the Pallas— On the Morning of that day the 23d. the Brig from Holland not being in sight We Chased a Brigantine that appeared Laying too to Windward— About Noon We saw and Chased a large Ship that appeared coming round Flamborough head from the Northward and at the same time I Manned and Armed one of the Pilots Boats to send in Pursuit of the Brigantine which now appeared to be the Vessel that I had forced ashore—8 Soon after this a Fleet of 41 Sail9 appeared off Flamborough Head bearing NNE. This induced me to Abandon the Single Ship which had then Anchored in Burlington Bay I also called back the Pilot Boat and hoisted a Signal for a general Chase.

When the Fleet discovered us bearing down all the Merchant Ships Crowded Sail towards the Shore. The Two Ships of War that Protected the Fleet at the same time Steered from the Land and made the disposition for Battle— In approaching the Enemy I crowded every Possible Sail and made the Signal for the line of Battle to which the Alliance shewed no Attention.1 Earnest as I was for the Action I could not reach the Commodores Ship untill Seven in the Evening being then within Pistol Shot when He hailed the Bon homme Richard. We answered him by Firing a Whole Broadside—2 The Battle being thus begun was continued with Unremitting Fury—Every method was Practiced on both sides to gain an Advantage and Rake each other— And I must confess that the Enemies Ship being much more Manageable than the Bon homme Richard gained thereby several times an advantagious Situation in spite of my best endeavours to prevent it—3 As I had to deal with an Enemy of greatly Superiour Force I was under the necessity of closing with him to Prevent the Advantage Which he had over me in Point of Manoeuvre— It was my intention to lay the Bon homme Richard athwart the Enemies Bow but as that Opperation required great dexterity in the Management of both Sails and Helm And some of our Braces being Shot away it did not exactly succeed to my wish.

The Enemies Bowsprit however came over the Bon homme Richards Poop by— the Mizen Mast and I made both Ships fast together in that Situation which by the Action the Wind on the Enemies Sails forced her Stern close to the Bon home Richards Bow so that the Ships lay square alongside of each Other the Yards being all entangled and the Cannon of each Ship touching the Opponents Side when this Position took Place it was Eight OClock Previous to which the Bonhomme Richard had received sundry Eighteen Pound Shot below the Water and leaked very much.

My Battery of 12 Pounders on which I had Placed my Chief dependance being Commanded by Lieut. Dale and Col. Wybert and Manned Principally with American Seamen & French Volunteers was entirely Silenced and Abandoned—as to the Six old 18 Pounders that formed the Battery of the lower Gun Deck they did no service whatever except firing Eight Shot in all— Two out of them Burst at the first Fire and Killed almost all the Men who were stationed to Manage them.

Before this time too Col. Chamillard who Commanded a Party of 20 Soldiers on the Poop had Abandoned that Station after having lost some of his Men.

I had now only two Pieces of Cannon (9 Pounders) on the Quarter Deck that were not Silenced and not one of the heavier Cannon was fired during the remainder of the Action—The Purser Mr. Mease who Commanded the Guns on the Quarter Deck being dangerously Wounded in the head I was Obliged to fill his Place & with great difficulty Rallied a few Men and shifted to get over one of the lee Quarter Deck Guns so that We afterwards played three Pieces of Nine pounders upon the Enemy The Tops alone seconded the Fire of this little Battery and held out Bravely during the Whole Action especially the Main Top where Lieutenant Stack Commanded. I directed the Fire of one of the three Cannon against the Main Mast with double Headed Shot while the other two were Exceedingly well served with Grape & Canister Shot to Silence the Enemies Musquetry and Clear her Decks which was at last effected the Enemy were as I have since Understood on the Instant of Calling out for Quarters—When the Cowardice or Treachery of three of my Under Officers4 induced them to call to the Enemy— The English Commodore Asked me if I Demanded Quarters And I having Answered him in the most determined Negative5 They renewed the Battle with redoubled Fury— They were unable to stand the Deck but the Fire of their Cannon especially the lower Battery which was entirely form’d of 18 Pounders was incessant.— Both Ships were set on Fire in Various Places And the scene was dreadful beyond the reach of Language— To account for the Timidity of my Three under Officers, I mean the Gunner the Carpenter and the Master at Arms—I must observe that the two First were slightly Wounded And as the Ship had received Various Shot under Water And one of the Pumps being shot away the Carpenter expressed his Fears that she would Sink and the other two concluded that she was Sinking which Occasioned the Gunner to run aft on the Poop without my Knowledge to strike the Colours— Fortunately for me a Cannon ball had done that before by carrying away the Ensign Staff— He was therefore reduced to the Necessity of sinking, as he Supposed, or of Calling for Quarters and he prefered the Latter—6 All this time the Bon homme Richard had sustained the Action alone And the Enemy tho’ much Superior in Force would have been very glad to have got Clear as Appears by their own Acknowledgments and by their having let go an Anchor the Instant that I laid them on Board by which means they would have escaped had I not made them well fast to the Bonhomme Richard7 at last, at half past Nine O’Clock the Alliance appeared & I now thought the Battle at an End but to my Utter Astonishment he discharged a Broadside full into the Stern of the Bon homme Richard—8 We Called to him for Gods sake to forbear Firing into the Bon homme Richard— Yet he passed along the Off Side of the Ship and Continued Firing—There was no Possibility of his Mistaking the Enemy’s Ship for the Bon homme Richard there being the most essential difference in their appearance & construction—besides it was then full Moon light, And the Sides of the Bon homme Richard were all Black while the Side of the Prize were Yellow—Yet for the greater security I shewed the Signal of our Reconnoissance by putting out Three Lanthorns, One at the head Another at the Stern and the third in the Middle in a Horrizontal line— Every Tongue cried that He was Firing into the wrong Ship but nothing availed. He passed round firing into the Bon homme Richard’s Head, Stern, & Broadside and by one of his Vollies Killed Agreeable to Report several9 of my best Men and Mortally Wounded an Officer on The Fore Castle only. My Situation was really deplorable the Bon homme Richard received Various Shots under Water from the Alliance the leak gained on the Pumps and the Fire increased Much on board both Ships— Some Officers Persuaded me to Strike of whose Courage and good sense I entertain an High Opinion.— My Treacherous Master at Arms let loose all my Prisoners without my Knowledge and my Prospect became Gloomy Indeed— I would not however give up the Point—The Enemy’s Main Mast began to shake, Their Firing decreased Fast Our’s rather increased And the British Colours were Struck at half an hour Past Ten O’Clock— This Prize proved to be the British Ship of War the Serapis a New Ship of 44 Guns built on their most approved Construction with two Compleat Batteries one of them of 18 Pounders and Commanded by the Brave Commodore Richard Pearson.— I had yet two Enemies to encounter with far more formidable than the Britons I mean fire and Water. The Serapis was attacked only by the first but the Bon homme Richard was Assailed by both— There was five Feet of Water in the Hold and tho’ it was Moderate from the Explosition of so Much Gun Powder Yet three Pumps that remained could with difficulty only Keep the Water from gaining— The Fire broke out in Various Parts of the Ship in spite of all the Water that could be thrown in to quench it and at length broke out as low as the Powder Magazine and within a few Inches of the Powder— In that Dilema I took out the Powder upon Deck ready to be thrown overboard at the last extremity and it was Ten O’Clock the next Day the 24th before the Fire was entirely Extinguished. With respect to the Situation of the Bonhomme Richard The Rudder was cut almost entirely off the Stern Frame & Transoms Were almost entirely Cut away And the Timbers by the lower Deck especially from the Main Mast towards the Stern being greatly decayed with Age were Mangled beyond my Power of description and A Person must have been an Eye Witness to form a Just Idea of the tremendous Scenes of Carnage Wreck and Ruin which every where appeared— Humanity cannot but recoil from the Prospect of such finished Horror and lament that War should be capable of producing Such fatal Consequences.

