The Log-Book of Captain John Paul Jones

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The Battle of Flamborough Head, sequenced in paintings:

1.  (Serapis is on the left, yellow, Bonhomme Richard on right, with black paint):  Jones orders the starboard battery to fire.

2.  Jones brings the Bonhomme Richard astern of the Serapis in an attempt to board her. 

2 a. [Not shown] Richard’s bowspirit becomes tangles into Serapis’s mizzen rigging.  Some biographers believe this is where Captain Pearson asked Jones if he struck his colors (i.e. surrender) and Jones [supposedly] gave his immortal reply, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

3.  Richard takes the wind out of Serapis’s sails and the British ship cannot manuveur.  Her jibboom is driven into Richard’s mizzenmast.  Jones orders his sailing master to lash Serapis’s job boom to Richard’s mizzenmast, then drives the ships closer together.

4.  The wind moves the two ships together.  Serapis’s starboard anchor hooks against Richard’s bulwarks.  Fighting continues as the ships remained locked together.  Marines in the tops of both ships exchange musket fire and grenades and fire upon men on the decks.

5.  Fires break out on both Serapis and Bonhomme Richard.  Fighting stops so that the fires may be put out.

6.  The American ship Alliance (under comman of Capt. Landais) comes back and fires broadsides upon both Serapis and Bonhomme Richard, with the Richard taking most of the hits.  American soldiers cry out that their own men are being killed.  Alliance sails away.

Not shown: Sailor William Hamilton, up in Richard’s main yard, lobs grenades down upon Serapis’s deck.  One falls into an open hatch and explodes, setting off a chain reaction as it ignites powder cartridges.  In the midst of battle, three American sailors believe their captain is dead and cry out to the British captain for quarter.  Jones comes on deck, enraged, tries to shoot them, but having already discharged his pistol, settles for throwing it and hitting one of the sailors in the head.  Pearson asks Jones if he surrenders and he declines; Pearson orders a boarding party but is beaten back severely.  Serapis loses her mainmast.  Jones asks Pearson to haul down his colors and the British captain takes his flag down himself.  Pearson presents Jones with his sword.  The battle is over.

Jones invites Pearson to his cabin for a glass of wine.

The next morning, despite efforts to save her, Bonhomme Richard sinks.

  • 22 August 2011
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