COMMODORE JOHN BARRY
"Father of the American Navy"
MARTIN I.J. GRIFFIN
Historian of the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Philadelphia
"I serve the country for nothing"—BARRY
"May a suitable recompense always attend your bravery"—WASHINGTON
The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland
ST. PATRICK'S DAY 1908
MARTIN I.J. GRIFFIN, Historian of the Society.
COMMODORE JOHN BARRY
"Father of the American Navy"
HIS NAVAL RENOWN—HIS CAREER IN THE COLONIAL MERCANTILE MARINE SERVICE—APPOINTED TO THE "LEXINGTON" BY THE CONTINENTAL MARINE COMMITTEE—HIS FIRST CRUISE.
The American Navy by its achievements has won enduring fame and imperishable honor. The careers of many of its heroes have been narrated fully, and oft in fulsome terms. All Americans unite in these tributes of praise where justly due.
JOHN BARRY has, aptly and justly, been called "THE FATHER OF THE AMERICAN NAVY." His early, constant and worthy services in defence of our country; his training many of those who became the foremost and most distinguished sons of the sea in our early naval annals makes the title one fitly bestowed.
The Congress of his country having directed the erection in the Capital City of the Nation of a monument commemorative of the man and his deeds, this is a fitting time to present a brief record of his career and of his deeds during the Revolutionary War, which won the Independence of our Country, and also in the War with France, which maintained the integrity of the new Nation and the protection of its commerce. In both wars he bore a heroic part. At all times his services were useful and brilliant.
"Captain John Barry may justly be considered the Father of our Navy," wrote Mr. Dennie in The Portfolio, July 1813, in giving the first biographical sketch of this distinguished naval officer. "The utility of whose services and the splendor of whose exploits entitle him to the foremost rank among our naval heroes."
Allen's Biographical Dictionary, published in 1809, declared he "was a patriot of integrity and unquestioned bravery."
Frost's Naval Biography states: "Few commanders were employed in a greater variety of services or met the enemy under greater disadvantages," and yet he did not fail to acquit himself of his duty in a manner becoming a skillful seaman and a brave warrior.
"His public services were not limited to any customary rule of professional duty, but without regard to labor, danger or excuses, his devotion to his Country kept him constantly engaged in acts of public utility. The regard and admiration of General Washington, which he possessed in an eminent degree, were among the most eminent fruits of his patriotic career."
Judson's Sages and Heroes of the Revolution says: "Barry was noble in spirit, humane in discipline, discreet and fearless in battle, urbane in his manners, a splendid officer, a good citizen, a devoted Christian and a true Patriot."
Many other quotations might be cited to show the high esteem in which Commodore John Barry was held as well also the importance of his services to our Country.
A brief narration of his career will set forth the character and worth of these services as well as afford proof of the valor and fidelity of this most successful naval officer.
John Barry was born in 1745 in the townland of Ballysampson. He lived his boyhood in the townland of Roostoonstown, both in the parish of Tacumshin, Barony of Forth, Province of Leinster in Ireland. The parish covers three thousand acres. It is situated between two townland-locked gulfs with very narrow openings—Lake Tacumshin and Lady's Island Lake. Possibly these lakes gave young Barry the inspiration for the sea, and upon both he in youth, we may be sure, oft pulled the oar.
When and under what circumstances young Barry left his birthplace and departed from Ireland are not known. The best traditionary evidence justifies us in believing that leaving Ireland, while yet young, he went to Spanishtown in the Island of Jamaica and from there, when about fifteen years of age, came to Philadelphia, where he found employment in the commercial fleets of Samuel Meredith and of Willing & Morris, leaders in the mercantile life of the city.
Being but a boy, records do not attest his presence or position. But however lowly, we are sure that merit hovered over every action and proved the worth of the young navigator of the seas so fully that on attaining his twenty-first year he was at once entrusted with the sole command of a vessel—the schooner "Barbadoes," sixty tons, which cleared from Philadelphia on October 2, 1766.
The schooner he commanded was registered at the Custom House on September 29, 1766. It was built at Liverpool, in the Province of Nova Scotia and was owned by Edward Denny, of Philadelphia. John Barry was registered as its Captain.
In this schooner, small in measurement and in tonnage by the standard of our times and yet not surpassed in either by many vessels in the colonial marine trade, John Barry, now a man in years and capabilities, continued until early in 1771 to make voyages to and from Bridgetown, the principal port of Barbadoes.
In May, 1771, he became Captain of the brig "Patty and Polly," sailing from St. Croix to Philadelphia. In August of that year we find him Captain of the schooner "Industry," of forty-five tons, plying to and from Virginia, making trips to New York, voyages to Nevis and to and from Halifax, Nova Scotia until, on October 9, 1772, he became Commander of the "Peggy" sailing to and from St. Eustatia and Montserrat until, on December 19, 1774, a register for the ship the "Black Prince" was issued to John Barry as Master. It was owned by John Nixon, whose grandfather, Richard, a Catholic, of Barry's own county, Wexford, arrived in Philadelphia in 1686. John Nixon read the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776. On December 21st Barry sailed to Bristol, where he arrived at the end of January, 1775. Later he proceeded to London, where he arrived June 7th, from whence he returned to Philadelphia, where he arrived October 13th, the very day Congress had resolved to fit out two armed cruisers, one of fourteen guns and one of ten guns, the first act founding a Continental naval force for the United Colonies.
