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Continental frigate Bonhomme Richard

Continental frigate Bonhomme Richard

Continental frigate Bonhomme Richard, 1779

Originally built in 1766 by the French East India Company, the French merchant vessel, Duc de Duras, was purchased by King Lous XVI of France and given to Captain John Paul Jones on February 4, 1779 for use against Great Britain.   Jones renamed the frigate Bonhomme Richard to honor Benjamin Franklin, the American Commissioner at Paris, whose famous almanacs had been published in France under the title Les Maximes de Bonhomme Richard.   Following modifications, she became the flagship to a squadron consisting of the frigate Alliance, the former French privateer ship Pallas, and the brig Vengeance,    In August and September, they captured 16 British Royal Navy and merchant ships.    On September 23, Bonhomme Richard engaged the Royal Navy ship HMS Serapis, commanded by Captain Richard Pearson, and the hired navy vessel HMS Countess of Scarborough off Flamborough Head, England.    With the frigate being destroyed by enemy fire, Pearson called for surrender, which Jones replied, "I have not yet begun to fight!"   Emerging victorious after a four-and-half hour engagement, Serapis and Countess of Scarborough were captured while Bonhomme Richard eventually sank into the sea two days later.  

A model of the Bonhomme Richard can be found in The American Revolution and the French Alliance section at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.    

Image:   KN-126:  "The Memorable Engagement of Captain Pearson of Serapis with Paul Jones of the Bonhomme Richard and his squadron, September 23, 1779."   Artwork by Thomas Butterworth.  Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, now in the collection of the National Archives.