Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss

(Capture of the Serapis)

DUPRE, Augustin: USA, 1779*, Bronze, 56 mm
Obv: Bust of John Paul Jones    JOANNI PAULO JONES CLASSIS PRAEFECTO. COMITIA AMERICANA. (The American Congress to John Paul Jones, Commander of the Fleet).
Rev: Naval battle scene with Jones' converted merchantman, the Bonhomme Richard, her side blasted open by an explosion in her magazine. Lying along side is the British frigate, Serapis     HOSTIVM NAVIBVS CAPTIS AVT FVGATIS. (The Enemy's Vessels Captured or Put to Flight).
Exergue:  AD ORAM SCOTIAE XXIII SEPT. MDCCLXXVIIII (Off the Coast of Scotland, September 23, 1779).
Signed:  DUPRE. F.
*Restrike: (Struck after 1880; Paris mint mark BRONZE on edge).
Ref: Julian 149/NA-1; Failor 207/ 501; Loubat 97/17;  Betts 259/568;  Jones, "Art of the Medal", 97/248; Jaeger and Bowers 46/35;  Weiss BW099

This medal is from the series of Comitia Americana medals, those medals voted by Congress to commemorate significant victories during the Revolutionary War.

John Paul Jones (1747-1792) was born in Scotland and came to America as a teenager. He served in the new Continental Navy in various capacities and in 1776 received a promotion to captain where he participated in its first expedition. He distinguished himself seeking out and destroying British shipping with great success. In 1779, in one of the most celebrated battles of naval history, Jones cradled some of the finest fighting traditions of the U.S. Navy. The action took place off the eastern coast of England. Jones had been given command of an old 42-gun ship with rotten timber which he renamed the BONHOMME RICHARD in honor of Benjamin Franklin. In the battle with the new, powerful British frigate SERAPIS, two of the heavy guns of the BONHOMME RICHARD burst. When Captain Person of the SERAPIS asked if the RICHARD would surrender, Jones bellowed back his immortal words "I have not yet begun to fight". With the RICHARD afire from stem to stern, it continued to fire at the SERAPIS, which finally surrendered. Later in life Jones served for Catherine the Great in the Russian Navy as a rear admiral. He died and was buried in Paris in 1792, but 100 years later his body was returned to the U. S. escorted by a fleet of warships.

LINK to a more detailed biographical sketch of John Paul Jones (from Naval Historical Center)