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.

November's Archived Features:

Tuesday November 1, 2022
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Saturday November 26, 2022



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.