Archive for the 'Revolutionary War' Category

Oct 11

The Battle of Valcour Island 11 October 1776

Monday, October 11, 2010 12:01 AM

October 11th is the anniversary of the most important naval battle of the American Revolution. It was fought on a fresh-water lake (Lake Champlain) by an American force consisting of fifteen small vessels, commanded by an army general, Benedict Arnold, who became America’s most notorious traitor. Opposing it was a larger British flotilla, firing a weight of metal almost twice that of the Americans. Not surprising, therefore, the British destroyed the American fleet and decisively won the battle of Valcour Island.

Why then is it such an important battle? Because to deal with the threat posed by this rag-tag American fleet, the British expended precious time to assemble their own naval force, costing them the opportunity to invade the United States along the route of the Hudson River during the campaign of 1776. After their victory, they retreated to Canada, regrouped, and waited until the next spring to begin driving southward. By then the Americans were better prepared and the invaders were unsupported because the main British army in America had left New York. As a result, the Americans forced the surrender of the invading force at Saratoga, New York. This victory, in turn, convinced France to ally itself with the United States, broadening the American Revolution into an international conflict and stretching British resources to the breaking point. Thus a little-remembered naval battle changed the course of the war and led directly to American victory.

Sep 27

2010 Bonhomme Richard Survey Completed!

Monday, September 27, 2010 4:01 PM

USNS Henson at work searching for Bonhomme Richard. Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Neyland.

 The second survey this year for Bonhomme Richard has been successfully completed. Dr. Robert Neyland, NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch Director, together with the Ocean Technology Foundation , Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command Naval Oceanographic Office, Office of Naval Research , and U.S. Naval Academy worked aboard the USNS Henson to survey a 70 sq nautical mile area and analyze several high priority targets. Hopefully, one of which may uncover the elusive wreck. 

Dr. Robert Neyland, Underwater Archaeology Branch Head, on the deck of USNS Henson. Photo courtesy of Robert Neyland.

The 25-knot winds and ten-to-twelve-foot waves in the North Sea paused operations for merely a day, leaving the USNS Henson adequate time to undergo a repair to its winch. The challenges created by the stormy seas are a sobering reminder of Bonhomme Richard’s final struggles as Captain John Paul Jones worked in similar conditions to transfer three hundred and fifty men from the ship to HMS Serapis shortly before Bonhomme Richard sank into the North Sea. 

HMS Victory, a ship contemporary with Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis. Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Neyland.

 The survey continued despite persistent rough seas, and the crew is pleased to report that over 60 sq nautical miles were covered. USNS Henson scientists and midshipmen worked diligently processing the sonar data, categorizing targets, and selecting those for further investigation. A number of interesting targets have been identified and several have been tagged to be further investigated in future surveys. Overall the survey was very successful and put us one step closer to discovering the final resting place of Bonhomme Richard! 

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) on the deck of USNS Henson. Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Neyland.

Sep 15

Update from the Field: Advanced Technology Combs North Sea for Bonhomme Richard!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 12:07 PM

 NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch Head, Dr. Robert Neyland, reports from USNS Henson that the survey for Bonhomme Richard is going smoothly. Dr. Neyland, along with partners from Ocean Technology Foundation, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, Naval Oceanographic Office, Office of Naval Research, and U.S. Naval Academy, is on schedule and has already completed about 45% of the survey using a towed side scan sonar and two Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV). The Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) is utilizing an Office of Naval Research Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (ONR AUV) to help the researchers interpret likely shipwreck targets through the gathering of site specific remote sensing data through the combined collection of sonar, magnetic variations, and photography. The surveyors reported having found a number of shipwreck-like targets on the ocean floor that will have to undergo further future investigation. Bonhomme Richard, after 230 years on the sea bottom, is expected to have the appearance on sonar of a debris field of ballast, cannon, and other objects. It may appear as a sediment-covered mound rather than an easily recognizable sailing ship. Hence many of the sites found will have to undergo further investigation by divers and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs). Weather permitting, the survey will be completed over the next few days.


Stay tuned for more updates from the field as the search for Bonhomme Richard continues!

The Bonhomme Richard strafing decks with HMS Serapis. Courtesy of The Serapis Project.

Sep 7

The 2010 Search for Bonhomme Richard Continues!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 3:53 PM


The NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB), Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, Naval Oceanographic Office, Office of Naval Research, and U.S. Naval Academy along with partners from Ocean Technology Foundation began the 2010 search and survey for Bonhomme Richard.

A SAAB Double Eagle MKII ROV being launched off the deck of CMT Cassiopée during the May 2010 search for Bonhomme Richard. Photo courtesy of Alexis Catsambis.

On September 23, 1779, Bonhomme Richard, the flagship of the Continental Navy and commanded by Captain John Paul Jones, participated in one of the fiercest battles of the Revolutionary War against HMS Serapis off the coast of Flamborough Head, England. Although Jones emerged victorious from the battle, Bonhomme Richard was badly damaged and, after drifting for thirty-six hours, sank into the North Sea. If found, the final resting place of Bonhomme Richard could shed new light on US maritime history and would increase public awareness and appreciation for America’s maritime patrimony.

Photo of the USNS Henson, which will serve as the search vessel for the 2010 Bonhomme Richard survey. Photo courtesy of

The survey area was determined using a computer program, developed by the U.S. Naval Academy, which integrates the weather and tidal data, crew actions and the vessel’s last known positions to establish where it might have gone down. The Bonhomme Richard Project teams will use an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) equipped with side scan and multibeam sonar, and a separate high-quality side scan sonar that will be towed behind the search vessel to create an image of the sea floor. NHHC will also be joined by a French Navy minehunter equipped with a robotic underwater video camera and teams of divers to further examine any targets warranting closer investigation. Dr. Robert Neyland, Head of UAB, will act as chief archaeologist and lead the investigation in authenticating and identifying any remains of the ship and its artifacts.

 Stay tuned for more updates as the search for Bonhomme Richard continues!

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