A Lesson From History

*By Debbie Anderson, Conservative Ladies of Washington Education Lead


It is September in the year 1779.  The new American colonists are fighting for their freedom from England.  The taxes levied against the colonists are unfair and burdensome.  The guns have been taken away from the colonists and they are forced to house the enemy.   The British are kidnapping American sailors off of the merchant ships and forcing them to work for the English trade ships.  The Boston port has been completely closed so no revenue is coming in for the colonists.  Fighting is day and night.  The British troops hire the German Hessians and the Native Americans have joined in the fight..  French and Spain, each having a vendetta against the English, are supporting the colonists.  In fact, the French has gone so far as to purchase arms and ships for the colonists to fight the sea battles.  They are fighting for the country, everything is at risk, Americans are being forced to do what they don’t want to do, and their livelihood is taken away.  Some are dying.

John Paul Jones is hired to captain the new ship, Bonhomme Richard.  It is slow, has 40 guns, 20 officers, 187 seamen, and 137 French mariners.  To give the Bonhomme Richard protection, the French have paid for two frigates, a cutter, and two armed merchant ships to act as security. 

On the 23rd, as the American ships enter the North Sea, a lookout spots a fleet of ships in the distance.  It is a convoy of British merchant ships.  But the convoy is protected by the British-owned Serapis, a much mightier ship than the Bonhomme Richard.   It is swifter and is better armed.

The situation looks bleak.  If John Paul Jones has any sense, he should turn and sail away.  Bu that isn’t Jones’ style.  He continues to sail toward the Serapis.  The Serapis leaves the convoy and starts to sail toward the Bonhomme Richard.  Steadily, the ships sail closer to each other.  Soon, each crew can hear the other captain as he shouts commands to his crew.

Cannons are loaded and both ships fire at each other.   The Bonhomme Richard is hit broadside by three blasts; it is devastated.  At this close range, the superior Serapis has the advantage.  Knowing his ship is in danger and knowing their only chance is hand-to-hand combat, Jones orders his crew to leap the distance between the ships and board the Serapis.

They fail.

In retaliation, the Serapis tries to ram the Bonhomme Richard.  The ships are too close.

They fail.

The ships are now inches from each other.  The sails and masts become hopelessly entwined with each other so neither ship can move.

Desperately, the crew on each ship fires at the other crew, now at point blank range.  To get the advantage, the Serapis crew tries to board the Bonhomme Richard.

They fail.

Luckily, the American ships that were with the Bonhomme Richard are nearby.  The Alliance sails to the rescue.  They fire at the Serapis.

They hit the Bonhomme Richard instead

The Serapis captain, certain the end is near, calls mockingly out to Jones, “Are you ready to surrender?”

Jones shouts back the phrase that will live in infamy, “No!  In fact, I have not yet begun to fight!”  Everything seems to point to a certain loss.  There are no signs of a successful mission.  Yet, Jones hangs in there.

A crew member on the Richard finds a grenade and launches it frantically at the Serapis.  It doesn’t hit the deck as planned.

Instead, the grenade sails through a window on the Serapis into a store room.  The store room is full of ammunition.  The explosion rocks both ships, completing the destruction of the Richard.  The Bonhomme Richard crew leap to the deck of the Serapis.  The crew of the Serapis are distracted as they try to save their ship, The Serapis crew are quickly overcome by the Bonhomme Richard crew.

The Serapis captain has no choice and surrenders to John Paul Jones.  John Paul Jones and his crew, along with all the prisoners, sail off on the Serapis back to America.  We don’t hear of the details of the fight.  We just hear the wonderful encouraging words, “I.HAVE.NOT.YET.BEGUN.TO>FIGHT” as the victory is won.


I am teaching US History to junior high students and this story is part of the lesson plan for this week.  I had just posted one of my favorite poems on Facebook and I was caught at the “coincidence.”  Part of the poem reads,

When many a failure turns about, when he might have won had he stuck it out. 

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow. You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than, It seems to a faint and faltering man.

Often the struggler has given up, When he might have captured the victor’s cup,

And he learned too late when the night slipped down, How close he was to the golden crown.

 Success is failure turned inside out, The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are, It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit.

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

            Don’t listen to those that whine and complain about how awful things are going, how Resident Biden’s mandate has put an end to our freedom.  The fight is still going on.  You are not alone.  There is a great groundswell happening in America.  Don’t expect it to show up in the media.  Just trust it is happening.  Schools are bending to the will of parents.  Businesses are saying they will not obey the mandate on vaccination.  Lines have been drawn.  If you give up now, you are going to miss capturing the victor’s cup.  God is alive.  He is working.  Churches have had enough—I know mine has.  They will never close again.. People are listening and obeying God’s words.  Do you see that?  It may look like the enemy has a bigger ship, more armed than our battle ship, but our Captain is a lot bigger than theirs.  Trust that.

            Cling to the truth, remove the clouds of doubt that the media and the other side purposely set up.  Encourage one another.  Instead of writing a “Woe is me!” post, write an encouragement post of something good you have seen or heard.  We are not seeing a lot of the fighting going on because of the media, but it is happening.  Don’t quit.  Have the attitude of John Paul Jones when you are confronted with despairing news.  Shout back to them boldly, “We have not yet begun to fight!” 


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