The Marine Committee, under the authority of this Resolve of the Continental Congress, purchased two vessels and named one the "Lexington," the other the "Reprisal."
To the "Lexington" John Barry was commissioned Captain on December 7, 1775. Captain Wickes was the same day named Commander of the "Reprisal."
Barry's vessel the "Black Prince," the finest vessel engaged in the Colonial commerce, was purchased by the Marine Committee, renamed the "Alfred," after Alfred the Great, the founder of the English Navy. To the "Alfred" John Paul Jones was appointed Lieutenant under Captain Salstonstall, on the same day Barry and Wickes were appointed Captains.
The "Lexington" and the "Reprisal" were separate and independent commands under direct orders of the Marine Committee and not subject to, nor were they part of, the fleet under Commodore Hopkins. Captain John Barry was thus the first Commander appointed under the direct authority of the Continental Congress. He was appointed to the first Continental armed cruiser—the "Lexington"—named after the first battle place of the Revolution. It was the first vessel fitted out under Continental authority by the Marine Committee and "in the nature of things was more readily equipped" than the "Alfred," says Cooper's History of the Navy. This was especially so as Willing & Morris, Captain Barry's late employers, alone had a stock of "round shot for four pounders, under their store in Penn Street and in their yard." These were readily available to Captain Barry of the "Lexington."
When Barry's cruiser was ready for sea the severity of the weather in blocking the Delaware with ice debarred its passage to the Bay and out into the Ocean. In the meanwhile Barry was busily employed on shore duty and in assisting in preparing the fleet of Commodore Hopkins for its departure on February 17, 1776, on its expedition to the Southward. This fleet was intended for the protection of American vessels off the coast of Virginia, but it proceeded to the Bahama Islands. On St. Patrick's Day, 1776, Hopkins sailed from New Providence bringing the Governor and others as hostages as well as securing military stores and ammunition. Washington on the same day was entering the City of Boston on its forced evacuation by the British.
Meanwhile Captain John Barry was busy in constant service on the Delaware River and on shore, promoting the progress of naval affairs conducive to the formation of a navy.
It was not, however, until March 23d that Congress ordered Letters of Marque to be issued and authorized public and private cruisers to capture British vessels or to seize or destroy supplies for the British naval forces.
Captain Barry, in the "Lexington," at once proceeded down the Delaware. On March 29, 1776, was off Cape May, New Jersey. On Sunday, the 31st, the "Lexington" went out to sea—his first entry upon the watery domain bearing the flag of defiance—the Union or Continental flag hoisted at Cambridge on January 1, 1776, by General Washington, which he had adopted so that "our vessels may know one another," and so "distinguish our friends from our foes," as he had written Captain Barry's friend and fellow-Catholic of Philadelphia, Colonel Stephen Moylan, the Muster Master General of his army.
When Captain Barry proceeded to sea, the "Roebuck," British man-of-war, "one of His Majesty's pirates" and her tender, the "Edward," "put to sea" also after the "Lexington," but Barry was too swift and got so far away that the "Roebuck" returned the same evening to the Bay.
Barry's historical and patriotic career had begun.
CAPTURES THE "EDWARD"—HIS PRISONER RICHARD DALE—IMPORTANCE OF THE PRIZE—BARRY UNKNOWN TO OR IGNORED BY CAPTAIN HOBSON.
The "Lexington" cruised off the coast of Virginia a week without meeting with the enemy. Barry had gone to sea on Sunday. The Sunday following, April 7, 1776, while off the "Capes of Virginia" he "fell in with the sloop 'Edward' belonging to the 'Liverpool' frigate" and "shattered her in a terrible manner," as he reported to the Marine Committee, after an engagement of "near two glasses." The "Lexington" lost two men killed and two wounded. The "Edward" had "several of her crew killed and wounded." She carried "eight guns and a number of swivels" and was commanded by Lieutenant Richard Boger of the "Liverpool." Barry brought the "shattered" captive to Philadelphia with the crew of twenty-five prisoners taken.
Among the number was Richard Dale, of Virginia, who had been Lieutenant of a light cruiser in the service of Virginia, which had been captured by the "Edward." Dale was "induced to adopt the Royal cause" and so took service on the "Edward" and so was taken prisoner.
Captain Barry induced young Dale to return to American allegiance and accept service under him on the "Lexington" as Midshipman. Dale in October, when the "Lexington" was assigned to Captain Johnston, became Master's Mate. He continued in the service of the United Colonies and rose to be a Commodore in the Navy under the present Constitution. He ever retained the friendship of Captain Barry, who, by his will, bequeathed to his "good friend, Captain Richard Dale, his gold-hilted sword as a token of his esteem."
