USS Bonhomme Richard (1765)

USS Bonhomme Richard (1765)

The first USS "Bonhomme Richard", formerly "Duc de Duras", was a frigate 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 February 4, 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.

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 almanac, "Poor Richard's Almanac" had been published in France under the title "Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard".

On June 19, 1779, "Bonhomme Richard" sailed from Lorient accompanied by "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 August 14, 1779. Going 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.

On September 23, 1779, they encountered the Baltic Fleet of 41 sail under convoy of HMS "Serapis" (44) and "Countess of Scarborough" (22) near Flamborough Head. After 18:00 "Bonhomme Richard" engaged "Serapis" and a bitter engagement, the Battle of Flamborough Head, ensued during the next four hours that cost the lives of nearly half the American and British crews. At first, a British victory seemed inevitable as the more heavily armed "Serapis" used its superior firepower to rake "Bonhomme Richard" with devastating effect, killing Americans by the score. However, Jones eventually succeeded in lashing the two ships together, nullifying his opponent's greater maneuverability. 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 (uncaringly causing serious collateral damage aboard the "Richard") the British captain surrendered at about 10.30pm. "Bonhomme Richard", shattered, on fire, and leaking badly defied all efforts to save her and sank at 11:00 on September 25, 1779. John Paul Jones sailed the captured "Serapis" to the 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. The defeat of "Serapis", no less in home waters, stung the British admiralty.

"Bonhomme Richard's" final resting location is the subject of much speculation. A number of efforts have been conducted to locate the wreck. As of 2005, these efforts have been unsuccessful. The location of the wreck is presumed to be Flamborough Head in Yorkshire, a headland near where her final battle took place in approximately 180 feet of water. The number of other wrecks in the area and a century of fishing trawling operations have complicated all searches.

References

*DANFS|http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/b8/bonhomme_richard-i.htm

External links

* [http://modelshipbuilder.com/models/model-ship-builder-pierre-and-jacques-mailliere.html Detailed Plank on Frame wooden model of the Bonhomme Richard]
* [http://modelshipbuilder.com/articles/bonhomme-richard.html Search for the Bonhomme Richard] Clive Cussler recounts his elusive search for the Bonhomme Richard.


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