The Serapis Flag


imagesSept. 23rd is the anniversary of the 1779 naval battle between Captain John Paul Jones’ Bon Homme Richard (Bon Ohm Ri-shard) and the British man of war H.M.S. Serapis.

My wife and I spent many hours making a cotton Serapis flag like the one that Captain Jones proudly flew from the mast of his prize of war.  This flag is one of only five designs of the American flag that sports red, white, and BLUE stripes.  The pattern of its stripes is unique and non-repeating.  From the top down the thirteen stripes are blue, red, white, red, white, blue, red, white, red, blue, white, blue, and red.  The flag sports thirteen stars that each have eight points.

Of course the famous part of the story is when the two ships were tied together the British Captain Pearson called out “Has your ship struck [their colors]?”  To which the brave Jones responded, “I have not yet begun to fight!”  His famous words have rung around the world for over two centuries, and have inspired our troops wherever they fight for our freedom!

As Christians we should always be ready to fight all the more for the right, for the Word of God and for our Saviour.  God does not want us to quit.  He asks us to put on the whole armour of God and to fight the good fight.  He admonishes us that “…having done all, to stand.”  We may lose individual battles.  God may allow us to lose our lives in the fight, but God promises us the ultimate victory through Christ our Lord.

At one point in the long raging battle the British saw that our ensign (flag) had been shot away.  They called out to the Americans on the Richard, “Why don’t you haul down your pendant?”  In other words, “Have you struck your colors?”  “Why don’t you quit?”  “Give it up, surrender!”  But John Paul Jones was not about to surrender!  The Americans would not be quitters that day!  Nor does God want us to quit today.  What are we as American Christians doing to fight for God today?

The Serapis was not an inferior foe for the Bon Homme Richard.  The Serapis had 44 guns and a “picked crew.”  But after the British surrendered, their captain confided in ours that “…the Americans were equally as brave as the English.”  – Fanning, Narrative, pp. 40-45

The Americans had shown mercy to the 500 British prisoners that we had locked up below decks on the Richard.  When our ship gave much evidence that she was indeed sinking, we unlocked the door and set our captives free.  They, rather than showing gratitude as honorable men, made use of our kindness to fight against us and to climb through port holes to get aboard their own ship.  Now the British had 500 re-enforcements, but the Serapis was on fire and that near her magazine of gun powder.  She was about to blow up and sink.

The British Captain Pearson ordered his men to climb up to the mast and to strike the British colors and thereby surrender to the Americans who were getting the best of them.  None of the British sailors would do as they were ordered.  They each feared that the Americans would shoot any man who went aloft.  Therefore the captain had the humiliating experience of climbing aloft himself and removing the ensign that he had just nailed to the mast swearing that “…he never would strike [it] to that infamous pirate J. P. Jones.”  He was even more humiliated because his surrender was watched by more than 1,500 civilians from Scarborough and Flamborough Head.

Hurrah, for Captain Jones!  Hurrah, for America!  The British captain begged for mercy and that his life and the lives of his crew would be spared when he called out, “Quarters, quarters, quarters, for [mercy] sake!”  – Fanning

The Americans were kind enough to give quarters to the surviving officers and crew of the British ship.  The Americans thereby provided a place for those who surrendered to live in safety, from the sword, from the flames, and from sinking.  Though the world found no room for Christ at the inn in Bethlehem, Revelation 20:11 tells us that at the Great White Throne there will be “…found no place for them.”  Sinners there will have no place of safety, no quarter, no mercy, and no spot reserved for them in God’s heaven.  How eternally sad.

God tells us as Christians in Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:  and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”  Not only does God have a place for us, but He will show us goodness and mercy every day.  From other scriptures we also know that since we bear Christ’s name as Christians we are to be like Him, therefore we should have a trail of goodness that we have shown to others and mercy that we have given to our fellow man day by day as we serve and imitate our Saviour.

Yours for God and country,

Dan Manka

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One thought on “The Serapis Flag

  1. Reblogged this on iconobaptist and commented:
    This is fascinating. Dan Manka is more obsessed with history than I am (I guess that is possible after all, LOL!). He researches and writes and, as seen below, sometimes reconstructs the actual props of history. His wife reads my blog, so I will trust that he will see these kudoes from me!

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