This sword had been presented to John Paul Jones by King Louis XVI after the memorable battle between the "Bonne Homme Richard" commanded by Jones and the "Serapis," as the expedition commanded by Jones was under French auspices and direction. The sword "was sent by Jones' heirs to Robert Morris," the financier of the Revolution, "who presented it to Commodore John Barry, the senior officer of the present American Navy, who will never disgrace it," Morris wrote, March 18, 1795, to Thomas Pinckney, the American Minister to Great Britain. Barry by his will bequeathed it to "my good friend Captain Richard Dale," with whose descendants it yet remains. It is claimed by the Morris family that the gift to Barry was "in trust to descend to the senior officer of the Navy." There is no proof of the trust nor is there any that Jones' heirs gave the sword of great money value to Morris. Morris had it. He gave it to Barry who bequeathed it to Dale who, two months before Barry made his will, had resigned from the Navy. There could have been no "trust" for Barry to "disregard." But it is singular that it is now possessed by those whose ancestor had, by Barry, been induced to return to American allegiance after having entered the service of the enemy.
The "Edward," taken by Barry, was the first armed vessel taken under the authority of the Continental Marine Committee and brought to Philadelphia, the seat of Congress, and delivered to its Marine Committee. Previous captures off the New England coast by Manly and others, had been those of unarmed supply vessels to Quebec or Boston under authority of General Washington. The capture was most important. When the project had, in August, 1775, been presented to Congress by the delegates from Rhode Island, by direction of its Assembly, to fit out armed cruisers, many of the patriots thought it of doubtful wisdom to do so against the powerful British Navy. Samuel Chase, of Maryland, declared "it is the maddest idea in the world."
So Barry's capture was a demonstration of the ability of the Colonies to contest the sea with Great Britain and to do it so effectively that "we captured from the British over eight hundred vessels and more than twelve thousand seamen, and of these more than one hundred were war vessels of the Royal Navy, carrying more than two thousand, five hundred guns, while the American losses were scarcely more than one-sixth those of the British," as Captain Richmond Pearson Hobson declared in an address on the Navy on Flag Day, 1901, at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition. Yet he, in looking "over the range of our Naval history, saw a long line of majestic figures whose very names are an inspiration," did not, in giving the names of twenty-one of these "majestic figures," name Captain John Barry, the very "Father of the Navy." He was not mentioned as among those which "History with her bright and luminous pencil inscribed upon the glorious scroll." Captain Hobson, the heroic, is now a member of Congress from Alabama and ought to make reparation for his ignorance or conscious ignoring of the foremost naval commander of the very Navy he proved himself to be a worthy representative of. He may become unknown or be ignored if known.
Captain Barry had command of the first Continental cruiser, the "Lexington," and the last frigate, the "Alliance"—the largest and finest vessel in the Revolutionary Navy—had made the first capture under Continental authority and fought the last battle of the Revolution, and commanded the whole of the Navy at the close of the war—had been the earliest, the constant and the latest fighter and the first Captain and ranking officer of the present Navy on its establishment in 1794. Yet he was entirely unknown to Captain Hobson. Or was he purposely ignored?
The capture of the "Edward" was considered of considerable import in patriot circles: "We begin to make some little figure here in the navy way," wrote John Adams, the day after the arrival of Barry and his prize. The Marine Committee also wrote to Commodore Hopkins, who had arrived at New London, Connecticut, the same day Barry had arrived at Philadelphia with his prize, informing him of the capture and saying the loss to the British of the twenty-five men was one "they cannot easily provide against—the want of men."
The demonstration of satisfaction at Philadelphia because of Barry's success gave heart to the patriots in an endeavor to have an increase in the naval force. By the alertness of armed cruisers, protection would be given to the supplies coming to the Americans and at the same time captures could be made of supplies going to the British.
On May 1, 1776, the "Edward," condemned by the Court of Admiralty as a prize to the "Lexington'" was, with all her ammunition, furniture, tackle and apparel, sold at public auction and the proceeds divided between the Government and Captain Barry and his crew.
BARRY APPOINTED TO COMMAND DEFENSIVE OPERATIONS IN DELAWARE BAY AND RIVER—CAPTURES BRITISH SUPPLIES AND PROTECTS AMERICAN—SAVES THE CARGO OF THE "NANCY" AND EXPLODES HER WHEN THE BRITISH BOARD HER—CAPTURES THE "LADY SUSAN" AND THE "BETSY"—APPOINTED TO THE "EFFINGHAM."
The "Lexington" was not in a condition to then proceed on another expedition, as she needed fitting up. Yet Captain Barry was not permitted to be idle. On May 8th, Robert Morris, for the Marine Committee of Congress, directed him to go down the Delaware River in the sloop "Hornet," commanded by Captain Hallock, and to take the officers and men of the "Lexington" to supply the Provincial armed ship, commanded by Captain Read, the Floating Battery and the "Reprisal," under Captain Wickes, with men sufficient to have these vessels "fit for immediate action," and to give the "utmost exertions" of himself, officers and men in defending the pass at Fort Island so as to prevent the British coming to Philadelphia; and also to take, sink or destroy such as attempted to do so as well as pursue those he thought it advisable to follow. This made Captain Barry the Commodore or ranking officer in the naval operations in Delaware Bay. The next day Captain Barry reported to Mr. Morris, urging the fitting out of the "Lexington" so "she might be of service. The more there is the better," said the Captain, though adding, "We shall keep them in play."
