Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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September 23rd
“I have not yet begun to fight!”
September 23, 1779, brought one of the most storied battles in the history of the U.S. Navy. It happened during the Revolutionary War. Captain John Paul Jones, in command of an aging vessel named the Bonhomme Richard, was cruising off England’s coast when he encountered the Serapis, a British ship of war.

Jones engaged the enemy as night was falling. With the opening broadsides, however, two of the Richard’s old cannons exploded, killing crew members and ripping away a chunk of the ship’s side. The Serapis fired broadside after broadside into the stricken Richard. With his ship hit below the water line and leaking badly, Jones knew his only chance was to run into the British vessel and board her decks. He managed to lock the two ships together, but the Serapis kept blasting away into the Richard’s side, setting its old timbers on fire.

It seemed only a question of time before the American ship would go down. The British commander asked if the Richard was ready to surrender. It was then that Jones flung out his famous reply: “I have not yet begun to fight!”

The British shook their heads in disbelief. The Americans fought on. One of them managed to toss a grenade down an open hatch on the Serapis’s deck. The grenade hit some gunpowder, and explosions ripped through the British ship. Both vessels were now drifting wrecks. Still Jones refused to give in. After more than three and a half hours of savage battle by moonlight, the British commander surrendered. The victorious Americans boarded the Serapis and watched as the Richard disappeared beneath the waves.

Today, when the going gets tough, Americans remember the words of Captain John Paul Jones: “I have not yet begun to fight!”

American History Parade
1642
Harvard College confers upon nine graduates the first bachelor of arts degrees given in America.

1779
John Paul Jones declares, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

1780
John André, a British spy, is captured with papers revealing that Benedict Arnold was planning to surrender West Point to the British.

1806
The Lewis and Clark expedition returns to St. Louis from the Pacific Coast.

1845
The Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York, the first baseball team, is organized.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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