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On September 23, 1779, an American attack on a British convoy pitted the British frigate HMS Serapis, at right, against the American Bonhomme Richard. The American ship was commanded by Scotsman John Paul Jones, who chose the name for the ship–Benjamin Franklin’s nickname. Fierce fighting ensued, and when Richard began to sink, Serapis commander Richard Pearson called over to ask if Richard would surrender and Jones responded, ‘I have not yet begun to fight!’–a response that would become a slogan of the U.S. Navy. The ships kept firing, and Richard ended up sinking, but not before Pearson surrendered and Jones took control of Serapis.

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