So the "Lexington" was fitted out and sent down the Bay to Barry where the "Roebuck" and "Liverpool," British frigates, were "in and about." Barry joined the rest of the fleet at Cape May. The "Liverpool" "was scared away" when the Americans went "in quest of the pirates."
At this time the thirteen vessels ordered in December to be built for the Marine Committee were being completed at Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore. Captain Barry was appointed to the command of one being built at Philadelphia—the "Effingham" being assigned him in October.
All the while, however, Barry was in command of the "Lexington" in the Delaware Bay and off the Capes, giving protection to the Continental supply vessels coming to Philadelphia, which had been sent out for necessaries. One arrived at Philadelphia with 7,400 pounds of powder as well as a number of firearms. Barry also sent up to Philadelphia the war stores he captured. On June 12, 1776, the Secret Committee of Congress directed that Colonel Megraw's Battalion be given the 191 firearms "sent up by Captain Barry." She narrowly escaped capture by the "Liverpool," but two of the Continental vessels protected her and a French schooner. Other French vessels from the West Indies, bringing molasses, coffee, linen and other supplies were also saved from capture by Captain Barry and the other Continental and Provincial commanders under his authority. On June 10th the "Kingfisher," British man-of-war, captured a brigantine from Wilmington, but "before the pirate boarded her our brave Captain Barry had been on board of her and taken out some powder and arms," was the report Henry Fisher, of Lewistown, sent the Committee of Safety by whale-boat to New Castle and thence by land because the Tories of the County had cut off all horse express communication.
The tenders of the "Roebuck," the "Liverpool" and the "Kingfisher" attempted to seize the cattle and stock which the Tories had stored for the British at Indian River, "but were prevented by Barry's brig," as they called her, thus indicating that the alertness and success of the "brave Captain Barry" had become conspicuously known to the Tories of lower Delaware, a nest of Loyalists.
The brig "Nancy" bringing supplies from St. Croix and St. Thomas for Congress account and having 386 barrels of gunpowder, 50 firelocks, 101 hogsheads of rum, 62 of sugar and bales of dry goods, on June 29, 1776, while making for Cape May, was pursued by six British men-of-war but, getting assistance from Captain Barry's "Lexington," she was run ashore and 268 barrels of the powder and most of the other stores saved. Powder was, by Barry's order, placed in the cabin and in the mainsail, in the folds of which fire was put. The British boarded the brig. An explosion soon took place and "blew the pirates into the air." It "was supposed forty or fifty were destroyed by the explosion."
On July 2, 1776, the day the Resolution declared the Colonies free and independent, John Hancock, President of the Congress so declaring, notified Captain Barry that as "the frigate you are to command is not yet launched, her guns and anchors not yet ready," it was but "a piece of justice due to your merit to allow you to make a cruise in the 'Lexington' for one or two months, in hopes that fortune may favor your industry and reward it with some good prizes." On this cruise Barry met that "fortune" which his industry merited. He captured several prizes of which record have been discovered.
On August 2d the "Lady Susan," "an armed vessel, was taken by Captain Barry at sea," reported Caesar Rodney to his brother at Dover the next day. This was "a privateer of eight four-pound carriage guns commanded by another of those famous Goodriches of Virginia." She was loaded with naval stores from Bermuda. After an "obstinate engagement" of an hour and a half "she struck." Nearly all of her crew of twenty-five after their capture took service under Barry.
The "Betsy," a sloop of fifty tons, commanded by Samuel Kerr, was also at this time captured by the "Lexington" under Barry. Both prizes were condemned to Captain Barry on September 26th by the Court of Admiralty, but an appeal in the case of the "Betsy" was taken to Congress.
The newly built "Effingham" being ready, Captain Barry surrendered, on October 18, 1776, the "Lexington" to Captain Henry Johnston and took command of the "Effingham," named in honor of Lord Effingham, who had resigned his commission in the British Army rather than take arms against the Colonies, because of his "strict adherence to those principles of the Revolution of 1688," which he declared the Colonies were contending for and for so doing the merchants of Dublin, on July 17, 1775, approved of his conduct in "honestly and spiritedly resigning," and for his "noble efforts in support of American Liberty."
BARRY APPOINTED TO THE "EFFINGHAM"—THE QUESTION OF RANK—BARRY ENGAGES IN THE TRENTON CAMPAIGN—AN AIDE TO WASHINGTON AND TO CADWALLADER—COMMANDER OF THE PORT OF PHILADELPHIA—STRIKE OF THE NAVY LIEUTENANTS—OPERATIONS OF BARRY ON THE DELAWARE.
