This Day in History
I Have Not Yet Begun to Fight


“I Have Not Yet Begun to Fight”
September 23, 1779

Sent to France to find a ship suitable for conversion into a warship, Captain John Paul Jones found an old worn-out merchant ship which he renamed Bon Homme Richard, honoring Ben Franklin, publisher of Poor Richard’s Almanac. After refitting, he set sail in August, 1779, accompanied by the Pallas on a brief raiding voyage near England, whose merchant marine was “...far more apprehensive of this rover with his fleet of worn-out vessels than they had been of the whole might of the French Navy.” On September 23, 1779, Bon Homme Richard met the 50-gun H.M.S. Serapis accompanied by a 22-gun sloop of war. Jones’ supporting ship, the Pallas, engaged the sloop while Bon Homme Richard tackled the Serapis. After several punishing broadsides, Jones brought his battered ship to the Serapis’ side. Then the American Flag was cut down by a shot, and Jones was asked if he had surrendered. His reply was “I have not yet begun to fight.” Soon marksmen in the tops of Bon Homme Richard had wounded or driven below nearly everyone from the deck of the Serapis except British Captain Pearson. Soon, American boarders swarmed aboard the British ship, and a marine crawled across the interlocked yards of the two ships and dropped grenades down the Serapis hatchway setting fire to cartridges and to the ship. Captain Pearson, his ship on fire and his crew decimated, surrendered to John Paul Jones, and the Bon Homme Richard was cut loose and finally sank, but an American flag was soon raised in victory over the vanquished Serapis. Jones, hero of the Revolution, is buried today at Annapolis, Maryland, home of the U.S. Naval Academy.





September's Archived Features:

Tuesday September 1, 2020
Wednesday September 2, 2020
Thursday September 3, 2020
Friday September 4, 2020
Saturday September 5, 2020
Sunday September 6, 2020
Monday September 7, 2020
Tuesday September 8, 2020
Wednesday September 9, 2020
Thursday September 10, 2020
Friday September 11, 2020
Saturday September 12, 2020
Sunday September 13, 2020
Monday September 14, 2020
Tuesday September 15, 2020
Wednesday September 16, 2020
Thursday September 17, 2020
Friday September 18, 2020
Saturday September 19, 2020
Sunday September 20, 2020
Monday September 21, 2020
Tuesday September 22, 2020

 

 

 
All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.