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SERAPIS (44) 5th rate Built in 1779, Rotherhithe.
Taken in 1779 and transferred to the French Navy.

  • Launched 4 March 1779. Capt. Richard PEARSON. During the late afternoon of 23 Sept.
  • 1779 SERAPIS and the hired armed vessel COUNTESS OF SCARBOROUGH were off Flamborough Head escorting a convoy of 41 sail from the Baltic when they encountered a American squadron consisting of BONHOMME RICHARD, John Paul Jones, PALLAS and the corvette ALLIANCE. Jones ordered his ships to form line of battle, but neither paid much attention, as he attempted to attack the convoy but SERAPIS intercepted him and the convoy tacked and escaped intact. The COUNTESS OF SCARBOROUGH was engaged by PALLAS and surrendered to her after two hours with seven guns disabled and 24 casualties.
    The action between BONHOMME RICHARD and SERAPIS started after sunset, the two ships broadside to broadside, each trying to gain the advantage and rake the other. The heavier metal of SERAPIS drove in the side of Jones's ship, rendered the helm useless and and the poop supported only by a shattered piece of timber. His 18 pounders and 9-pounders were soon out of action. When PEARSON called across,'Has your ship struck?' Jones replied 'I have not yet begun to fight. ' Watchers on Flamborough Head and at Scarborough could see the two ships break apart and then entangle, still firing at each other. Jones used his three 9-pounders against SERAPIS's main mast and his sharpshooters in the fighting tops swept the British decks. Both ships were frequently on fire and RICHARD had 5 feet of water in the hold. PEARSON tried to break loose so that he could stand off and use his full battery while Jones struggled to keep close and prevent him. At 10 p. m. a Scottish sailor on RICHARD (according to Jones) crawled along the main yard with a basket of grenades and dropped one through the main hatchway of SERAPIS into bags of gunpowder causing a violent explosion; at the same time her main mast went overboard. RICHARD's gunner called for quarter and the British prisoners held below were released. Jones rapped the gunner on the head with a pistol and ordered the prisoners, who could have turned the tide for the British as they poured on deck, to work the pumps. PEARSON lost his nerve first and surrendered and Jones transferred his flag to SERAPIS. During the action ALLIANCE fired more shots at Jones's force than she did at the enemy Although they worked to save RICHARD, she sank the next morning. SERAPIS was rigged with jury masts and ten days later reached the Texel. After being blockaded there for some weeks, Jones sailed in ALLIANCE. Passing within sight of the English squadron in the Downs, he cleared the Channel and entered Corunna on 16 January 1780.
    On his return to France he found that SERAPIS had been sold at L'Orient. He and Dr. Franklin went to Versailles but were received very coldly by the Minister of the Marine, although Jones was presented to the King the following day. SERAPIS was eventually bought and re-fitted for the French navy and sent to the Indian Ocean under Lieutnant de Vaisseau Roche. She was accidently burnt at St. Marie de Madagascar in July 1781 when an open light was dropped into a a tub of brandy. John Paul Jones returned to America in the borrowed French ship ARIEL (20).
    On his return to England Capt. PEARSON was rewarded with a knighthood, and the Royal Exchange Insurance Co. presented him with a piece of plate valued at 100 L., and another of 50 L value to Capt. PIERCY. The Corporation of Hull presented him with the freedom of that town.

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