Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bonhomme Richard

The ship donated to the Americans by King Louis XVI and placed under the command of Scottish-born John Paul Jones, the Bonhomme Richard took part in the most famous naval battle of the Revolutionary War, described as follows:
On 23 September 1779, they encountered the Baltic Fleet of 41 sail under convoy of HMS Serapis and Countess of Scarborough near Flamborough Head. After 18:00 Bonhomme Richard engaged Serapis and a bitter engagement, the Battle of Flamborough Head, ensued during the next four hours that cost the lives of nearly half the American and British crews. At first, a British victory seemed inevitable as the more heavily armed Serapis used its firepower to rake Bonhomme Richard with devastating effect, killing Americans by the score. The Commanding Officer of Serapis then called on Jones to surrender, who replied, "Sir, I have not yet begun to fight!" Jones eventually succeeded in lashing the two ships together, nullifying his opponent's greater maneuverability and attempting to take advantage of the larger size and considerably greater crew of Bonhomme Richard. An attempt by the Americans to board Serapis was repulsed, as was an attempt by the British to board Bonhomme Richard. Finally, after another of Jones's squadron joined in the fight (uncaringly causing serious collateral damage aboard the Richard) the British captain surrendered at about 10:30 p.m. Bonhomme Richard, shattered, on fire, and leaking badly defied all efforts to save her and sank about 36 hours later at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, 25 September 1779. John Paul Jones sailed the captured Serapis to the United Provinces for repairs.

Though Bonhomme Richard sank subsequent to the battle, the outcome of the battle convinced the French crown of the wisdom of backing the colonies in their fight to separate from British authority.
                                                                                               John Paul Jones. Share


MadMonarchist said...

I'm fairly well read on the War for Independece (for an average 'foreign' joe) and I never knew the ship came from France so this was interesting. I do wish Commodore John Barry (an Irish Catholic) got as much attention for his extensive career in the formative years of the American Navy as John Paul Jones has for his victories which, while thrilling, did not have a major impact on the conflict.

P. M. Doolan said...

One of the great ironies of history - that the French support of the American revolutionaries played an essential part in the latter gaining their independance, but the cost of giving that support brought the French monarchy into such financial dire straits that revolution broke out in France and swept away the monarchy.

Brantigny said...

Interestingly enough, it was not the Continental Marines who served about the 'Richard, but a detachment of an Irish Regiment in French service, the Regiment Walsh-Serrant.

Their uniforms of the normal red coat (of Irish in French service) and white facings may have caused a bit of consternation with the crew as that was the colour of the Royal Marines uniform at that period.

It was most likely a member of that regt on a mast top who tossed a grenade through an open hatch combing which set off fires below on the Serapis.

Just a bit of trivia...