USS Bonhomme Richard (1765)

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For other ships of the same name, see USS Bonhomme Richard.
The Bonhomme Richard, 1779. Copy of artwork by F. Muller, 1883 - 1966 - NARA - 512971.tif
Career (US)
Name: Bonhomme Richard
Builder: Randall & Brent Shipyards
Launched: 1766[1]
Acquired: 4 February 1779
In service: 4 February 1779
Out of service: 25 September 1779[1]
Fate: Sunk
General characteristics
Tonnage: 998
Length: 152 ft (46 m)[1]
Beam: 40 ft (12 m)[1]
Draft: 19 ft (5.8 m)[1]
Propulsion: Sail
Complement: 380 officers and enlisted[1]
Armament: 28 x 12-pound smoothbore
6 x 18-pound smoothbore
8 x 9-pound smoothbore[1]

Bonhomme Richard, formerly Duc de Duras, was a warship in the Continental Navy. She was originally an East Indiaman, a merchant ship built in France for the French East India Company in 1765, for service between France and the Orient. She was placed at the disposal of John Paul Jones on 4 February 1779, by King Louis XVI of France as a result of a loan to the United States by French shipping magnate, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray.

Origin[edit]

Little is known about the early career of Bonhomme Richard other than she was originally an East Indiaman named Duc de Duras; a merchant ship built in France for the French East India Company in 1765. In that capacity she sailed between France and the Orient until purchased by King Louis XVI of France in early 1779 and placed under the command John Paul Jones on 4 February.[2] The size and armament of Duc de Duras made her a rough equivalent of half of a 64-gun ship of the line[3]

Jones renamed her Bon Homme Richard - usually rendered in more correct French as Bonhomme Richard, to honor Benjamin Franklin, the American Commissioner at Paris whose Poor Richard's Almanac was published in France under the title of Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard.[1]

First patrols[edit]

On 19 June 1779, Bonhomme Richard sailed from Lorient accompanied by USS Alliance, Pallas, Vengeance, and Cerf with troop transports and merchant vessels under convoy to Bordeaux and to cruise against the British in the Bay of Biscay. Forced to return to port for repair, the squadron sailed again 14 August 1779. It went northwest around the west coast of the British Isles into the North Sea and then down the east coast. The squadron took 16 merchant vessels as prizes.

Battle of Flamborough Head[edit]

Further information: Battle of Flamborough Head
Bonhomme Richard on fire

On 23 September 1779, they encountered the Baltic Fleet of 41 sail under convoy of HMS Serapis and HM hired armed vessel Countess of Scarborough near Flamborough Head. Bonhomme Richard and Serapis entered a bitter engagement at approximately 6:00 p.m. The battle ensued over the next four hours, costing the lives of nearly half the American and British crews. British victory seemed inevitable as the more heavily armed Serapis used its firepower to rake Bonhomme Richard with devastating effect. The Commanding Officer of Serapis then called on Jones to surrender, who replied, "Sir, I have not yet begun to fight!" Jones eventually succeeded in lashing the two ships together, nullifying his opponent's greater maneuverability and allowing Jones to take advantage of the larger size and considerably greater crew of Bonhomme Richard. An attempt by the Americans to board Serapis was repulsed, as was an attempt by the British to board Bonhomme Richard. Finally, after another of Jones's squadron joined in the fight, the British captain surrendered at about 10:30 p.m. Bonhomme Richard – shattered, on fire, leaking badly – defied all efforts to save her and sank about 36 hours later at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, 25 September 1779. Jones sailed the captured Serapis to the Dutch United Provinces for repairs.

Though Bonhomme Richard sank subsequent to the battle, the outcome of the battle convinced the French crown of the wisdom of backing the colonies in their fight to separate from British authority.

Search for the wreck[edit]

Bonhomme Richard's final resting location is the subject of much speculation. A number of unsuccessful efforts have been conducted to locate the wreck. The location is presumed to be in approximately 180 feet (55 m) of water off Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, a headland near where her final battle took place. The number of other wrecks in the area and a century of fishing trawling operations have complicated all searches.

One season's attempts to locate and retrieve the ship, or some artifacts from her, using USNS Grasp were filmed for Discovery Channel's Mighty Ships series. The mission was not a success.

References[edit]

Notes

Sources

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External links[edit]