Captain John Paul Jones hailing HMS Serapis during the action from the deck of the frigate Bonhomme Richard, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Paul Moran. During the action, all firing ceased and for several moments Captain Pearson of the Serapis called out, “Have you struck your colors?” “I have not yet begun to fight,” replied Captain Jones, were upon the firing resumed. Serapis later struck her colors.
“I Have Not Yet Begun to Fight,” John Paul Jones, making his legendary battle cry from the deck of Bonhomme Richard, during her action with HMS Serapis, Sept., 23 1779.
On Sept. 23, 1779, the frigate, Bonhomme Richard, commanded by John Paul Jones, engages HMS Serapis, commanded by Capt. Richard Pearson off Flamborough Head, England. With Bonhomme Richard being nearly destroyed by enemy fire, Pearson calls for surrender, which Jones replies, “I have not yet begun to fight!” Emerging victorious, Jones captures and takes over Serapis, while Bonhomme Richard sinks into the sea.
Bonhomme Richard vs HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. Artwork of Anton O. Fischer.
USS Bonhomme Richard engages HMS Serapis off Flamborough Head, England, 23 September 1779. Bookplate from a painting by Charles R. Patterson, 1929.
“I Have Not Yet Begun to Fight.” Detail of a shadow box exhibit at the U.S. Naval Academy showing John Paul Jones making his legendary battle cry from the deck of Bonhomme Richard, during her action with HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. The diorama was photographed in December 1953 by Taggart.
Captain John Paul Jones after an A.L. Stephens engraving of his boarding HMS Serapis.
Captain Richard Pearson, Royal Navy. Captain Pearson commanded HMS Serapis when she was captured by John Paul Jones in 1779. Engraving by W. R. Cook, published in the “Naval Chronicle,” Vol. 24, London, November 1810. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 68672.
For his spirited battle against John Paul Jones, Pearson was considered a hero. He was knighted, received presents from the merchants and the freedoms of several towns.
Bonhomme Richard vs Serapis, 23 September 1779. Engraved view of the action probably from the 19th century. US Marine Corps photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives:
Bonhomme Richard vs HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. Watercolor by Edward Tufnall. Courtesy of Mrs. Leslie R. Groves.
Bonhomme Richard vs HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Warren. Courtesy of the Mariner’s Museum. Bailey Collection #232.
Frigate Bonhomme Richard vs. HMS Serapis, engraving of the action off Flamborough Head, published by John Harris, London, 1 December 1871. It is after the painting by Robert Dodd, and is dedicated by the pubisher to the “Merchants Trading to Russia.” Courtesy of the Beverly R. Robinson Collection at the U.S. Naval Institute.
Captain John Paul Jones capturing HMS Serapis. This battle occurred off Flamborough Head, England. An original line engraving after a painting by Chappel, published in “Battles of the U.S. by Sea and Land,” by Henry B. Watson, 1859. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 56483.
Frigate Bonhomme Richard vs. HMS Serapis, action off Flamborough Head, England, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Carlton T. Champan. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection
Continental Frigate Bonhomme Richard engaging HMS Serapis, off Flamborough Head, on 23 September 1779. Engraving by R. Collier after Hamilton. Published circa 1780. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 58940.
Note: Just what does “Bonhomme Richard” mean?
Bonhomme Richard — A French translation of Benjamin Franklin’s nom de plume, “Poor Richard.” When John Paul Jones received the Duc de Duras from the King of France, Louis XVI, he renamed the former French East Indiaman Bonhomme Richard to honor Franklin, the American Commissioner at Paris whose famous almanacs had been published in France under the title Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard.
The memorable engagement of Captain Pearson of the Serapis with Paul Jones of the Bonhomme Richard and his squadron, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Thomas Buttersworth. Painting is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection
The Action between HMS Serapis, Captain Pearson, the Countess of Scarborough, and John Paul Jones’ squaderon, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Richard Paton. Painting is in the collection of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection
The action between HMS Serapis, commanded by Captain Pearson and the Continental frigate Bonhomme Richard, commanded by Captain John Paul Jones. Artwork by Lieutenant William Elliott, Royal Navy, signed and dated by artist, 1789. Painting is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection
USS Bonhomme Richard vs. HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. This action occurred off Flamborough Head, England. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection
John Paul Jones bidding goodbye to his victorious ship. Artwork by Percy Moran. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection
USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31). Slides down the building ways, as she is launched at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, on 29 April 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-K-3888(Color).
Notes: USS Yorktown (CV-10) was originally intended to be named Bonhomme Richard, but after USS Yorktown (CV-5) was sunk during the Battle of Midway, the new carrier gained Yorktown’s name.
Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) is considered the second ship of the name despite the difference in spelling, an error which may have crept in as early as the 1860s when the name was assigned to the steam frigate that was never built and which later was compounded, no doubt, by the haste with which an enormous number of ships had to be named during World War II.
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, after participating in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises July 31, 2010. RIMPAC is a biennial, multinational exercise to strengthen regional partnerships and improve multinational interoperability.
On the Web:
Read more about John Paul Jones
Read and see more about USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31)
The Naval History and Heritage Command Underwater Archeology Team has just returned for the search of Bonhomme Richard, please click here for their blog on the expedition.
Read more about the Continental frigate Bonhomme Richard
Read John Paul Jones chronology of service
Read more about Captain Richard Pearson via the British National Maritime Museum
National Park Service website about John Paul Jones