Today in military history: Battle of Flamborough Head

On Sep. 23, 1779, John Paul Jones won the naval Battle of Flamborough Head after engaging the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough.
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The Action Between the Frigates Bonhomme Richard (Capt John Paul Jones) And HMS Serapis, During The Battle Of Flamborough Head, 1779. The Alliance fires on the combatants. (Wikimedia Commons)

On Sep. 23, 1779, John Paul Jones won the naval Battle of Flamborough Head.

During the Revolutionary War, Jones was commissioned into the new Continental Navy and in August 1779, took command of the Bonhomme Richard, a French ship flying under the American flag and creating havoc within the British Isles.

On Sep. 23, Jones engaged the British ships of war Serapis and Countess of Scarborough in a battle he managed to win — despite having the odds and numbers against him. During the conflict, when asked by the captain of the Serapis if he wished to surrender, Jones replied, “I have not yet begun to fight.”

He then crashed his ship into the Serapis, had his sharpshooters clear the enemy deck, and captured the Serapis while the Bonhomme Richard sank.

After the battle, he was both hailed as a hero and denigrated a pirate, depending on which country you ask. 

His remains are interred at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

As for his flagship, the Bonhomme Richard, today there is still a search to find her. The Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration, led by GFOE Vice President Melissa Ryan, started a project in 2006 to search for the remains of the legendary Revolutionary War ship. Their current focus is the investigation of a high priority wreck site first discovered by the French Navy on a joint expedition in 2012. The site has revealed an iron anchor, rigging block, lengths of partially buried wooden planking, and other artifacts indicating that it may be an 18th-century wreck.