This was the flag of John Paul Jones while Captain of the Bonhomme Richard in 1779, when he defeated the British ship Serapis off the coast of Great Britain. It was during this battle that Jones delivered his famous line, “I have not yet begun to fight!”
Jones later wrote to Benjamin Franklin in Paris: “The English Commodore asked me if I demanded quarter, and I having answered him in the most determined negative, they renewed the battle with Double fury… the fire of their Cannon, especially the lower battery, Which Was Entirely formed of 18 pounders, Was incessant, both Ships Were Set on fire in Various places, and the Scene was dreadful beyond the reach of Language.”
The British attempted to board Bonhomme Richard, but were repelled, and then a grenade caused the explosion of gunpowder on the Serapis, a major setback for the British. Ultimately Jones and the crew of Bonhomme Richard prevailed, and the British surrendered.
The Americans spent over a day making frantic repairs to Bonhomme Richard, but it was beyond salvage, and they let it sink. Jones took command of Serapis and sailed it to Holland, with this flag flying. We have it today because of both written descriptions and a painting the Dutch authorities made of the flag as it was flying in the harbor.
Few personal flags of an American leader are as highly honored as that of the Serapis Flag of John Paul Jones. A few come to mind, such as the Headquarters Flag of George Washington, and that of Robert E. Lee. In the Serapis Flag, though, we have a unique American Stars and Stripes.
(We send an article by our historian with each order, covering the history of John Paul Jones and this flag.)