After the Carpenters as well as Captain Cottineau and other Men of sense had well examined & Surveyed1 the Ship which was not Finished before five in Evening I found every Person to be convinced that it was Impossible to Keep the Bon homme Richard Afloat So as to reach a Port if the Wind should increase it being then only a very Moderate Breeze— I had but little time to remove My Wounded2 which now became Unavoidable and which was effected in the Course of the Night and Next Morning— I was determined to Keep the Bon homme Richard Afloat and if possible to bring her into Port For that purpose the first Lieutenant of the Pallas3 continued on board with a Party of Men to Attend the Pumps with Boats in waiting ready to take them on board in Case the Water Should gain on them too Fast The Wind Augmented in the Night and the next Day on the 25th. So that it was impossible to prevent the Good Old Ship from Sinking—They did not abandon her ’till after Nine OClock— The Water was then up to the lower Deck and a little after Ten I saw with inexpressible Grief the last Glimpse of the Bonhomme Richard— No lives were lost with the Ship—but it was impossible to save the Stores of any Sort Whatever— I lost even the best Part of my Cloaths Books and Papers and several of my Officers lost all their Cloaths and Effects.

Having thus endeavoured to give a Clear and Simple relation of the Circumstances and events that have attended the little Armament Under my Command I shall freely submit My Conduct therein to the Cencure of my Superiours and the impartial Public— I beg leave however to Observe that the Force that was put under my Command Was far from being well Composed And as the great Majority of the Actors in it have appeared bent on the pursuit of Interest only I am exceedingly Sorry that they and I have at all been concerned.

I am in the Highest degree sensible of the Singular Attentions which I have experienced from the Court of France which I shall remember with Perfect Gratitude Untill the end of my Life— And will always endeavour to Merit while I can consistent with my Honor continue in the Public Service.— I must speak plainly as I have always been honored with the full confidence of Congress, And as I had also Flattered myself with enjoying in some Measure the Confidence of the Court of France I could not but be Astonished at the Conduct of M. De Chaumont When in the Moment of my departure from Groa he produced a Paper (a Concordat) for me to Sign in common with Officers Whom I had Commissioned but a few days before.—4 Had that Paper or even a less dishonourable one been proposed to me at the begining I would have rejected it with Just Contempt, and the Word “Deplacement” Among Others should have been Unnecessary— I cannot however even now suppose that he was Authorized by the Court to make such a bargin with me— Nor can I suppose that the Minister of the Marine Meant that M. De Chaumont should consider me merely as a Colleague with the Commanders of the other Ships And communicated to them not only all he Knew but all he thought respecting our desination and opperations— M. De Chaumont has made me Various Reproaches on account of the Expence of the Bon homme Richard5 wherewith I cannot think I have been Justly chargeable— M. De Chamillard can attest that the Bon homme Richard was at last far from being well fitted or Armed for War— If any Person or Persons who have been charged with the Expence of that Armament have Acted Wrong the fault must not be laid to my Charge.

I had not the Authority to Superintend that Armament and the Persons who had authority were so far from giving me what I thought necessary that M. De Chaumont even refused among other things to allow me Irons to secure Prisoners of War.

In short while my Life remains If I have any Capacity to render good & Acceptible Services to the Common Cause no Man will step forth with greater Cheerfulness and Alacrity than myself— But I am not made to be dishonoured nor can I accept of the half Confidence of any Man living of Course I cannot consistent with my Honour and a Prospect of success Undertake Future Expeditions Unless when the Object and distination is communicated to me alone and to no other Person in the Marine line.— In cases where Troops are Embarked a like confidence is due alone to their Commander in Chief— On no other condition will I even under take the Chief Command of a Private Expedition and where I do not command in Chief I have no desire to be in the Secret.

Captain Cottineau Engaged the Countess of Scarborough and took her after an Hours Action While the Bon homme Richard engaged the Serapis— The Countess of Scarborough is an Armed Ship of 20 Six Pounders and was Commanded by a King’s Officer—

In the Action the Countess of Scarborough and the Serapis were at a considerable distance asunder and the Alliance as I am Informed Fired into the Pallas & Killed some Men.6 If it should be asked why the Convoy was Suffered to escape I must answer that I was myself in no Condition to pursue And that none of the rest shewed any inclination not even M. Ricot who had held off at a distance to Windward during the whole Action and withheld by Force7 the Pilot Boat with my Lieutenant and Fifteen Men.— The Alliance too was in a State to pursue the Fleet not having had a Single Man Wounded or a Single Shot fired at her from the Serapis and only three that did Execution from the Countess of Scarborough at such a distance that One Stuck in the Side and the other two Just touched and then dropped into the Water— The Alliance Killed one Man Only on board the Serapis— As Captain Cottineau charged himself with Manning and Securing the Prisoners of the Countess of Scarborough— I think the Escape of the Baltic Fleet cannot so well be charged to his account.

I should have mentioned that the Main Mast and Mizen Top Mast of the Serapis fell Over Board soon after the Captain had come onboard the Bonhomme Richard.

Uppon the whole the Captain of the Alliance has behaved so very ill in every respect that I must Complain loudly of his Conduct— He pretends that he is authorized to act independant of my Command— I have been taught the contrary but supposing it to be so his Conduct has been base and unpardonable. M. De Chamillard will explain the Particulars.—Either Captain Landais or myself is highly Criminal and one or the other must be Punished.

I forbear to take any steps with him Untill I have the advice and Approbation of your Excellency. I have been advised by all the Officers of the Squadron to put Landais under Arest but as I have postponed it so long I will bear with him a little longer Untill the return of my Express.

We this Day Anchored here having since the Action been tossed to and fro by contrary Winds— I wished to have gained the Road of Dunkirk on account of our Prisoners but was over Ruled by the Majority of my Colleagues.

I shall hasten up to Amsterdam and there If I meet with no Orders for my Goverment I will take the Advice of the French Ambassador. It is my present intention to have the Countess of Scarborough ready to Transport the Prisoners from hence to Dunkirk Unless it should be found more Expedient to deliver them to the English Ambassador taking his Obligation to send to Dunkirk &c. Immediately an equal Number of Americans. I am under Strong apprehensions that our Object here will fail and that thro’ the Imprudence of M. De Chaumont Who has communicated every thing he Knew or thought on the Matter to Persons who cannot help talking of it at a full Table— This is the way he Keeps State secrets. Tho’ he never mentioned the Affair to me. I am ever with the Highest Sentiments of grateful Esteem and Respect. Honoured and dear Sir Your very Obliged Friend & very Humble Servant

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John Paul (he added "Jones" later in life) was born on the estate of Arbigland near Kirkbean in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright on the southwest coast of Scotland. His parents married on November 29, 1733 in New Abbey, Kirkcudbrightshire.

