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This ballad has quite a back story and is based on true events. The Scotsman John Paul Jones (1747-1792) gave his services to the American side in their War of Independence. He garnered a reputation of being a hard commander and is thought by some to be the fonder of the American navy. The French gave him a warship, the Bonhomme Richard which by all accounts was in bad condition, poorly maintained and with an uncoordinated crew. In 1779, a squadron of ships led by Jones attacked a British merchant group off Flamborough Head, Scotland. After a fierce and bloody battle, Jones captured the leading British vessel, the Serapis, but the Bonhomme Richard sank. Jones sailed the captured Serapis to Holland. Thus Jones became an American national hero.