A reorganization of the Navy of the United Colonies took place on October 10, 1776, when assignments were made of the several armed vessels then belonging to the "United States," as that was the title Congress had, on September 9th, ordered to be used in all public documents. The order in which these assignments were made was generally regarded as fixing the rank of each Captain. So it occasioned agitation and discussion. It was not, however, officially stated that such was the case. Later it was declared not to be so by Committee of Congress.
Captain John Barry was assigned to No. 7 on the list. Those preceding him were: (1) James Nicholson, to the "Virginia," 28 guns; (2) John Manly, to the "Hancock," 32 guns; (3) Hector McNeil, to the "Boston," 24 guns; (4) Dudley Salstonstall, to the "Trumbull," 28 guns; (5) Nicholas Biddle, to the "Randolph," 32 guns; (6) Thomas Thompson, to the "Raleigh," 32 guns; (7) John Barry, to the "Effingham," 28 guns. John Paul Jones was given No. 18. The Marine Committee in making up the list could hardly, in view of the number of guns of the several vessels and the selection of Captains who had not as yet served in the Navy, have intended the position assigned as fixing the official rank of the several officers. James Nicholson, the first named and to a 28-gun ship, had not heretofore been noted for any special services justifying his appointment as the ranking officer of the Navy, though giving him a vessel inferior in armament to others lower in position. Captain John Manly, No. 2, was "uneasy and threatened to resign." He had in New England waters done early and good services. Captain Thompson's friends declared he ought to have been placed higher. Yet Manly and Thompson were given 32-gun ships, while Captain Nicholson, No. 1, was given a 28 and Captain Barry, No. 7, was also given a 28. Captain John Paul Jones, No. 18, ever contested the assignment to that position, declaring that "rank opens the door to glory." As late as 1781 he made contest before Committee of Congress. It reported that though there was, "on October 10, 1776, an arrangement of Captains, the Committee cannot fully ascertain the rule by which that arrangement was made, as the relative rank was not conformable to the times of appointment or dates of commission and seems repugnant to a resolution of December 22, 1775."
Captain Barry appears not to have made any objection to his position on the list. He was ready and eager for service and, seemingly, not concerned as to rank or position. He had been given a vessel equal to Captain Nicholson, No. 1. Those to whom stronger armament had been given had not been early or foremost in service or activity. Some of them did not, later, justify any outranking, if that were the case. Captain Barry was early in the struggle, foremost during its continuance and latest in service.
Jones declared that some gentlemen in the first days of the Navy did not join the Navy as "they did not choose to be hanged, as the hazard was very great." But Captain John Barry did not hesitate. He came quickly from London to engage in the conflict, and from the very first day of his return to America was active in service and on duty. Still rank was not necessary to "open the door to glory," for No. 7 became the chief officer of the Navy and No. 18 achieved imperishable fame and popular renown. The pay of the Captains was sixty dollars a month. The uniform was: Blue cloth with red lapels, slash cuff, stand-up collar, flat yellow buttons, blue breeches, red waistcoat with yellow lace.
Interested in the Navy, Captain Barry was also concerned in affairs on land. So when on November 25, 1776, a meeting was held at the Indian Queen Hotel, Philadelphia, to consider accusations against those "suspected as Tories and unfriendly to the cause of America," Captain Barry was there. We may be sure he was earnest and active in any measures to restrict the operations of those inimicable to Liberty or engaged in efforts detrimental to the Patriots' endeavors.
Captain Barry, on November 30, 1776, united with Captains Biddle, Read, Alexander and John Nicholson in a memorial to Congress. It was referred to the Marine Committee, who were directed to pursue such measures as they might think proper. What the memorial related to has not been discovered after long continued endeavor to ascertain. It is not among the papers of the Continental Congress nor mentioned in the records of the Marine Committee, which have been preserved at the Library of Congress.
At this time affairs were serious with General Washington. The battle of Long Island, in August, had been disastrous. Forts Lee and Washington, the bulwarks of the Hudson, had been lost and the sad and gloomy, but marvelously strategic, retreat across New Jersey was being conducted by Washington, pursued by Lord Cornwallis.
Washington "was at the end of the tether." "In ten days this army will have ceased to exist," was his almost despairing cry to Congress, calling for aid to strengthen his disappearing and dispirited army. Yet on the upper Delaware, amid all the encircling gloom, God's precious Providence and love was at no time during the Revolution more strikingly manifested. All seemed lost this bleak December, 1776. The hour of defeat, dismay and destruction seemed about to strike. The timid, the faint-hearted, the treacherous were fast accepting British allegiance. Even heretofore stalwart hearts wavered in the cause of Liberty. The newly proclaimed Independence of hot July, the threat and defiance of the Colonies to England's tyranny, was now in the chill December, like the earth, about to be sheathed in the coldness of death.
The alarm came to Philadelphia. Shops were shut, schools closed and the inhabitants engaged solely in providing for the defense of the City, now the aim of the enemy. But out of all this gloom and alarm came the victory at Trenton.
