American naval hero. He went to sea at age 12 and became a ship's master at age 21. He joined his brother in Virginia in 1775. When the American Revolution began, he joined the new Continental Navy under Esek Hopkins. In 1776 he sailed the Providence along the Atlantic coast, capturing eight British ships and sinking eight more. Appointed by Congress to the newly built Ranger, he made a spectacular cruise through St. George's Channel and the Irish Sea (1777 - 78), where he took a number of prizes. In 1779 he commanded the Bonhomme Richard and intercepted a merchant fleet. Though outgunned by an escort ship, the Serapis, he forced its surrender after a fierce battle, answering its challenge to surrender with "I have not yet begun to fight!" His ship sank soon after, and he sailed two British prizes to the Netherlands. In 1790 he retired, in ill health, to France.