Commodore John Barry, often referred to as the ‘Father of the American Navy’ was a native of Co Wexford, Ireland. In 1797 he was appointed the first Commodore of the US Navy by President George Washington. Barry played a leading role in the American Revolution and was the first to capture a British war vessel on the high seas. He went on to lead the American naval forces to success in the final naval battle of the Revolution in 1783.
John Barry was born in Tacumshane, Co Wexford on March 25th 1745. His father was a tenant farmer who was evicted from his farm when Barry was ten years old. The family moved to Rosslare where Barry’s uncle Nicholas was the captain of a fishing vessel. John Barry began to accompany his uncle on fishing trips off the Wexford coast. He rose through the ranks and ultimately achieved a Mate’s ranking.
In 1760 at the age of 16 John Barry moved to Philadelphia where he continued his seafaring career. In 1766 he was given command of a merchant ship, a schooner with a crew of five seaman, on which he made several voyages a year to the West Indies. He later went on to command larger ships including the 200 ton Black prince which he sailed to England in 1776. By the time he returned to Philadelphia, Britain and the American colonies were at war. He received his captain’s commission in charge of the warship ‘Lexington’, from John Hancock the President of the Continental Congress on March 14th 1776.
In his first sea battle Captain John Barry captured a British warship. He went on to fight several successful naval engagements during the American Revolution. His campaign culminated in victory in the final naval battle of the Revolution which took place off the coast of Cape Canaveral on March 10th 1783. During the war he was offered a bribe of 15,000 guineas in gold and a commission in the Royal Navy by the British in return for handing over his ship to the British.
After the war Barry became involved in the maritime trade, sailing regularly to the Orient between 1787 and 1789. In Philadelphia he was involved in organisations such as the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and the Charitable Captains of Ships Club. In 1794 he was selected senior captain of the Navy and was awarded Commission Number One in the Navy by President George Washington on February 22nd 1797. He would serve as head of the Navy until his death in 1803.
Statues of John Barry can be seen in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, near the White House in Washington DC and on Crescent Quay in Wexford town. President John F Kennedy laid a wreath at the statue of Commodore Barry during his visit to Wexford in June 1963.
Commodore John Barry died at Strawberry Hill, Philadelphia in the year 1803 On This Day.
Image from page 5 of “Commodore John Barry, the father of the American navy;” (1911) by Internet Archive Book Images on 1911-01-01 00:00:00
by timomcd on 2012-06-10 14:31:24
Commodore Berry Bridge Between Chester, Pennsylvania and Bridgeport, New Jersey by Ken Lund on 2008-08-01 13:40:54