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Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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USS Bonhomme Richard
(Frigate: Tonnage 998; Length 152'; Beam 40'; Depth 19'; Complement 375; Armament 28 12-pounder smoothbore, 6 18-pounder smoothbore, 8 9-pounder smoothbore)
History of USS  Bonhomme Richard

Bonhomme Richard is the French equivalent of "Poor Richard." John Paul Jones gave the famous ship this name in honor of Benjamin Franklin.

The first Bonhomme Richard, formerly Duc de Durae, was a frigate built in France for the East India Co., in 1765, for service between France and the Orient. She was placed at the disposal of John Paul Jones 4 February 1779 by the French King and renamed Bonhomme Richard.

On 19 June 1779 Bonhomme Richard sailed from L'Orient accompanied by Alliance, Pallas, Vengeance, and Cerf with troop transports and merchant vessels under convoy to Bordeaux and to cruise against the British in the Bay of Biscay. Forced to return to port for repair, the squadron sailed again 14 August 1779. Going northwest around the west coast of the British Isles into the North Sea and then down the east coast the squadron took 16 merchant vessels as prizes.

On 23 September 1779 they encountered the Baltic Fleet of 41 sail under convoy of HMS Serapis (44) and Countess of Scarborough (22) near Flamborough Head. After 1800 Bonhomme Richard engaged Serapis and a bitter engagement ensued during the next four hours before Serapis struck her colors. Bonhomme Richard, shattered, on fire, and leaking badly defied all efforts to save her and sank at 1100 on 25 September 1779. John Paul Jones sailed the captured Serapis to Holland for repairs.

8 August 2001