Bonhomme Richard vs Serapis
Flamborough Head 1779
By Mark Lardas
(Osprey Publishing, Paperback, 9781849087858, 80pp.)
Publication Date: July 24, 2012
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The clash between the American Bonhomme Richard and the British HMS Serapis during the American Revolutionary War is perhaps the most famous single-ship duel in history. This epic battle between two very similar ships - and crews - off the coast of Britain in September 1779 created two naval heroes: in victory John Paul Jones became a figure that all future American naval officers would aspire to emulate, while Richard Pearson, in defeat, became a hero to the British for a tenacious defense that allowed the merchant vessels under his protection to escape.
In September 1779 five warships loosely commanded by John Paul Jones and sailing under the American flag - although all but one had all been loaned or donated by France, a key American ally - were moving down the Yorkshire coast when they encountered a Baltic merchant convoy of over 40 ships escorted by two British vessels, the Serapis and the Countess of Scarborough. A confused encounter battle culminated in the Bonhomme Richard, already severely damaged by British gunnery, deliberately colliding with the Serapis as John Paul Jones strove to board and capture the Royal Navy vessel before his own sank beneath him. The two ships continued to exchange devastating fire at point-blank range; an American grenade exploded on an arms chest on the Serapis, causing massive destruction on deck. Even so, the outcome of the battle remained inconclusive throughout the night until the British captain Richard Pearson, seeing that the merchant vessels under his protection had reached safety, reluctantly decided to surrender to his exhausted adversary. The Countess of Scarborough also surrendered, and the American squadron (minus the Bonhomme Richard, which promptly sank) were able to escape with their two prizes, observed by thousands of onlookers from the Yorkshire coastline.
Featuring specially commissioned full-color artwork, this is the story of an epic maritime clash at the height of the Revolutionary War that provided a founding legend for generations of US naval officers and demonstrated the intrepidity and fighting prowess of the fledgling American Navy.
Mark Lardas holds a degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, but spent his early career at the Johnson Space Center doing Space Shuttle structural analysis, and space navigation. An amateur historian and a long-time ship modeler, Mark Lardas is currently working in League City, Texas. He has written extensively about modeling as well as naval, maritime, and military history.
"[The book] is accompanied by some excellent period illustrations as well as more modern illustrations and maps that help to put the reader on board both ships. It makes for a superb read and one I can most highly recommend."
- Scott Van Aken, Modeling Madness (October 2012)
"Any military collection strong in maritime history will find this filled with color artwork, in-depth detail on ships and strategies, history and illustrations and analysis of action."
- The Midwest Book Review (November 2012)
"Lardas compiles a topic of great interest to maritime historians in a short, easily-read volume with beautiful colour illustrations and photographs. Overall, the book makes for an enjoyable introduction into an aspect of maritime and naval history."
--The Northern Mariner (January 2013)
"The book is filled with illustrations in color and in black and white; each includes a caption to clearly identify what is shown. Highlighted diagrams and inserts provide additional information on the vessels, copper bottoms, great guns, hand weapons, press gangs, biographies on the captains, quarterdeck views from both ships, and Paul Jones the Pyrate. Color maps delineate the vessels’ movement. Also included are a bibliography, an index, and a chronology of the captains and the ships, which encapsulates on two pages the high points found within the book. It begins in 1731 with Pearson’s birth and concludes in 1806, when he died. This is a thorough, yet concise and very readable account of this battle. Lardas provides a plethora of information without getting bogged down in complicated, nautical details and language. It’s an excellent introduction for anyone who wants to know about this event, and provides readers with sufficient background knowledge to allow them to read and understand more in-depth accounts."
-- Cindy Vallar, Pirates and Privateers
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