Navy Searching for Historic Ship
September 13, 2010
US Navy News
STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. -- The U.S. Navy, in conjunction with the Ocean Technology Foundation (OTF), the British Royal navy and the French navy, is leading participation in a search for the remains of the revolutionary warship Bonhomme Richard off the coast of Flamborough Head, England, the week of Sept. 10. The search is expected to take approximately 10 days.
Bonhomme Richard formerly the French 42 gun converted frigate Duc de Duras,1779
The Bonhomme Richard was a converted frigate given by France to John Paul Jones and the Continental Navy in support of the Revolutionary War. John Paul Jones renamed the ship Bonhomme Richard (Good Man Richard) in honor of his patron Benjamin Franklin, who used the pen name Richard Saunders to publish "Poor Richard's Almanac."
The oceanographic survey ship USNS Henson (T-AGS 63), operated by Military Sealift Command for the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, will be the primary platform for the search. The survey crew is comprised of oceanographers from the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) who planned and coordinated the U.S. Navy's participation in this search.
HMS Serapis engaged with Bonhomme Richard September 23, 1779
Representatives from the U.S. Naval Academy, Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Naval History and Heritage Command will also be aboard Henson to assist in the search and identification of found artifacts. The search planning process included use of a computer program developed by the faculty of the U.S. Naval Academy that integrates historical data, crew actions and last known position to establish where the ship is most likely to be found.
Painting of Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis of the coast of England 1779
Bonhomme Richard, commanded by John Paul Jones, was lost off the coast of England in 1779 after a decisive battle with HMS Serapis, during which Jones shouted his famous words, "I have not yet begun to fight." Jones and his crew emerged from the battle victorious, seizing HMS Serapis as Bonhomme Richard sustained heavy damage during the battle and sank 36 hours later. The discovery of the Bonhomme Richard would be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in U.S. Navy history.
John Paul Jones
"Over their years of active service, the Navy's oceanographic ships have sailed hundreds of thousands of nautical miles collecting critical oceanographic and hydrographic data that enable decision superiority across the spectrum of naval operations," said Rear Adm. Jonathan W. White, commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMETOC). "I consider it an honor that our cutting edge naval ocean survey technology now will now be used to forge a connection with this historic ship and its commander and U.S. Navy hero, John Paul Jones."
Cross-sectional model of the Bonhomme Richard
Survey equipment will include Henson's towed side-scan sonar, unmanned underwater vehicles with side-scan and multibeam sonar, as well as ONR's unmanned underwater vehicles equipped with buried mine identification (BMI). The BMI system, consisting of an ultra-sensitive laser scalar gradiometer, a side-scan sonar and electro-optical imager, will employ technology used for identifying mines buried in the ocean bottom to find remnants of the Bonhomme Richard. A French navy mine-hunter with embarked divers will join the search to dive on any artifacts that require closer inspection.
French Frigate similar to the one given to fledgling Continental Navy which would become the Bonhomme Richard
This is the fifth expedition organized by the OTF in which the Navy has participated. This year's effort is the largest collaboration to date and includes the most substantial support by U.S. Navy assets. NMETOC directs the Navy's meteorology and oceanography programs, maintains the Navy's atomic clock for precise time and tracks the positions of the stars for navigation. The command is comprised of approximately 3,000 officers, enlisted and civilian personnel stationed around the world. Naval oceanography enables the safety, speed and operational effectiveness of the fleet by illuminating the risks and opportunities for naval and joint forces posed by the present and future natural environment. NAVOCEANO is NMETOC's largest subordinate command.
The oceanographic survey ship USNS Henson, operated by Military Sealift Command for the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, will be the primary platform for the search.
The Battle of Flamborough Head
In 1779, Captain Jones took command of the 42-gun Bonhomme Richard
(or as he preferred it, Bon Homme Richard), a merchant ship rebuilt and given to America by the French shipping magnate, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray. On August 14, as a vast French and Spanish invasion fleet approached England, he provided a diversion by heading for Ireland at the head of a five ship squadron including the 36-gun Alliance, 32-gun Pallas
, 12-gun Vengeance
, and Le Cerf
, also accompanied by two privateers. Several Royal Navy warships were sent towards Ireland in pursuit, but on this occasion, he continued right around the north of Scotland into the North Sea, creating near-panic all along Britain's east coast as far south as the Humber estuary. Jones's main problems, as on his previous voyage, resulted from insubordination, particularly by Pierre Landais, captain of the Alliance
. On September 23, 1779, the squadron met a large merchant convoy off the coast off Flamborough Head, east Yorkshire. The 50-gun British frigate HMS Serapis
and the 20-gun hired escort Countess of Scarborough
placed themselves between the convoy and Jones's squadron, allowing the merchants to escape.