John Paul started his maritime career at the age of 13, sailing out of Whitehaven in the northern English county of Cumberland as apprentice aboard Friendship under Captain Benson. Paul's older brother William Paul had married and settled in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Virginia was the destination of many of the younger Paul's voyages.

For several years, Paul sailed aboard a number of merchant and slave ships, including King George in 1764 as third mate and Two Friends as first mate in 1766. [4] In 1768, he abandoned his prestigious position on the profitable Two Friends while docked in Jamaica. He found his own passage back to Scotland, and eventually obtained another position.

John Paul's career was quickly and unexpectedly advanced during his next voyage aboard the brig John, which sailed from port in 1768, when both the captain and a ranking mate suddenly died of yellow fever. Paul managed to navigate the ship back to a safe port and, in reward for this feat, the vessel's grateful Scottish owners made him master of the ship and its crew, giving him ten percent of the cargo. [5] He led two voyages to the West Indies before running into difficulty.

During his second voyage in 1770, John Paul had one of his crew flogged after trying to start a mutiny about early payment of wages, leading to accusations that his discipline was "unnecessarily cruel". These claims were initially dismissed, but his favorable reputation was destroyed when the sailor died a few weeks later. John Paul was arrested for his involvement in the man's death, and was imprisoned in Kirkcudbright Tolbooth, but later released on bail. [6] The negative effect of this episode on his reputation is indisputable, [5] although the man's death has been linked to yellow fever. [ citation needed ] The local governor encouraged John Paul to leave the area and change his name while on bail. The man who died of his injuries was not a usual sailor but an adventurer from a very influential Scottish family.

Leaving Scotland, John Paul commanded a London-registered vessel named Betsy, a West Indiaman mounting 22 guns, engaging in commercial speculation in Tobago for about 18 months. [7] This came to an end, however, when he killed a mutinous crew member named Blackton with a sword in a dispute over wages. [8] Years later, in a letter to Benjamin Franklin describing the incident, John Paul claimed that the killing was committed in self-defense, but he was not willing to be tried in an Admiral's Court, where the family of his first victim had been influential.

He felt compelled to flee to Fredericksburg, Virginia, leaving his fortune behind he also sought to arrange the affairs of his brother, who had died there without leaving any immediate family. About this time, John Paul assumed the surname of Jones (in addition to his original surname). There is a long-held tradition in the state of North Carolina that John Paul adopted the name "Jones" in honor of Willie Jones of Halifax, North Carolina. [9] [10]

From that period, America became "the country of his fond election", as he afterwards expressed himself to Baron Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol. [11] It was not long afterward that John Paul "Jones" joined the American navy to fight against Britain.

The American colonies Edit

Sources struggle with this period of Jones's life, especially the specifics of his family situation, making it difficult to pinpoint historically Jones's exact motivations for emigrating to America. It is not known whether his plans were not developing as expected for the plantation, or if he was inspired by a revolutionary spirit. It is known that he was elected to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia in 1774. [12]

Jones left for Philadelphia shortly after settling in North America to volunteer his services around 1775 to the newly founded Continental Navy, precursor to the United States Navy. During this time, the Navy and Marines were being formally established, and suitable ship's officers and captains were in great demand. Jones's potential would likely have gone unrecognized were it not for the endorsement of Richard Henry Lee, who knew of his abilities. With help from influential members of the Continental Congress, Jones was appointed as a 1st Lieutenant of the newly converted 24-gun frigate USS Alfred in the Continental Navy on December 7, 1775. [13]

Revolutionary War command Edit

Early Command Edit

Jones sailed from the Delaware River in February 1776 aboard Alfred on the Continental Navy's maiden cruise. It was aboard this vessel that Jones took the honor of hoisting the first U.S. ensign−the Grand Union Flag−over a naval vessel. [14] [15]

The fleet had been expected to cruise along the coast but was ordered instead by Commodore Esek Hopkins to sail for The Bahamas, where Nassau was raided for military supplies. The fleet had an unsuccessful encounter with a British packet ship on their return voyage. Jones was then assigned command of the sloop USS Providence. Congress had recently ordered the construction of thirteen frigates for the American Navy, one of which was to be commanded by Jones. In exchange for this prestigious command, Jones accepted his commission aboard the smaller Providence. Over the summer of 1776 as commander of Providence, Jones performed various services for the Continental Navy and Congress. These services included the transport of troops, the movement of supplies and the escort of convoys. During this time, Jones was able to assist a 'brig from Hispaniola' that was being chased by HMS Cerberus and laden with military stores. The brig was then purchased by Congress and put in commission as USS Hampden with Captain Hoysted Hacker commanding. [16] During a later six-week voyage to Nova Scotia, Jones captured sixteen prizes and inflicted significant damage in the Raid on Canso. [17]

Jones's next command came as a result of Commodore Hopkins's orders to liberate hundreds of American prisoners forced to labor in coal mines in Nova Scotia, and also to raid British shipping. On November 1, 1776, Jones set sail in command of Alfred to carry out this mission. Winter conditions prevented freeing the prisoners, but the mission did result in the capture of Mellish, a vessel carrying a vital supply of winter clothing intended for General John Burgoyne's troops in Canada. [18]

Command of Ranger Edit

Despite his successes at sea, Jones' disagreements with those in authority reached a new level upon arrival in Boston on December 16, 1776. While at the port, he began feuding with Commodore Hopkins, as Jones believed that Hopkins was hindering his advancement by talking down his campaign plans. As a result of this and other frustrations, Jones was assigned the smaller command of the newly constructed USS Ranger on June 14, 1777, the same day that the new Stars and Stripes flag was adopted. [20]

After making the necessary preparations, Jones sailed for France on November 1, 1777, with orders to assist the American cause however possible. The American commissioners in France were Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, and they listened to Jones's strategic recommendations. They promised him the command of Indien, a new vessel being constructed for America in Amsterdam. Britain, however, was able to divert L'Indien away from American hands by exerting pressure to ensure its sale to France instead (which had not yet allied with America). [21] Jones was again left without a command, an unpleasant reminder of his stagnation in Boston from late 1776 until early 1777. It is thought that during this time Jones developed his close friendship with Benjamin Franklin, whom he greatly admired.

On February 6, 1778, France signed the Treaty of Alliance with America, formally recognizing the independence of the new American republic. Eight days later, Captain Jones's Ranger became the first American naval vessel to be formally saluted by the French, with a nine-gun salute fired from captain Lamotte-Piquet's flagship. Jones wrote of the event: "I accepted his offer all the more for after all it was a recognition of our independence and in the nation".

On April 10, 1778, Jones set sail from Brest, France, for the western coasts of Great Britain.

Ranger attacks the British Edit

Jones had some early successes against British merchant shipping in the Irish Sea. He persuaded his crew on April 17, 1778, to participate in an assault on Whitehaven, the town where his maritime career had begun. [22] Jones later wrote about the poor command qualities of his senior officers (having tactfully avoided such matters in his official report): "'Their object', they said, 'was gain not honor'. They were poor: instead of encouraging the morale of the crew, they excited them to disobedience they persuaded them that they had the right to judge whether a measure that was proposed to them was good or bad". [23] As it happened, contrary winds forced them to abandon the attempt and drove Ranger towards Ireland, causing more trouble for British shipping on the way.

On April 20, 1778, Jones learned from captured sailors that the Royal Navy sloop of war HMS Drake was anchored off Carrickfergus, Ireland. According to the diary of Ranger ' s surgeon, [24] Jones's first intention was to attack the vessel in broad daylight, but his sailors were "unwilling to undertake it" (another incident omitted from the official report). Therefore, the attack took place just after midnight, but the mate responsible for dropping the anchor to halt Ranger right alongside Drake misjudged the timing in the dark (Jones claimed in his memoirs that the man was drunk), so Jones had to cut his anchor cable and run. The wind shifted, and Ranger recrossed the Irish Sea to make another attempt at raiding Whitehaven.

Jones led the assault with two boats of fifteen men just after midnight on April 23, 1778, hoping to set fire to and sink all Whitehaven's ships anchored in harbor, which numbered between 200 and 400 wooden vessels and consisted of a full merchant fleet and many coal transporters. They also hoped to terrorize the townspeople by lighting further fires. As it happened, the journey to shore was slowed by the still-shifting wind, as well as a strong ebb tide. They successfully spiked the town's big defensive guns to prevent them being fired, but lighting fires proved difficult, as the lanterns in both boats had run out of fuel. To remedy this, some of the party were sent to raid a public house on the quayside, but the temptation to stop for a quick drink led to a further delay. Dawn was breaking by the time they returned and began the arson attacks, so efforts were concentrated on the coal ship Thompson in the hope that the flames would spread to adjacent vessels, all grounded by the low tide. However, in the twilight, one of the crew slipped away and alerted residents on a harbourside street. A fire alert was sounded, and large numbers of people came running to the quay, forcing the Americans to retreat, and extinguishing the flames with the town's two fire-engines. The townspeople's hopes of sinking Jones's boats with cannon fire were dashed because of the prudent spiking. [25]

Jones next crossed the Solway Firth from Whitehaven to Scotland, hoping to hold for ransom Dunbar Douglas, 4th Earl of Selkirk, who lived on St Mary's Isle near Kirkcudbright. The earl, Jones reasoned, could be exchanged for American sailors impressed into the Royal Navy. The Earl was discovered to be absent from his estate, so his wife entertained the officers and conducted negotiations. Canadian historian Peter C. Newman gives credit to the governess for protecting the young heir to the Earldom of Selkirk, Thomas Douglas, and to the butler for filling a sack half with coal, and topping it up with the family silver, in order to fob off the Americans. [26] Jones claimed that he intended to return directly to his ship and continue seeking prizes elsewhere, but his crew wished to "pillage, burn, and plunder all they could". Ultimately, Jones allowed the crew to seize a silver plate set adorned with the family's emblem to placate their desires, but nothing else. Jones bought the plate himself when it was later sold off in France, and returned it to the Earl of Selkirk after the war.

The attacks on St Mary's Isle and Whitehaven resulted in no prizes or profits which would be shared with the crew under normal circumstances. [27] Throughout the mission, the crew acted as if they were aboard a privateer, not a warship, led by Lieutenant Thomas Simpson, Jones's second-in-command.

Return to Ireland Edit

Jones led Ranger back across the Irish Sea, hoping to make another attempt at the Drake, still anchored off Carrickfergus. This time, late in the afternoon of April 24, 1778, the ships, roughly equal in firepower, engaged in combat. Earlier in the day, the Americans had captured the crew of a reconnaissance boat, and learned that Drake had taken on dozens of soldiers, with the intention of grappling and boarding Ranger, so Jones made sure that did not happen, capturing Drake after an hour-long gun battle which cost the British captain his life. Lieutenant Simpson was given command of Drake for the return journey to Brest. The ships separated during the return journey as Ranger chased another prize, leading to a conflict between Simpson and Jones. Both ships arrived at port safely, but Jones filed for a court-martial of Simpson, keeping him detained on the ship.

Partly through the influence of John Adams, who was still serving as a commissioner in France, Simpson was released from Jones's accusation. Adams implies in his memoirs that the overwhelming majority of the evidence supported Simpson's claims. Adams seemed to believe Jones was hoping to monopolize the mission's glory, especially by detaining Simpson on board while he celebrated the capture with numerous important European dignitaries. [28]

Even with the wealth of perspectives, including the commander's, [23] it is difficult if not impossible to tell exactly what occurred. It is clear, however, that the crew felt alienated by their commander, who might well have been motivated by his pride. Jones believed his intentions were honorable, and his actions were strategically essential to the Revolution. Regardless of any controversy surrounding the mission, Ranger ' s capture of Drake was one of the Continental Navy's few significant military victories during the Revolution. Ranger ' s victory became an important symbol of the American spirit and served as an inspiration for the permanent establishment of the United States Navy after the revolution.

Bonhomme Richard Edit

In 1779, Captain Jones took command of the 42-gun USS Bonhomme Richard, [29] a merchant ship rebuilt and given to America by the French shipping magnate, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray. On August 14, as a vast French and Spanish invasion fleet approached England, he provided a diversion by heading for Ireland at the head of a five ship squadron including the 36-gun USS Alliance, 32-gun USS Pallas, 12-gun USS Vengeance, and Le Cerf, also accompanied by two privateers, Monsieur and Granville. When the squadron was only a few days out of Groix, Monsieur separated due to a disagreement between her captain and Jones. Several Royal Navy warships were sent towards Ireland in pursuit of Jones, but on this occasion, he continued right around the north of Scotland into the North Sea. Jones's main problems, as on his previous voyage, resulted from insubordination, particularly by Pierre Landais, captain of Alliance. On September 23, 1779, the squadron met a large merchant convoy off the coast of Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire. The 50-gun British frigate HMS Serapis and the 22-gun hired armed ship Countess of Scarborough placed themselves between the convoy and Jones's squadron, allowing the merchants to escape.

Shortly after 7 p.m. the Battle of Flamborough Head began. Serapis engaged Bonhomme Richard, and soon afterwards, Alliance fired, from a considerable distance, at Countess. Quickly recognizing that he could not win a battle of big guns, and with the wind dying, Jones made every effort to lock Richard and Serapis together (his famous, albeit apocryphal, quotation "I have not yet begun to fight!" was said to have been uttered in reply to a demand to surrender in this phase of the battle), finally succeeding after about an hour, following which his deck guns and his Marine marksmen in the rigging began clearing the British decks. Alliance sailed past and fired a broadside, doing at least as much damage to Richard as to Serapis. Meanwhile, Countess of Scarborough had enticed Pallas downwind of the main battle, beginning a separate engagement. When Alliance approached this contest, about an hour after it had begun, the badly damaged Countess surrendered.

