Here is a copy of a post I made in 2014, regarding the America:
"I found this xerox of a letter reprinted in an old book, "The History of the Navy Yard at Portsmouth, NH", page 15. I failed to preserve the author's name. Sorry. It is unclear whether John Paul Jones wrote the following or Capt. Robert Morris did later on, describing Jones's modifications to the America. Anyway, it describes in many ways the later Franklin/Washington Class 74's of 1813.
"It had been intended to make the waste shallow with narrow gangways; the quarterdeck and forecastle to be short, with a large stern gallery. Instead of this, the quarterdeck was made to project four feet before the main mast. The forecastle was also long, the waste deep, and the gangways broad, and of equal height with the forecastle and quarterdeck. There was just room for the boats on the gangways. A breastwork pierced with gun ports, but of suitable height for musketry, and of the same strength and nature as the sides of the ship, ran all around the quarterdeck, gangway and forecastles, so that all the cannon on the quarterdeck and forecastles,could have been fought on one side, an advantage possessed by no other ship of her time. Above the breastwork, the poop stood on pillars 18 inches long, and projected eight feet before the mizen mast.. Round the poop a folding breastwork was made of light material, and of a strength to resist grape shot; it was made to fold down on deck, and could be raised in a minute, so it was impossible to perceive that the America had a poop at a distance of a quarter mile. There were only single quarter galleries, and no stern gallery."
We know that Jones made many modifications to the Bon Homme Richard, but the number and nature were not recorded. I wonder if one or more of these mods had been made earlier to to the BHR. I will admit that I was never fully satisfied with Jean Boudriot's reconstruction. I think she looks too much like the pretty Indiaman Duc de Duras than Jones's deadly all- black-painted commerce raider. But I digress ... Jones continues:
"The plan projected for the sculpture expressed dignity and simplicity. The head was a female figure crowned with laurels, the right arm raised, with forefinger pointing to heaven, as appealing to that high tribunal for the justice of the American cause. On the left arm was a a buckler with a blue ground and thirteen stars. The legs and feet of the figure were covered here and there with wreathes of smoke, to represent the dangers and difficulties of war. On the stern, under the windows of the great cabin, appeared two large figures in bas relief, representing Tyranny and Oppression, bound and biting the ground with the cap of liberty on a pole above their heads. On the back of the starboard quarter gallery, a large figure of Neptune, and on the larboard gallery, a large figure of Mars. Over the window of the great cabin, on the highest part of the stern, was a large medallion, on which was a figure representing Wisdom surrounded by danger With the bird of Athens over her head."
The book's author added, probably correctly:
"The danger surrounding Wisdom, was probably emblematically expressed by flashes of lightening."
Addendum: This could be the only WRITTEN description of a Continental Navy ship's carvings, aside from the drawings of the Frigates Raleigh, Hancock, etc. I just love the description of Tyranny and Oppression "biting the ground"! "