Physical Description
Cast-iron spheres.
General History
Grenades of this type played an important part in the biggest naval battle of the Revolutionary War. The Bon Homme Richard under the command of Captain John Paul Jones entered into a battle with the British ship the Serapis. The Serapis was a much faster and heavier ship. As the battle continued, the two ships ended up side by side. Jones relied on the eighteen-pound large cannons in the gun room. As six of the cannons were discharged, two of the fired guns burst. This explosion blew out the deck above and killed a large number of the people below. Jones was forced to abandon his most powerful weapons. As the firing halted, British Captain Pearson asked Jones if he was surrendering. Jones’s comment has endured the test of time. He replied, “I have not yet begun to fight.” The fighting continued but with the battle guns disabled there was little the Bon Homme Richard could do. As the crew of the Serapis fought below, the seamen of the Bon Homme Richard began throwing grenades onto the upper two decks of the Serapis. Others followed suit, throwing the grenades through the ports of the Serapis. One seaman climbed to the very end of a yardarm and with a bucket of grenades achieved such precision that he was able to land grenades through the main hatchway. The powder-boys of the Serapis carelessly laid out a row of cartridges on the main deck. One of the grenades hit loose powder, setting off a domino effect igniting one cartridge after another. The explosion was devastating to the Serapis. It is estimated that 60 men were instantly disabled by the single, well-placed grenade. The Serapis was permanently disabled and the Bon Homme Richard under John Paul Jones was victorious.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Fleet of 1733 shipwreck
Physical Description
iron (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 4 1/2 in x 3 1/2 in x 3 1/2 in; 11.43 cm x 8.89 cm x 8.89 cm
found at
United States: Florida
shipwreck location
Florida Strait
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Revolution and the New Nation
Colonization and Settlement
See more items in
Armed Forces History: Armed Forces History, Naval
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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