With Bonhomme Richard burning and sinking, it seems that her ensign was shot away when one of the officers, apparently believing his captain to be dead, shouted a surrender, the British commander asked, seriously this time, if they had struck their colours. Jones later remembered saying something like "I am determined to make you strike", but the words allegedly heard by crew-members and reported in newspapers a few days later were more like: "I may sink, but I'll be damned if I strike". An attempt by the British to board Bonhomme Richard was thwarted, and a grenade caused the explosion of a large quantity of gunpowder on Serapis 's lower gun-deck. Alliance returned to the main battle, firing two broadsides. Again, these did at least as much damage to Richard as to Serapis, but the tactic worked to the extent that, unable to move, and with Alliance keeping well out of the line of his own great guns, Captain Pearson of Serapis accepted that prolonging the battle could achieve nothing, so he surrendered. Most of Bonhomme Richard ' s crew immediately transferred to other vessels, and after a day and a half of frantic repair efforts, it was decided that the ship could not be saved, so it was allowed to sink, and Jones took command of Serapis for the trip to the island of Texel in neutral (but American-sympathizing) Holland.

In the following year, the King of France Louis XVI, honored him with the title "Chevalier". Jones accepted the honor, and desired the title to be used thereafter: when the Continental Congress in 1787 resolved that a medal of gold be struck in commemoration of his "valor and brilliant services" it was to be presented to "Chevalier John Paul Jones". He also received from Louis XVI a decoration of "l'Institution du Mérite Militaire" and a sword. By contrast, in Britain at this time, he was usually denigrated as a pirate.

Jones was also admitted as an original member of The Society of the Cincinnati in the state of Pennsylvania when it was established in 1783. [30]

Russian service Edit

In June 1782, Jones was appointed to command the 74-gun USS America, but his command fell through when Congress decided to give America to the French as replacement for the wrecked Le Magnifique. As a result, he was given assignment in Europe in 1783 to collect prize money due his former hands. At length, this too expired and Jones was left without prospects for active employment, leading him on April 23, 1787 to enter into the service of the Empress Catherine II of Russia, who placed great confidence in Jones, saying: "He will get to Constantinople". He was granted name as a French subject Павел де Жонес (Pavel de Zhones, Paul de Jones). [31]

Jones avowed his intention, however, to preserve the condition of an American citizen and officer. As a rear admiral aboard the 24-gun flagship Vladimir, he took part in the naval campaign in the Dnieper-Bug Liman (an arm of the Black Sea, into which flow the Southern Bug and Dnieper rivers) against the Turks, in concert with the Dnieper Flotilla commanded by Prince Charles of Nassau-Siegen. Jones (and Nassau-Siegen) repulsed the Ottoman forces from the area, but the jealous intrigues of Nassau-Siegen (and perhaps Jones's own inaptitude for Imperial politics) turned the Russian commander Prince Grigory Potëmkin against Jones [32] and he was recalled to St. Petersburg for the pretended purpose of being transferred to a command in the North Sea. Another factor may have been the resentment of several ex-British naval officers also in Russian employment, who regarded Jones as a renegade and refused to speak to him. Whatever motivated the Prince, once recalled he was compelled to remain in idleness, while rival officers plotted against him and even maliciously assailed his private character through accusations of sexual misconduct. In April 1789 Jones was arrested and accused of raping a 12-year-old girl named Katerina Goltzwart. [33] But the Count de Segur, the French representative at the Russian court (and also Jones's last friend in the capital), conducted his own personal investigation into the matter and was able to convince Potëmkin that the girl had not been raped and that Jones had been accused by Prince de Nassau-Siegen for his own purposes [34] Jones, however, admitted to prosecutors that he had "often frolicked" with the girl "for a small cash payment", only denying that he had deprived her of her virginity. [35] Even so, in that period he was able to author his Narrative of the Campaign of the Liman.

On June 8, 1788, Jones was awarded the Order of St. Anne, but he left the following month, an embittered man.

In 1789 Jones arrived in Warsaw, Poland, where he befriended Tadeusz Kościuszko, another veteran of the American Revolutionary War. Kościuszko advised him to leave the service of the autocratic Russia, and serve another power, suggesting Sweden. Despite Kościuszko's backing, the Swedes, while somewhat interested, in the end decided not to recruit Jones. [36]

In May 1790, Jones arrived in Paris. He still retained his position as Russian rear admiral, with a corresponding pension which allowed him to remain in retirement until his death two years later, although he made a number of attempts to re-enter the service in the Russian navy. By this time, his memoirs had been published in Edinburgh. Inspired by them, James Fenimore Cooper and Alexandre Dumas later wrote their own adventure novels. According to Walter Herrick:

Jones was a sailor of indomitable courage, of strong will, and of great ability in his chosen career. He was also a hypocrite, a brawler, a rake, and a professional and social climber. [37]

In June 1792, Jones was appointed U.S. Consul to treat with the Dey of Algiers for the release of American captives. Before Jones was able to fulfill his appointment, he was found dead lying face-down on his bed in his third-floor Paris apartment, No. 19 Rue de Tournon, on July 18, 1792. He was 45 years old. The cause of death was interstitial nephritis. [38] A small procession of servants, friends and loyal family walked his body four miles (6.4 km) for burial. He was buried in Paris at the Saint Louis Cemetery, which belonged to the French royal family. Four years later, France's revolutionary government sold the property and the cemetery was forgotten.

Exhumation and reburial Edit

In 1905, Jones's remains were identified by U.S. Ambassador to France Gen. Horace Porter, who had searched for six years to track down the body using faulty copies of Jones's burial record.

After Jones's death, Frenchman Pierrot Francois Simmoneau donated over 460 francs to mummify the body. It was preserved in alcohol and interred in a lead coffin "in the event that should the United States decide to claim his remains, they might more easily be identified." Porter knew what to look for in his search. With the aid of an old map of Paris, Porter's team, which included anthropologist Louis Capitan, identified the site of the former St. Louis Cemetery for Alien Protestants. Sounding probes were used to search for lead coffins and five coffins were ultimately exhumed. The third, unearthed on April 7, 1905, was later identified by a post-mortem examination by Doctors Capitan and Georges Papillault as being that of Jones. The autopsy confirmed the original listing of cause of death. The face was later compared to a bust by Jean-Antoine Houdon. [39]

Jones's body was brought to the United States aboard the USS Brooklyn (CA-3) , escorted by three other cruisers. On approaching the American coastline, seven U.S. Navy battleships joined the procession escorting Jones's body back to America. On April 24, 1906, Jones's coffin was installed in Bancroft Hall at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, following a ceremony in Dahlgren Hall, presided over by President Theodore Roosevelt who gave a speech paying tribute to Jones and holding him up as an example to the officers of the Navy. [40] On January 26, 1913, the Captain's remains were finally re-interred in a magnificent bronze and marble sarcophagus at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis. [41] [42]

Jones was given an honorary pardon in 1999 by the Port of Whitehaven for his raid on the town, in the presence of Lt. Steve Lyons representing the US Naval Attaché to the UK, and Yuri Fokine the Russian Ambassador to the UK. The US Navy were also awarded the Freedom of the Port of Whitehaven, the only time the honour has been granted in its 400-year history. [43]

The Pardon and Freedom were arranged by Gerard Richardson as part of the launch of the series of Maritime Festival. Richardson's of Whitehaven is now the honorary Consulate to the US Navy for the Town and Port of Whitehaven. The Consul is Rear Admiral (retired) US Navy, Steve Morgan and the Deputy Consul is Rob Romano. [44]

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Gilday said the defense industry could make Bonhomme Richard seaworthy again, but that it may not be worth the cost.


