U.S. #1789 – Jones’ famous words became the slogan for the U.S. Navy.

John Paul Jones Captures British Vessels

During a naval battle with the British, John Paul Jones refused to surrender and won an impressive victory on September 23, 1779.

Born in Scotland, John Paul Jones traveled to America as a cabin boy. He worked as a businessman with his brother in Fredericksburg, Virginia and later served on slave and merchant ships. When the American Revolution broke out, Jones went to Philadelphia to offer his services and was commissioned a senior lieutenant in the Continental Navy.

Item #47007A – First Day Proof card honoring Jones.

Jones repeatedly impressed his superiors in action against the British in the Bahamas as well as the Atlantic Ocean and English Channel. In 1779, Jones was placed in command of a French merchant ship loaned to the U.S. for the war. Jones named his ship the Bonhomme Richard in honor of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was the American Commissioner in France and author of Poor Richard’s Almanac (in French: Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard).

On September 23, 1779, the Bonhomme Richard was part of a convoy sailing around the British Isles disrupting shipping. It came upon the British Serapis and Countess of Scarborough near Flamborough Head, England. Around 6:00 p.m. the ships began battling. The British appeared to have the upper hand, with their ships more heavily armed. Anticipating victory, the British commander called to Jones to surrender, but Jones famously replied, “Sir, I have not yet begun to fight!”

U.S. #3403g – Jones flew this flag aboard the captured Serapis. Click the image for the neat story behind its creation.

Jones then tethered the two ships together, making it harder for the British ships to get around. Though both sides had lost about half their crews, Jones still had superior numbers and used them to his advantage. When another American vessel joined the fight, Jones had the final push he needed to force the British to surrender. With his ship shattered, on fire, and leaking, Jones and his crew boarded the Serapis and sailed for the Dutch United Provinces for repairs. The Bonhomme Richard sank 36 hours later.

Jones’ victory made him a hero in France and America. Jones was one of America’s earliest naval commanders and his bravery during this battle has earned him the nickname, “Father of the American Navy.”

Click the images to add this history to your collection.

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    1. I really enjoy all the “On This Day in History….Thanks for posting / Thanks for a great stamp catalog. I take all my old stamp catalogs and leave them at doctors office and other public spaces to help share this great hobby.

  1. His statement, “I have not yet begun to fight” is famous like that of Nathan Hale and Patrick Henry. I should read more of his life. Because, what did he do after he went off to the Dutch United Provinces with the Serapis. I also think of the band member John Paul Jones in Led Zepelin. There is one perf variety of this stamp that is very rare, perf 12X12.

  2. I really like John Paul Jones. I read a book about him and the start of the U.S navy called The Magnificent Mariener. I was amazed by the fact his ship was losing the battel and yet he managed to win.

  3. I really enjoy this series. I consider myself to be a history buff, but you guys come up with things I didn’t know. I always wondered (and believe me that a long time) how JPJ was able to beat the Serapis, consider what bad shape the Richard was in, now I know. Thank you.

  4. I’ve seen the name Bommhomme Richard printed on the 1 cent navy commemorative (scott #790). Always wondered what it ment. Thanks Mystic Stamp Company

  5. I’ve collected US stamps on and off for 50 years. It’s been great to get the stories behind the stamps.
    Mystic Stamps’ historian is doing a good job!

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