Battle of Flamborough Head
Shortly after 7 p.m. the Battle of Flamborough Head had begun. The Serapis
engaged the Bonhomme Richard
, and soon afterwards, the Alliance
fired, from a considerable distance, at the Countess
. Quickly recognising that he could not win a battle of big guns, and with the wind dying, Jones made every effort to lock Richard and Serapis
together (his famous quotation, "I have not yet begun to fight!"
was uttered in reply to a cheerful British taunt during an odd stalemate in this phase of the battle), finally succeeding after about an hour, following which his deck guns and marksmen in the rigging began clearing the British decks. Alliance
sailed past and fired a broadside, doing at least as much damage to the Richard as to the Serapis. Meanwhile, the Countess of Scarborough
had enticed the Pallas downwind of the main battle, beginning a separate engagement. When Alliance
approached this contest, about an hour after it had begun, the badly damaged Countess
With Bonhomme Richard
burning and sinking, it seems that her ensign was shot away; when one of the officers, apparently believing his captain to be dead, shouted a surrender, the British commander asked, seriously this time, if they had struck their colors. Jones later remembered saying something like "I am determined to make you strike", but the words allegedly heard by crew-members and reported in newspapers a few days later were more like: "I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike."
An attempt by the British to board Bonhomme Richard
was thwarted, and a grenade caused the explosion of a large quantity of gunpowder on Serapis’s
lower gun-deck. Alliance
then returned to the main battle, firing two broadsides. Again, these did at least as much damage to Richard
as to Serapis
, but the tactic worked to the extent that, unable to move, and with Alliance
keeping well out of the line of his own great guns, Captain Pearson of Serapis
accepted that prolonging the battle could achieve nothing, so he surrendered. Most of Bonhomme Richard's
crew immediately transferred to other vessels, and after a day and a half of frantic repair efforts, it was decided that the ship could not be saved, so it was allowed to sink, and Jones took command of Serapis
for the trip to neutral (but American-sympathising) Holland.
Years after his naval career ended, June of 1792, Jones was appointed the U.S. Consul to treat with the Dey of Algiers for the release of American captives. Before Jones was able to fulfill his appointment, however, he died of a severe brain tumor and was found lying face-down on his bed in his third-floor Paris apartment, No. 42 Rue de Tournon, on July 18, 1792. A small procession of servants, friends and loyal soldiers walked his body the four miles (6 km) for burial. He was buried in Paris at the Saint Louis Cemetery, which belonged to the French royal family. Four years later, France's revolutionary government sold the property and the cemetery was forgotten. The area was later used as a garden, a place to dispose of dead animals and a place where gamblers bet on animal fights.
In 1905, Jones's remains were identified by US Ambassador to France Gen. Horace Porter, who had searched for six years to track down the body using faulty copies of Jones's burial record. Thanks to the kind donation of a French admirer, Pierrot Francois Simmoneau, who had donated over 460 francs for a lead coffin for Jones, Porter knew what to look for in his search. Porter's team, which included anthropologist Louis Capitan, identified an abandoned site in northeastern Paris as the former St. Louis Cemetery for Alien Protestants. Sounding probes were used to search for lead coffins and five coffins were ultimately exhumed. The third, unearthed on April 7, 1905, was later identified by a meticulous post-mortem examination by Doctors Capitan and Georges Papillault as being that of Jones. The face was later compared to a bust by Jean-Antoine Houdon.
The final resting place of John Paul Jones, US Naval Academy's Chapel in Annapolis, MD
Jones's body was ceremonially removed from interment in a Parisian charnel house and brought to the United States aboard the USS Brooklyn
, escorted by three other cruisers. On approaching the American coastline, seven U.S. Navy battleships joined the procession escorting Jones's body back to America. On April 24, 1906, Jones's coffin was installed in Bancroft Hall at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, following a ceremony in Dahlgren Hall, presided over by President Theodore Roosevelt who gave a lengthy tributary speech. On January 26, 1913, the Captain's remains were finally re-interred in a magnificent bronze and marble sarcophagus at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis.