So, There I was….* Driving home from work last Monday, and passing a small non-denominational Church, I notice they’ve got the Flag flying. Remembering that it was Flag Day, I give a quick “Good on ‘em” thought as I notice another flag flying beside it. White with a green tree on it and the words “An Appeal to Heaven” on it. Ok, well it IS a church, so I file that away in my brain under church fundraising.
I’m at lunch a couple of days later and I see a guy wearing a tee shirt with a number of different Revolutionary War Flags on it. I recognized the Gadsden Flag and a couple of others, but the “Appeal to Heaven” Flag was also on it.
Having an interest in Military History, (Not a Sarge level interest mind you, but then again, who does?) I decided to pull up my old pal Google and see what there is to see. Having done that, I discovered this site and there went the rest of my Saturday.
That sounds kinda tragic, but actually, it was fairly warm and very humid with periods of torrential downpours. Working outside was pretty much a waste of time. Did I mention mosquitos also?
Digression warning “Stay on Target…Use the Force
These words are not the words you’re looking for” (My son is playing a Star Wars
game on his tablet with the volume turned up, I have no Idea
where that came from.)
So, the Appeal to Heaven Flag was also known as Washington’s Cruiser Flag and was flown over six ships commissioned, supposedly by Washington personally, as the beginning of a Navy. Source
Google also pointed me to this article and this one which shed a little light on why a church might be flying that flag now.
But as I scrolled through the flag site, I came to one that had an interesting blurb that expanded my knowledge on an incident I knew a little about. In the days of my Ute, I remember reading about John Paul Jones and his famous quote “I have not yet begun to fight!” from the battle between the CNS Bon Homme Richard and HMS Serapis.
Time for a Juvat pop quiz. What does CNS stand for?
1. Central Nervous System
2. Catholic News Service
3. Continental Navy Ship
4. Chicken Noodle Soup
Anyhow, back to the fight. The Navy’s website is a little tame in the description of the fight. This one, however, has a much more Sarge-like rendition of the fight.
|A 1781 painting of John Paul Jones by Charles Willson Peale.|
"In late September, 1779, Jones was in the North Sea in the Bonhomme Richard in command of a commerce raiding squadron consisting of the corvette Alliance, with 36 guns, the French frigate Pallas, 32 guns, the brigantine Vengeance, 12 guns, and the Bonhomme Richard, with 40 guns. After six weeks at sea his ships had seized a few enemy prizes but Jones was hungry for significant action. On September 22 he assembled his squadron off Flamborough Head on England’s east coast hoping to snag merchant ships coming and going from local ports. At about 2 PM on September 23 the Richard’s lookouts spotted the sails of a 41-ship British convoy to the northeast and its Royal Navy escorts, the frigate H.M.S. Serapis, 44 guns, and the armed sloop Countess of Scarborough, 22 guns. “That is the very fleet which I have been so long cruising for,” Jones told his officers on the quarterdeck. He signaled his ships to intercept the convoy. The Richard and Serapis closed on each other at about 7:00 PM. The skies were darkening, the wind was light and the sea was calm. For various reasons, possibly tactics, miscommunication, or animosity with Jones, the Alliance and Pallas took differing courses. Jones sailed the Richard to “within pistol shot” of the Serapis, intending to get the ships as close as possible before opening fire. Capt. Pearson realized that the ship nearing him was American, and broadsides ripped from both ships.“The battle being thus begun was continued with unremitting fury” Jones recalled. After about an hour and much maneuvering the ships were side by side, actually lashed together “so close fore and aft, that the muzzles of our guns touched,” wrote Capt. Pearson, and still blasting away at each other. Both ships were on fire but with several holes beneath the waterline and its hull shattered, the Richard took the worst of it."
So, Jones has his ship lashed to the enemy, has holes below the waterline and leads a boarding party over to the Serapis. A crewman manages to throw a grenade near enough to some powder storage to start a fire on board the British ship and the Captain surrenders.
The Bon Homme Richard subsequently sinks. Jones sails his prize to the neutral Dutch port of Texel. The British raised a diplomatic stink over the ships, wanting the crews tried as Pirates since the ship flew no recognized flag.
Ben Franklin, the Ambassador to France at the time, was asked to describe the flag for what would become the United States. Based on that description, a painting of the flag was made and France recognized it. Copies were distributed and one made its way to Jones. He had a flag made and sailed back to America under it, avoiding the Piracy charge. The flag became known as the Serapis Flag (or alternatively the Texel Flag).
The author postulates that the “not yet begun to fight” quote was added several years after the fact, but IMHO that’s somewhat irrelevant. Clearly, Jones belongs to the Never Give Up, Never Surrender school of warfare.
Plus a classic line from a classic movie!