Captain John Barry organized a company of volunteers and went to Washington's assistance. In cooperation with the marines under Captain William Brown, he lent efficient service in transporting Washington's army across the Delaware prior to the Battle of Trenton. Captain Barry acted as an aide to General Cadwallader, and on one occasion, of which there is record, as an aide to Washington in the safe conduct to Philadelphia of the baggage of the captured Hessians and also of the surgeons and physicians to Princeton.
After the Trenton campaign and its consequent successful results, Captain Barry returned to Philadelphia and engaged in naval preparations for the defense of the city. He was the Senior Commander of the Navy in the Port of Philadelphia.
In July, 1777, twelve of the lieutenants of the fleet under Barry struck for an increase of pay and allowances. They notified Captain Barry they would not act on board any vessel until their grievances were redressed. Barry informed the Marine Committee. It reported the affair to Congress, saying that such a combination of officers was of the "most dangerous tendency." Whereupon the Congress dismissed all of the lieutenants and declared their commissions "void and of no effect." The offenders were declared incapable of holding any commission under the United States and recommending the several States not to employ any in offices civil or military. This brought the lieutenants to "acknowledge in the most explicit manner that the offense for which they were dismissed is highly reprehensible and could not be justified under any circumstances or any pretence whatever, and that they were exceedingly sorry for the rashness which betrayed them into such behavior." Then the strikers were "restored to former rank and command."
THE BRITISH CAPTURE PHILADELPHIA—ACTIVITY OF BARRY—COMMANDER OF NAVY AT PORT OF PHILADELPHIA—BATTLE AT RED BANK—ORDERED BY WASHINGTON AND NAVY BOARD TO SINK THE VESSELS ON THE UPPER DELAWARE—PROTESTS—DECLARED HE KNEW MORE ABOUT A SHIP THAN WASHINGTON AND THE BOARD—CHARGED WITH DISRESPECT—HIS DEFENSE TO CONGRESS—HIS BRILLIANT OPERATIONS ON THE DELAWARE.
The British, in 1776 having failed to reach Philadelphia by the northward way through New Jersey, planned the 1777 campaigns to end with the capture from the southward by the Chesapeake of the capital of "the rebels." This was in accordance with the plan, as we now know, of General Charles Lee, second in command to Washington, while he was a prisoner in New York. He thus proved himself a traitor more despicable even than Arnold. His infamy did not become known until of late years. Moving northward from the head of the Chesapeake Bay, the British encountered Washington at Brandywine and, defeating him, secured an entrance to Philadelphia when it pleased General Howe to enter, which he did on September 26th, amid the welcoming acclaim of the people who remained. The Patriots had generally left the city.
On the 23d the Navy Board ordered all vessels south of Market Street to move down the river and all north to go up the Delaware to escape falling into the hands of the British. Barry's "Effingham" went down the river.
Barry, as the Senior Commander of the Navy at the Port of Philadelphia, had charge of the "row gallies, batteries" and other vessels protecting and maintaining the chevaux de frize off Billingsport by sinking obstructions to prevent the passage to the city of any British vessels and thus effectually stopping the channel.
The British erected a battery near the mouth of the Schuylkill upon which Barry's galleys fired at times but seemingly with but little effect, though "playing their part most nobly and acting like men and freemen convincing the world their liberty was merited," to use the words of Thomas McKean to General Rodney.
When, on October 22, 1777, Count Donop attacked the Americans in Fort Mercer at Red Bank, the British fleet cooperated with the land forces, while the Continental vessels under Barry and the Pennsylvania fleet under Hazlewood drove them back, preventing their passage up the river. The British frigate the "Augusta" and the "Merlin" were driven ashore. The "Merlin" was set on fire by its crew. The powder on the "Augusta" exploded and that vessel was blown up. Portions of its remains are in the water off Red Bank to this day.
Fort Mifflin, held by the Americans, was attacked on November 16, 1777. Unable to have the assistance of the Continental or the State Navy, the fort was abandoned. A council of the commanders of the fleet was held, when it was decided that an endeavor should be made at night to take all the vessels up the river, as the British fleet held control of the lower Delaware. To do this it was necessary to pass Philadelphia, then in possession of the British. This was successfully accomplished by the State fleet early in the morning of November 16th. They were "unperceived," says the British account, until the passage had been successfully made. The enemy were more alert the following night when the Continental vessels under Barry endeavored to make the passage. Three or four succeeded. Others had to be burned to prevent capture. The success of this elusive passage up the river emboldened, as we shall see later, Captain Barry, a few months afterwards, to make another successful passage down the river, passing, unmolested, the British vessels off Philadelphia and getting down into the Bay to oppose the British hovering thereabouts.
Barry's operations on the Delaware, while the British occupied Philadelphia, were as brilliant and as audacious in bravery as any services performed during his career. Doubtless from his activity, good judgment and bravery at this period may have proceeded all the successes of his subsequent career. The Continental authorities were made aware at once of the abilities of the gallant man whom they had so early in the struggle for Independence placed in command.
