Portrait by Gilbert Stuart
Born in Tacumshane, County Wexford, Ireland. Died September 13, 1803, at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was an officer in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War and later in the United States Navy. He is often credited as “The Father of the American Navy.” He was appointed a Captain in the Continental Navy on December 7, 1775. Ships under his command in battles:
Lexington vs. HMS Edward
Alliance vs. HMS Atalanta and Trepassey
Alliance vs. Sybil
Barry’s name does not appear on the first list of Rank. Fortunately, the Navy found more ships and posted a new list in which Barry was 7th out of 24. He commanded the Lexington, Raleigh, and Alliance. He and his crew of the Alliance fought and won the final naval battle of the American Revolution off the coast of Cape Canaveral on March 10, 1783. He was seriously wounded on May 29, 1781, while in command of Alliance during her capture of HMS Atalanta and Trepassey. Barry was successful in suppressing three mutinies during his career as an officer in the Continental Navy.
Captain Barry was given command of Lexington, of 14 guns, on December 7, 1775. The Lexington sailed March 31, 1776. On April 7, 1776, off the Capes of Virginia, he fell in with the Edward, tender to the British man-of-war HMS Liverpool (1758), and after a desperate fight of one hour and twenty minutes, captured her and brought her into Philadelphia. Barry continued in command of Lexington until October 18, 1776, and captured several private armed vessels during that time.
John Barry was once offered 100,000 British pounds and command of any frigate in the entire British navy if he would desert the American Navy. Outraged at the offer, Captain Barry responded that not all the money in the British treasury or command of its entire fleet could tempt him to desert his adopted country. He was still in command of the Alliance when it participated in the last battle of the Revolutionary War off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Appointed senior captain upon the establishment of the U.S. Navy, he commanded the frigate United States in the Quasi-War with France. Barry authored a Signal Book published in 1780 to improve communications at sea among vessels traveling in formation.
On February 22, 1797, he was issued Commission Number 1 by President George Washington, backdated to June 4, 1794. His title was thereafter “Commodore.” He is recognized as not only the first American commissioned naval officer but also as its first flag officer. Barry’s last day of active duty was March 6, 1801, when he brought the USS United States into port, but he remained head of the Navy until his death on September 12, 1803, from asthma.
- A large statue of Barry stands directly in front of the formal entrance to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA.
- A statue of Barry overlooks the Crescent Quay in Wexford town in Ireland. It was a gift to the town from the United States and was delivered by a United States Navy frigate. The statue was unveiled in 1956, and each year a parade and wreath-laying ceremony takes place at the statue to celebrate “Barry Day,” commemorated by the Irish Naval Service and the Minister for Defense.
- A plaque commemorating Barry and his crew of the Alliance for the final naval battle of the American Revolution is located at Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
- A new plaque with a cannon was dedicated on March 10, 2007 in Port Canaveral.
- A plaque stands in the city of Boston at Boston Commons