Comitia Americana Medals -- John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones

Copper Libertas Americana medal.

The myth of the Battle of Flamborough Head is perhaps as important as the actually event. The battle saw Captain John Paul Jones in command of USS Bonhomme Richard, a French merchant ship refitted for battle, take on the British frigate HMS Serapis. Jones’ intention was to attack a large merchant convoy off of the coast of East Yorkshire until HMS Serapis interceded and allowed the convoy to get away. The British vessel engaged Jones’ and his 5 ship squadron (a cutter had been separated from the squadron and a privateer had returned to port). Jones decided to lock USS Bonhomme Richard with HMS Serapis as his 42 gun vessel was no match for the 50 gun British frigate with the wind dying. HMS Serapis unleashed a torrent of deck gun fire on Jones’ vessel. With his ship taking on water, burning, and most of his crew injured or killed the myth of Jones calling “I have not yet begun to fight,” to his men and “I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike,” towards to British indicates the valor and vigor with which Jones and his men fought. While the USS Bonhomme Richard was in no small need of help (it would sink two days later), the HMS Serapis was not in much better shape. A grenade destroyed a good portion of the British lower gun deck, at which time the other frigate in Jones’ squadron, USS Alliance joined the fray. The British Captain Pearson finally surrendered, fearing any additional length to the battle would destroy his vessel and his men. Though certainly a messy naval exchange, the victory of the USS Bonhomme Richard in a battle of attrition against the seemingly invincible British Navy brought an immense amount of legitimacy to the United States and inspired his medal.