During the attack on Fort Mifflin by the British, Lieutenant Ford, of Barry's "Effingham," and Lieutenant Lyons, of the "Dickinson," deserted. After the British had evacuated Philadelphia these deserters were captured and on September 2, 1778, shot. The execution took place on a guard-boat off Market Street.
After the Continental and State fleets had arrived in the upper Delaware near Bordentown, Washington, in November, 1777, notified the Continental Navy Board there was danger of a British force being sent to destroy the vessels. So he directed they should be sunk. Barry was, by the Board, on November 2d, directed to move the "Effingham" "a little below White Hill" (now Fieldsboro, N.J.) "where she may lie on a soft bottom. You are to sink her there without delay by sunset this evening." But Barry was loath to sink the vessel he had been appointed to command and fight. Later in the month Francis Hopkinson, of the Navy Board, delivered to Captain Barry, as Senior Officer, "orders, in writing," to sink or burn the ships. Captains Barry and Read had taken every measure to defend the vessels which Barry declared he believed would be effectual in repelling any force the enemy would send to destroy them.
Barry and Read protested to the Board against the sinking, saying that if Washington knew the security of the ships he would not order the sinking. Barry offered to go and inform him, but Hopkinson declared Washington had been informed and his order would be carried out. He told Barry that the order should be obeyed; that he would take Washington's opinion in preference to Barry's.
"I told him," related Barry in his defense, when summoned before Congress sitting at York, for disrespect to the Navy Board, "that nevertheless I knew more about a ship than General Washington and the Navy Board together. That I was commissioned by Congress to command the 'Effingham' and, therefore, expected to be consulted before she was destroyed."
"You shall obey our orders," was the quick and somewhat heated reply. Whereupon Barry left him "of course in high dudgeon," said Barry. "I immediately repaired to my ship, got all clear—and the orders were punctually obeyed"—while Hopkinson himself was on board giving orders which did not permit the vessel to keel and so was "very near upsetting." When Barry reported the condition of the ship to the Navy Board, he was told "it was a misfortune and we must do the best to remedy it," to which Barry replied that nothing would be wanting on his part.
Two attempts to raise the "Effingham" failed for want of men and material, whereupon Mr. Hopkinson said he would raise her himself—"an insult I overlooked, having the getting up of the ship much at heart," Barry told Congress. So he got everything ready and sent for as many of the invalid soldiers as could be had, and with the seamen began to heave. And he too "worked with as much ardor as possible."
"Captain Barry, doth she rise," called Hopkinson.
"No, sir! How can she rise when you keep the people back," replied Barry. This was an allusion to Hopkinson's order that only invalids, well attired, should be sent to assist the seamen.
"Puh! You are always grumbling," retorted Hopkinson.
"What do you say?" quickly cried Barry.
"Go along and mind your own business, you scoundrel," roared Hopkinson.
"It is a lie," said Barry.
"What! Do you tell me I lie?" said Hopkinson.
"It was a lie in them that said so," was Barry's rejoinder.
Hopkinson replied that he would bring Barry to an account for this.
"My answer was," Barry told Congress, "Damn you! I don't value you more than my duty requires."
"Sir! You never minded your duty," retorted Hopkinson.
"I immediately told him he was a liar and that the Continental Congress knew I had minded my duty, and added that had he minded his duty as well the ship would not be in its present condition."
The Navy Board, on December 11, 1777, complained to Congress of the "disrespect and ill treatment which Hopkinson had received from John Barry, commander of the frigate 'Effingham.'"
Barry was summoned to York, Pa., where Congress was in session. On January 10th he attended and made defense, concluding by saying that he considered himself "unworthy the commission of Congress if he tamely put up with treatment other than that due to all Captains of the Navy as gentlemen."
On February 27th the Marine Committee reported to Congress that "Captain Barry ought, within twenty days, make full acknowledgment to the Navy Board of having treated Mr. Hopkinson with indecency and disrespect." Nothing further appears on record, so it is presumed Captain Barry complied and the case closed. At this time Barry was, by order of the same Committee, actively at work destroying British supplies in the lower Delaware from Mantua Creek to Port Penn and Bombay Hook.
Congress was equally divided on a resolution that Captain Barry be not, in consequence of his conduct towards Hopkinson, "employed on the expedition assigned to his conduct by the Marine Committee with the approbation of Congress until the further order of Congress." Had he not been employed, Washington might not, later, have been cheered by the results which Captain Barry achieved in "the expedition" against the British supply vessels coming up the Delaware.
Washington, amid the desolation of Valley Forge, had his heart torn by the suffering of his Patriot soldiers who bore all, suffered all, hoped all, determined to brave all that their country should be free. From amid that distress Washington sent his thanks for "the good things" Barry sent to the camp.
While the controversy with Hopkinson was being considered and Barry was in the upper Delaware, he projected the plan to attempt the destruction of some of the enemy's vessels lying off Philadelphia by floating down machines in form of ships' buoys filled with powder. These, as they floated past the city, were fired at by the British batteries. This event is known in history as "The Battle of the Kegs."
