View Full Version : Bonhomme Richard vs Serapis - Flamborough Head 1779

06-27-2013, 21:05
Submit a Book ReviewBook Title:
Bonhomme Richard vs Serapis - Flamborough Head 1779 Author:
Mark Lardas ISBN:
978-1-84908-785-8 Category:
History Format:
Paperback Summary:
Bonhomme Richard vs Serapis is one of the titles in Osprey's Duel series. The book includes information on the following: 18th century ship, Indianman, and two-decker design and architecture; the strategic situation of the time surrounding the engagement; technical specifications of the ships including armaments, sails and rigging, and hand weapons; information on the different combatants (men, officers, and marines); the duel itself; and statistics and analysis of the engagement.

The background information provides a solid knowledge base to appreciate the description of the battle. Unlike the combat section in the sister title Constitution vs Guerriere, Lardas focuses on the titled engagement, providing a good treatment of the battle. As is typical with Osprey books, the production value is quite high, with pictures, charts, and diagrams throughout the entire book.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in naval actions during the Revolutionary War/War of Independence, or in John Paul Jones or Richard Pearson.

I own this book, so if you ever need anything from it or others I have, please let me know. Other titles can be found in my photo albums - Age of Sail Library (non-fiction and fiction).

06-29-2015, 23:53
I just reread this book, and I have a few questions.

1. How far away could lookouts spot other ships?

2. When comparing the broadside weights of the opposing ships, the author relates the information in terms of ratios and absolute weight comparisons. How reflective are such comparisons to actual ability to cause damage? Does not the size of the guns making up those weights need to be considered more than their additive weights? What I mean is this, is there not a difference between a broadside weight of 300lbs made up of 18-pounders and 300lbs made up of 9-pounders in terms of ability to damage an opponent?

David Manley
06-30-2015, 02:09
1. Depends on the environmental conditions, the height of the observer, the height and size of the target, etc. On a good day 20-30 miles, on an average day in the North Sea maybe 5 miles or less.

2. Yes, absolutely. Also the velocity of the rounds - as we know from previous discussions well built heavy frigate sides could withstand low velocity 32pdr rounds but were penetrated by faster 18pdr and 24pdr rounds. Rate of fire is also an important factor.

07-01-2015, 23:35

I was a bit surprised by the distance. I looked up horizon, and I found an interesting wiki article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizon

07-02-2015, 11:53
Relating to point #2 in David's reply, I read the following in Osprey's Constitution vs. Guerriere this morning:

The American 44-gun frigates Constitution, United States, and President carried a main armament of 24-pounder long guns - 15 on each side of the gun deck and two in the bows, on the spar deck, as chase guns. Of these, 18 were 10 1/2 ft long and 12 were 9 1/2 ft long. Loaded with an 8 lb charge of gunpowder and fired at an 11-degree elevation, these extremely powerful guns could fire a 24 lb iron ball more than 2,800 yards. With that charge, their point-blank range was nearly 300 yards. These guns weighed between 5,200 lb and 5,300 lb.

Charged with 4 lb of powder, a 6 1/2 ft short 24-pounder (mostly used in the upper decks of two-deckers and ships of the line) would penetrate 62 in of oak, with enough force to disable a gun carriage mounted behind the wood. The Humphreys frigates' long 24-pounders could penetrate proportionally more, perhaps 90 in.

... With a lighter shot propelled by less powder, an 18-pounder long gun had only half the hitting power of a 24-pounder gun, and was capable of penetrating only 42 in of oak.

07-06-2015, 10:05

I was a bit surprised by the distance. I looked up horizon, and I found an interesting wiki article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizon

A masthead lookout spotting another masthead would get the height advantage plus.
However, recognizing the type of ship and then the Nationality, I guess would take even an expert much longer Eric.
Have you any info on this aspect of the question Dave? I would rather like to avoid any howlers in my AARs if I can.