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NavSource Online: "Old Navy" Ship Photo Archive


  • HMS Serapis defeated by John Paul Jones in USS Bonhomme Richard, 23 September 1779
    During a fierce fight, Bonhomme Richard gained superiority aloft and, after some four hours of fighting, Serapis struck her colors
    Bonhomme Richard was badly damaged and sank, 25 September despite every effort to save her
    Before Bonhomme Richard sank her crew transferred to Serapis which carried them to Holland where they arrived on 3 October
  • Serapis was later stripped of her armament and sold at Lorient, France, to a French citizen who in turn sold her to the French Navy in whose service she was destroyed by fire in July 1781
    Displacement 886 t.
    Length 116' 4"
    Beam 37' 10½"
    Depth 16' 4"
    Draft unknown
    Speed unknown
    Complement 317
    twenty 18-pdrs
    ten 6-pdrs
    Propulsion sail

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    Size Image Description Contributed
    HMS Serapis
    Serapis 55k

    Serapis, Attic/Ionian Greek) or Serapis, Doric Greek) is a Graeco-Egyptian god. The Cult of Serapis was introduced during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm. The god was depicted as Greek in appearance, but with Egyptian trappings, and combined iconography from a great many cults, signifying both abundance and resurrection. A serapeum (Greek serapeion) was any temple or religious precinct devoted to Serapis. The cultus of Serapis was spread as a matter of deliberate policy by the Ptolemaic kings, who also built an immense Serapeum in Alexandria.
    However, there is evidence which implies that cult of Serapis existed before the Ptolemies came to power in Alexandria - a temple of Sarapis (or Roman Serapis) in Egypt is mentioned in 323 BC by both Plutarch (Life of Alexander, 76) and Arrian (Anabasis, VII, 26, 2). The common assertion that Ptolemy "created" the deity is derived from sources which describe him erecting a statue of Sarapis in Alexandria: this statue enriched the texture of the Sarapis conception by portraying him in both Egyptian and Greek style] Though Ptolemy I may have created the cult of Sarapis and endorsed him as a patron of the Ptolemaic dynasty and Alexandria, Sarapis was a syncretistic deity derived from the worship of the Egyptian Osiris and Apis (Osiris + Apis = Oserapis/Sarapis) and also gained attributes from other deities, such as chthonic powers linked to the Greek Hades and Demeter, and benevolence linked to Dionysus.
    Serapis continued to increase in popularity during the Roman period, often replacing Osiris as the consort of Isis in temples outside Egypt. In 389, a Christian mob led by the Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria destroyed the Alexandrian Serapeum, but the cult survived until all forms of pagan religion were suppressed under Theodosius I in 391.
    Tommy Trampp
    Serapis 43k Painting by James Hamilton of HMS Serapis Tommy Trampp
    Bonhomme Richard 130k Oil on canvas by Thomas Mitchell (1735-1790), signed and dated by the artist, 1780. It depicts Bonhomme Richard (center), commanded by Continental Navy Captain John Paul Jones, closely engaged with HMS Serapis, commanded by Royal Navy Captain Richard Pearson, off Flamborough Head, England. Firing at right is the Continental frigate Alliance, while at left the British Countess of Scarborough is engaging the American Pallas. 23 September 1779.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command Photo #: KN-10855 (color)
    Robert Hurst
    Bonhomme Richard 283k Alliance fires on the closely engaged HMS Serapis and Bonhomme Richard.
    Library of Congress photo from "History of the US Navy", by James M. Morris, page 23.
    Tommy Trampp
    Bonhomme Richard 520k Painting by James Hamilton of the battle between USS Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. National Archives Trust Fund Board. Tommy Trampp
    Bonhomme Richard 72k Painting by William Gilkerson, Beverly R. Robinson Collection, US Naval Academy Museum of USS Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis. Bonhomme Richard is shown with royals and port topsail studding sails set. Both ships have courses clewed up. Note, also, the respective paint schemes: Serapis with a broad yellow stripe over her gun ports; Bonhomme Richard with solid black sides. Tommy Trampp
    Bonhomme Richard 168k French post card depicting the battle between USS Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779 Arnold Putnam
    Bonhomme Richard
    48k Black and white photo of an oil on canvas painting of the engagement between Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis off Flamborough Head, 23 September 1779. Circa 1789. Painting attributed to LT. William Elliott, RN (active 17741810).
    Media Storehouse
    Robert Hurst
    Bonhomme Richard 162k Post card depicting the battle between USS Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. ©Helen Tilton, 1905. Arnold Putnam
    Bonhomme Richard 185k Painting by Robert Dodd of the fight between Commodore John Paul Jones, USN in USS Bonhomme Richard and Capt. Richard Pearson, RN in HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779 Tommy Trampp
    Bonhomme Richard 98k Print titled "The Battle between the 'Bon Homme Richard' Com John Paul Jones of the Continental Navy and 'The Serapis' Capt Pearson of the British Navy, September 23nd 1779". Printed by Thos. Birch, Published by Frank G. Stewart. Tommy Trampp
    Bonhomme Richard 228k The battle between USS Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779
    From the book "Pictorial History of American Ships, On the High Seas & Inland Waters" (1953) by John and Durant
    Tommy Trampp
    Bonhomme Richard 402k Illustration of USS Bonhomme Richard on fire during her Battle against HMS Serapis off Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, England, 23 September 1799, Illustrator Unknown. Illustration frontispiece from Memoirs de Paul Jones.
    United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division digital ID cph.3b03765
    Robert Hurst
    Bonhomme Richard 227k The Battle between USS Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis, 23 September. 1954 Bowman U.S. Navy Vic #1 trading card series. Tommy Trampp
    Bonhomme Richard 152k The Battle between USS Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis, 23 September 1799 . Tommy Trampp
    Bonhomme Richard 268k The Battle between Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis, 23 September 1799. An 1855 hand colored illustration: "Engagement between the Bon Homme Richard and Serapis" from "The New World embracing American History", by Henry Howard Brownell, A. M. 1855. Tommy Trampp
    Bonhomme Richard
    229k "The hand-to-hand fight on the deck of the Serapis". From the battle of the American ship Bonhomme Richard with the British Serapis, September 1779. Copy of engraving., Department of Defense. Department of the Navy. U.S. Marine Corps. (09/18/1947 - ).
    U.S. National Archives Identifier (NAID) 532592
    Robert Hurst
    44k Serapis stamp issues for Saint Lucia printed by the Format International Security Printers Ltd. Scott # 381 Tommy Trampp
    Serapis 30k The Serapis flag. The "John Paul Jones flag" was entered in Dutch records to help Jones avoid charges of piracy when he captured HMS Serapis under an "unknown flag." The flag is known as the "Franklin Flag" due to its description by Benjamin Franklin. Tommy Trampp
    Serapis 177k Lithograph print by Jack L. Gray of Serapis Tommy Trampp

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    Last Updated 16 September 2022