Battle of Flamborough Head, 1779

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    David James


    I am a recent Revolutionary War enthusiast and I was wondering if anyone could help me with the naval battle of of Flamborough Head in 1779. I was of the understanding that the Alliance, captained by Pierre Landais deserted after Jones gave orders to attack and only later showed back up to the fray and attacked the Richard as well as the Serapis. Two questions: Was Landais attempting to help Jones? What happened to Landais and his ship after the battle?

    Thank you for your help and I look forward to many contributions on this forum.


    Hello DavJms,

    There is certainly some controversy around this battle, to which I have an admittedly small amount of knowledge on, though will share what I can. I believe the Alliance, and Landais, acted at times on their own accord, ignoring Jones’ orders. While the ship didn’t really desert, it didn’t really engage directly and acted more on the periphery (at times even hitting the Bonhomme Richard with shots, presumably by accident), while it shot at Royal Navy ships, including the Serapis.

    I do think Landais was trying to help Jones, and the American cause, just not with firey enthusiasm, more just enough not to look bad. I think his ship actually ended up under Jones after the batte, an ironic series of events.

    If anyone can weigh in with other details or more information, it is certainly welcomed.

    Also thought it might be interesting to read through this letter from Jones to Benjamin Franklin, explaining some of the battle:


    David James


    Thanks for the link to that letter and the introduction to that National Archive website. That letter was great and it confirmed what I had read (a book I read took it’s assumptions from this letter, as I went back and looked at the source it was citing) about Landais not respecting Jones and it certainly seems to make a case for the possibility that he may not have been helping at all. I’ll continue to read more about this dynamic and respond accordingly.



    Hi DJ,

    It’s always great to tie first-hand sources to context, and that’s a nice surprise the letter was a source for the book! It’s fascinating how the interpertation of events can change over time as facts get lost, retold, and reinterpreted. It’s almost like, at times, history is a little treasure hunt/sleuthing at the same time as learning.


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