Bonhomme Richard was in a San Diego shipyard in the midst of upgrades to take on the next-generation F-35B fighter jet. The loss of the amphib raises questions about how the Navy will get the jets to a future fight.


The forward mast collapsed during the fire, and temperatures inside the ship reached 1,200 degrees.


Helicopter crews dropped water on the exterior of the ship to cool it enough to allow fire crews to enter.

/>A photo circulating online and social media shows the damaged deck and superstructure of the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard. The photo's authenticity was verified by a Navy official. (Twitter)

Dozens of Navy and civilian firefighters suffered minor injuries, mainly heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.


The blaze is believed to have started in a cargo hold.

CNO Gilday called the burning of the ship “a gut punch” for its crew, but said they are being looked after.

“The names of those ships mean something to those sailors,” Gilday said. “This is their home. This is where they would fight from.”


Several investigations will be undertaken into the Bonhomme Richard fire.

“We will follow the facts,” Gilday said Friday, promising that investigations into the fire will be made public. “We’ll be honest with ourselves.”


The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society in San Diego is accepting uniform items and donations for the Bonhomme Richard crew. Go to https://action.nmcrs.org/BHR to learn more.

All donations are being accepted via the Support the Enlisted Project, 858-695-6810, as is the USO, 619-235-6503.

Bibliography of early United States naval history

Historical accounts for early U.S. naval history now occur across the spectrum of two and more centuries. This Bibliography lends itself primarily to reliable sources covering early U.S. naval history beginning around the American Revolution period on through the 18th and 19th centuries and includes sources which cover notable naval commanders, Presidents, important ships, major naval engagements and corresponding wars. The bibliography also includes sources that are not committed to the subject of U.S. naval history per se but whose content covers this subject extensively.

Among the contemporary and earlier historical accounts are primary sources, historical accounts, often derived from letters, dispatches, government and military records, captain's logs and diaries, etc., written by authors who were involved in or closely associated to the historical episode in question. Primary source material is often collected, compiled and published by other editors also, sometimes many years after the historical subject has passed. Many of the authors are notable and even famous in their own right and are linked to their corresponding biographies.

Your 10 favorite military history stories of 2017

The sound of a cart rolling down my hallway always makes my ears perk up. My desk is near the workspace for the Division of Armed Forces History and I sometimes catch staff members carefully transporting military history objects on carts. Whether they're moving the objects for photography or an evaluation by the Objects Conservation Lab, my colleagues often stop and share what they've got with curious social media managers like me. A few days before the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, for example, I spotted Curator Frank Blazich transporting these plates from the battleship U.S.S. West Virginia (BB-48). Before continuing on his way to the photo studio, Frank paused to explain that during the attack on Pearl Harbor, West Virginia was struck by seven torpedo and two bomb hits, killing 106 of her crew and sinking the ship.

This plate from the U.S.S. West Virginia may have been removed between June 1942 and July 1944, when the ship was undergoing extensive repairs and modernization. After sinking at Pearl Harbor, the West Virginia was refloated on May 17, 1942, and the navy repaired and modernized the battleship. Arriving back in Pearl Harbor in September 1944, West Virginia would participate in the Battles of Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and be present in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender in 1945.

In addition to having a great desk location at the museum, I'm also lucky enough to manage our blog. That means I get to read all the posts we publish before you do—and I also get to peek under the hood and see which posts are attracting the most readers. In 2017 you were very enthusiastic for military history. Perhaps your passion was inspired by the World War I centennial anniversaries happening now or the recent airing of The Vietnam War by Ken Burns on PBS. Or maybe your love of military history comes from the fact that these stories of heroism, service, innovation, and more are just really interesting. Whichever way, here are your favorite military history blog posts of 2017. The best way to avoid missing our posts is to subscribe to our blog by email.

This number eight may have marked the eighth Babcock & Wilcox boiler on the U.S.S. West Virginia.

Just before the U.S. entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act. It made Puerto Ricans citizens of the United States. Two months later, the Selective Service Act of 1917 allowed the U.S. to draft soldiers, including Puerto Ricans, to serve in World War I. Verónica Rivera-Negrón, Latino Studies Fellow in residence, shared four objects in Puerto Rican history from our collection to commemorate the centennial of the Jones Act.

A student in the motion picture photograph school, U.S. Army Signal Center and School, at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, William T. Perkins Jr. is seen here working with a Mitchell 35mm motion picture camera as he and fellow students practice making a reenlistment film. Courtesy of Jacobson Collection.

A selfless act by a brave young Marine moved many of you. Corporal William T. Perkins Jr. wanted to be where the action was—and to capture it on film. During the Vietnam War, the 20-year-old from Los Angeles saved those around him in battle.

John Paul Jones, Bonhomme Richard vs. Serapis, United States, 1779. This is one of the Comitia Americana medals created to commemorate American bravery in the Revolutionary War.

You’d think the Continental Congress would have other things on its mind at the time, but in March 1776 it voted to create a series of medals called the Comitia Americana. Powerful diplomatic tools, the medals are incredibly beautiful. One of my favorites depicts a naval battle, with busted ships, military personnel floundering in the water, and dramatic plumes of billowing smoke.

Have you noticed that our interns get really hands-on with history? One baked a loaf of bread from an 1896 recipe, another spent all day churning up 1927-style strawberry ice cream, and a third decided she just had to whip up a batch of deodorant using a 1903 recipe. Intern Miranda Johnson joined the fun, experiencing what it was like to knit gloves, wristlets, and helmet liners for World War I soldiers as many people did on the homefront during the war.

Chips, a K-9 Corps hero dog, even had his own comic during World War II.

Can you imagine sending your family dog to war? That’s exactly what the Dogs for Defense program asked families to do during World War II. One of the most famous dogs who served in the war was Chips. At one point, the Husky/German Shepherd/Collie mix attacked a nest of Italian gunners. He also got away with biting General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Chips returned home to his family in Pleasantville, New York.

This blog post contains the story of a sword made of coins, which was enough to pique my curiosity. There's also money issued to prisoners of war during World War I, a failed attempt to use postage as money during the Civil War, and an ancient coin with a horned portrait of Alexander the Great.

Alice Tetsuko Kono in her Women's Army Corps uniform, around 1943

Alice Tetsuko Kono wasn't very tall. Her concerned family hoped that would slow down her dream of serving in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) during World War II. Despite her family's fears for her safety, Kono was accepted and left her home in Molokai, Hawaii, to drill in physical training, learn language skills, and make a difference in the war effort. Kono's service is particularly interesting considering that many Japanese Americans were considered "enemy aliens" and, in the western United States, many were removed to incarceration camps.

I had never heard of the 1967 March on the Pentagon but it must have been a sight to see, with between 50,000 and 150,000 opponents of the war in Vietnam protesting at the Lincoln Memorial and the Pentagon. The stories of the march's colorful leader and the creative tactics protesters used to express their opposition to the war were riveting—and even more so because they are told through real documents, posters, and photos from the era.

"German Prisoner Type" drawing by William James Aylward, 1918. Gift of the War Department, Historical Branch of the General Staff.

Sporting a mustache and sparkling, mischievous eyes, the drawing of a German soldier who had become a prisoner of war during World War I captured my attention right away. The Great War seems so remote to me, so it was incredible to see illustrations of individual participants with their own unique quirks and secrets. These drawings from prisoner of war camps, battlefields, and first aid stations helped me envision the war in a whole new way.

Amanda Moniz, our David M. Rubenstein Curator of Philanthropy, often mentions that the history of philanthropy gets particularly interesting during wartime. That was especially true for me when I learned about the charitable activities of Lillian Gary Taylor, a woman of substantial financial means and social connections who participated in the war effort in a special way. Brew a cup of tea and give this one a read.

What military history topics do you want us to explore in 2018? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter, history fans! I'll be listening.

Erin Blasco manages the museum's social media and blog. Her favorite military history blog post tells the story of a Buffalo Soldier who served in World War I, but she also enjoyed considering if our blog posts on Game of Thrones or Star Wars counted for this list.

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6)

USS BONHOMME RICHARD was the sixth ship in the WASP - class and the last amphibious assault ship in the Navy commissioned in the 20 th century. She was the third ship to bear the name. On November 30, 2020, the Navy announced that the BONHOMME RICHARD would be decommissioned and scrapped following the 5-day fire in July 2020 which massively damaged the ship. The BONHOMME RICHARD held a decommissioning ceremony at Naval Base San Diego, Calif., on April 14, 2021. The following day, the ship was officially decommissioned and left San Diego under tow bound for Galveston, Tx., to be scrapped.

General Characteristics: Awarded: December 11, 1992
Keel laid: April 18, 1995
Launched: March 14, 1997
Commissioned: August 15, 1998
Decommissioned: April 15, 2021
Builder: Ingalls Shipbuilding , West Bank, Pascagoula, Miss.
Propulsion system: two boilers, two geared turbines
Propellers: two
Aircraft elevators: two
Length: 840 feet (256 meters)
Flight Deck Width: 140 feet (42.6 meters)
Beam: 106 feet (32,.3 meters)
Draft: 26,5 feet (8.1 meters)
Displacement: approx. 40,500 tons full load
Speed: 23 knots
Aircraft: 30+ (including V-22 Osprey, AH-1Z Viper and AH-1W Super Cobra, F-35B, CH-53K Sea Stallion, MH-60S Naval Hawk)
Well deck capacity: three LCAC or two LCU or six LCM-8 or 40 Amphibious Assault Vessels (AAV) (normal) or 61 AAVs (stowed)
Crew: Ship: 73 officers, 1,009 enlisted Marine Detachment: 1,894
Armament: two Mk-29 NATO Sea Sparrow launchers, two 20mm Phalanx CIWS, eight Mk-33 .50 cal. machine guns, two Rolling Airframe Missile Systems
Cost: approx. $761 million

This section contains the names of sailors who served aboard USS BONHOMME RICHARD. It is no official listing but contains the names of sailors who submitted their information.


Accidents aboard USS BONHOMME RICHARD:

It finally took until July 16 to extinguish all fires. 63 personnel, 40 US Navy sailors and 23 civilians, were treated for minor injuries.

Click here to get a view of the deployments of USS BONHOMME RICHARD.

About the Ship's Coat of Arms:

Dark blue and gold are the colors traditionally used by the United States Navy. The red, white, and blue shield reflects the national colors and suggests the coat of arms of the United States. The six red stripes represent the ship's hull number as well as the six coins placed beneath the mast during mast stepping red being the color of valor and sacrifice. The gold fleur-de-lis highlights the heritage of the first ship BONHOMME RICHARD. The King of France gave an armed ship to the American cause in 1779 which was placed under the command of John Paul Jones. Jones wanted a name with meaning for Americans and French alike, so he selected the pen name of Ben Franklin (then the U.S. Ambassador to France), and named the ship BONHOMME RICHARD in his honor. With this ship, John Paul Jones went on to defeat the British warship SERAPIS in one of the most famous sea battles in American history. The wreath of two green laurel branches symbolizes honor and high achievment commemorating the two previous ships carrying the name BONHOMME RICHARD. The eagle, overlooking the fleur-de-lis, adapted from historic flags and documents of the Revolutionary era, symbolizes the fighting spirit, patriotic fervor, and tenacity of both John Paul Jones and the United States Navy. The eagle is flanked by six gold stars representing the battle stars earned by the second BON HOMME RICHARD during World War II and the Korean War underscoring the heritage and continuing resolve of the fighting Navy. The chief is blue with a wavy edge suggesting a shoreline and reflecting the amphibious mission of the BONHOMME RICHARD.

The trident is emblematic of sea prowess and power from the sea It has wings to commemorate the second BON HOMME RICHARD, an aircraft carrier and the three tines further represent the three areas of that ships sea battle service: World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The trident is scarlet, a color traditionally used by the United States Marine Corps, and highlights action and zeal thus underscoring the ship's assault and battle insertion mission combining the land, sea, and air elements of the fighting force. The trident, synergistically combined with the crossed U.S. Navy and Marine swords, symbolizes combat readiness and teamwork highlighting the current LHD's potent amphibious and heliborne assault capabilities in the deployment of forces ashore.


The photos below were taken by me on July 27, 2006 (the first two photos) and on July 29, 2006, and show the BONHOMME RICHARD berthed at Pearl Harbor, HI., after her participation in RIMPAC 2006.

The photos below were taken by Ian Johnson and show the BONHOMME RICHARD during her first port visit to Fremantle, Australia. The photos were taken on October 16, 2007 (the first two photos), October 17, 2007 (the third and fourth photo), October 18, 2007 (fifth photo), and October 21, 2007 (last two photos).

The photos below were taken by me and show the BONHOMME RICHARD at Naval Base San Diego, Calif., on March 10, 2008.

The photos below were taken by me and show the BONHOMME RICHARD at San Francisco, Calif., on October 7, 2011. The ship was in town for Fleet Week 2011.

The photos below were taken by Shiu On Yee and show the BONHOMME RICHARD at Hong Kong on September 30, 2016.

The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning during one of the open ship events aboard USS BONHOMME RICHARD as part of Fleet Week San Francisco on October 4, 2018.

March 1998Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Miss.
Click here for more Photos.

The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the USS BONHOMME RICHARD during the Parade of Ships as part of Fleet Week San Francisco on October 5, 2018.

The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the USS BONHOMME RICHARD at Naval Base San Diego, Calif., on March 2, 2019.

The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the USS BONHOMME RICHARD dry-docked at NASSCO, San Diego, Calif., on September 1, 2019.

The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the USS BONHOMME RICHARD dry-docked at NASSCO, San Diego, Calif., on October 12, 2019.

The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the USS BONHOMME RICHARD dry-docked at NASSCO, San Diego, Calif., on November 8, 2019.

USS Bonhomme Richard

Authored By: JR Potts, AUS 173d AB | Last Edited: 07/21/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Duc de Duras, a 900 ton merchant ship built in France for the French East India Company in 1765, transported freight between the Orient and France. She was placed at the disposal of John Paul Jones and the Continental Navy on February 4, 1779, by King Louis XVI of France as a result of a loan to the United States. Jones was an admirer of Benjamin Franklin because of his founding father roots and also perhaps because Franklin was an envoy to France as the Commissioner to Paris. Jones renamed the Duc de Duras the "Bonhomme Richard" when, translated in English, meant "Poor Richard" - the pen name Franklin used when he wrote his "Poor Richard's Almanac". Franklin used the journal to shape public will against the British crown using witty humor.

The French gave Jones the authority to use his own judgment as to where he would sail to attack British shipping. Jones now had the ship but needed officers and a crew. The ship also needed to be converted from a merchantmen to a ship of war. A few months were needed to find and secure cannon and stores so she could become a fighting frigate. By this time Jones was bestowed the title of commodore as other ships were also placed under his command. The Bonhomme Richard was not a new ship by any regard, having made many voyages in her cargo guise. As such, she had a tendency to develop leaks to the point that Captain Jones felt uneasy. With a new coat of paint and a new name she was finally ready for the sea.

Jones sailed the Bonhomme Richard out on June 19, 1779 along with his squadron of ships including the fine USS Alliance (a 36-gun frigate), the French warships Pallas (a captured British 32-gun frigate), the Vengeance (a 12-gun British brig), the cutter Le Cerf and a complement of troop ships. This voyage resulted in no contact with British shipping but in August the fleet set sail into the North Sea and captured 16 British merchantmen along with their cargos. After returning to port for repairs, Alliance and the Bonhomme Richard collided in a storm.

The squadron sailed again on the 23rd. While they were near the entrance to Dingle Bay, a lookout sighted the vessel Fortune. Jones approached and the Bristol-bound brig lowered its flag as it was clearly out-gunned. Two armed boats were lowered from Jones' flagship and took the Fortune as a prize. Jones placed a small crew on board and sent the Fortune back to France. Also that day, the Alliance's commanding officer, Captain Pierre Landais, a former officer in the French Navy who went to America and received a captain's commission in the Continental Navy, was given the Alliance due to his sea experience. Landais was not content to serve under Jones and whenever possible was quite to derail his commands.

The squadron now found itself close to the Irish coast with the wind calming down. Jones was concerned if his ships pursued vessels into the shoals they might be stalled and result in capture. Jones ordered Landais to not follow a particular vessel towards shore. To that, Landais boarded the Bonhomme Richard and told Jones face-to-face that he would no longer obey Jones' orders. This became the first American mutiny at sea.

Problems continued for Jones and his squadron for, that evening, when Bonhomme Richard had drifted dangerously close to the shoals, Jones ordered his barge lowered so it could tow the frigate into deeper water away from Ireland. The coxswain and the boat's Irish oarsmen were delighted to return home and decided to cut the lines and row their vessels towards shore. The Le Cerf became separated from the squadron while looking for the boats and had no choice but to return to home port. Pallas, the French frigate, broke her tiller and dropped out of sight. Landais took Alliance off on his own without permission, leaving the Vengeance and the Bonhomme Richard to sail alone.

The two ships continued in a generally northerly direction west of the outer Hebrides and then headed for Cape Wrath towards Scotland. On August 30th, Jones sighted three ships and quickly gave chase. He overtook the brig Union and persuaded her to surrender. Alliance netted with a prize named Betsy and Landais again touted Jones' authority. Within a few days Pallas rejoined the squadron and, on the next day, Vengeance captured an Irish brigantine on its way to England. The squadron passed the Shetlands then turned south to begin the last leg of its cruise around the British Isles. The definant Alliance took two more small ships and Landais again left the squadron unknown to Jones. Jones next wanted to attack Newcastle, England, to interrupt England's coal supply however this task eventually proved impossible. Instead, the Bonhomme Richard drove a ship ashore south of Yorkshire and took a British brigantine sailing from Rotterdam to Britain.

On September 23, 1779, the small fleet sighted the British Baltic Fleet of 41 vessels under the protection of a 44-gun frigate, the HMS Serapis, and the Sloop of War Countess of Scarborough, a 22-gun ship-of-the-line. At around 6:00 PM, the Bonhomme Richard engaged Serapis and Pallas, attacked the Countess of Scarborough in what became the Battle of Flamborough Head. The USS Alliance did not engage the British but fired on the Bonhomme Richard instead. This action resulted in a court martial for Landias upon his return to France. Bonhomme Richard rounded Serapis' port quarter and fired but two of its cannon exploded below deck killing many of the gun crew. In Jones' favor, Midshipman Fanning and his men succeeded in eliminating the British sharpshooters from the top sail of the Bonhomme Richard.

Four hours of intense fighting left the Bonhomme Richard battered. and Captain Pearson of the Serapis saw the enemy ship badly listing from shot and shell. Pearson suggested surrender to Jones with Jones returning to the British captain saying "I have not yet begun to fight." Jones maneuvered his ship close to the Serapis and rammed her. The ensuing, carnage on both sides was horrifying and all this occurring while the American ship was sinking.

The two vessels became locked together via grappling hooks for another two hours. Jones utilized his British prisoners to work the pumps to keep his ship afloat. His actions wore the enemy down to the point of collapse and with the Serapis on fire, the British finally surrendered to Jones by striking their colors. Jones' crew put out the fire and took stock of the Richard. He decided to transfer his crew to the British ship while the Bonhomme Richard was allowed to sink, this occurring on September 25, 1779 despite valiant attempts to save the gallant ship. Jones sailed the Serapis to port in the United Provinces in Holland. The Continental Navy had its first victory over a British ship and this occurring in Britain's home waters of all places. This battle catapulted Jones into hero status and he was heralded as "The Father of the American Navy". His battle cry of "not begun to fight" would go down in American naval history and quotation lore.

Who Was John Paul Jones?

Occasionally referred to as the “Father of the American Navy,” as were others, John Paul Jones was born in Scotland, but was named John Paul. He is one of the most well-known Naval officers of the American Revolutionary War.

Jones began his maritime career in 1760, at the age of 13. He served on several ships until he got his big break in 1768. After safely navigating the ship he was on back to a port following the sudden deaths of the captain and a ranking mate from yellow fever, the owners of the ship made him master of the ship and crew.

While on his second voyage as master, Jones flogged a sailor in an “unnecessarily cruel” manner, according to accusations. At first the complaints were dismissed. When the sailor died several weeks later, however, Jones was arrested and jailed. The actual cause of the sailor’s death was attributed to other causes.

Jones was released on bail, and later left Scotland. He ended up on a vessel in Tobago where he worked in commercial speculation for approximately a year and a half. Trouble again found Jones when he killed a crewmember that had mutinied. Jones again fled and ended up in Fredericksburg, Virginia. His brother had recently died and left no relatives, so Jones went there to settle his brother’s estate. At approximately the same time, he added “Jones” to his name and became known as John Paul Junes, apparently in an effort to avoid the authorities.

Referring to America as “the country of his fond election,” to friends, he soon joined the American navy.

Jones was onboard the Alfred when the Continental Navy made its maiden cruise in Feburary 1776, ten months after the American Revolutionary War began.

Watch the video: Bonhomme Richard (May 2022).