Singularly, too, Francis Hopkinson, Barry's accuser of want of respect for him made the event memorable by a humorous ditty reflecting upon "British valor displayed."
"The cannons roar from shore to shore, The small arms make a rattle; Since war's began, I'm sure no man E'er saw so strange a battle."
The Loyalists, however, considered the battle as "a most astonishing instance of the activity, bravery and military skill of the Royal Navy of Great Britain. Officers and men exhibited the most unparalleled skill and bravery on the occasion, while the citizens stood as solemn witness of their prowess."
This occurred on Monday, January 5, 1778, a day ever distinguished in history for the memorable "Battle of the Kegs."
BARRY ATTACKS THE BRITISH SUPPLY SHIPS BELOW PHILADELPHIA—CAPTURES THREE—SENDS SUPPLIES TO WASHINGTON AT VALLEY FORGE—THANKS OF WASHINGTON—WAS BARRY OFFERED A BRITISH COMMAND?
The expedition assigned to Captain Barry which he came near being deprived of by Congress was a cruise in the Delaware River. The Marine Committee, not being directed not to employ Barry, on January 29, 1778, directed him to fit out the pinnace and barges belonging to the frigates for "a cruise in said river under your command." He was empowered to "receive stores and employ such Continental Navy officers and call the number of men necessary for officering, manning, victualing and equipping the boats." He was directed to have frequent occasion to land on each side of the Delaware and to restrain his men from plundering or insulting the inhabitants. The Navy Board was directed to supply "everything necessary for your little fleet" and money to procure supplies. He was directed to inform General Washington of such stores as he might capture which are necessary for the use of the army. He was to sink or destroy the vessels which he could not remove to safety. His "despatch, activity, prudence and valor," were relied on to bring success. If Barry's project to destroy British shipping by explosive machines did not succeed, another form of endeavor dependent more upon skill and bravery would accomplish results as satisfactory as had been hoped for by the floating "score of kegs or more that came floating down the tide."
The Supreme Executive Committee of Pennsylvania, then at Lancaster, on February 7, 1778, notified the Navy Board, then at Burlington, New Jersey, that "a spirit of enterprise to annoy the enemy in the river below Philadelphia had discovered itself in Captain Barry and other officers of the Continental Navy, which promised considerable advantage to the adventurous as well as to the public."
The Council had waited to find Captain Barry's example inducing the officers and men of the State fleet to engage in the enterprise—of taking all they could get from the enemy, so that any benefit arising from the plan should accrue to those who signalized themselves in the time of danger. So Captain Barry during the night, with four rowboats with twenty-seven men, started from Burlington and succeeded in passing Philadelphia undiscovered and so unmolested by the British. Barry was acting under orders of General Anthony Wayne, a fellow-member of the FRIENDLY SONS OF ST. PATRICK, who sent a detachment from Washington's army to aid in the enterprise. After passing Philadelphia, Barry began the destructive work of destroying forage. On February 26, 1778, he arrived off Port Penn and from there, that day, wrote General Washington at Valley Forge that he had "destroyed the forage from Mantua Creek to this place," amounting to four hundred tons. He would have proceeded further but "a number of the enemy's boats appeared and lined the Jersey shore, depriving us of the opportunity of proceeding on the same purpose." Barry discharged all but four of Washington's men, whom he kept to assist in getting the boats away, as his men were rendered incapable through fatigue.
On March 7, 1778, off Bombay Hook, Barry with twenty-seven men in five rowboats captured the "Mermaid" and the "Kitty," transports from Rhode Island, laden with supplies for the British. He stripped the vessels and sent the supplies northward through New Jersey and burned the vessels. The "Alert," a British schooner with eight four-pounders, twelve four-pound howitzers and thirty-three men properly equipped for an armed vessel, came in sight while Barry was engaged in the encounter with the supply vessels. Barry sent a flag to Captain Morse, of the "Alert," demanding a surrender, promising that the officers would be allowed their private baggage, whereupon the "Alert" was "delivered up" to Captain Barry, who granted parole to the Captain to go to Philadelphia for a fortnight. "The schooner is a most excellent vessel for our purpose," wrote Captain Barry to General Washington two days later, when sending him a "cheese and a jar of pickled oysters" from the store of wines and luxuries intended for General Howe's table. He also sent a plan of New York "which may be of service," which he had taken on the "Alert."
Though a fleet of the enemy's small vessels were in sight, "I am determined," wrote Barry, "to hold the 'Alert' at all events;" that as a number of ships with very little convoy were expected Barry declared that with about forty more men he could give a very good account of them. The next day, March 8, 1778, he reported to the Marine Committee the success of the expedition. On the 11th the Committee congratulated the "gallant commander, brave officers and men concerned in it throughout the whole cruise." He was informed that the "Alert" would be purchased for a cruiser, her name changed to the "Wasp," of which he was to take command or bestow it on some brave, active and prudent officer on a cruise on the coast and off Cape Henlopen, so as "to descry the enemies' vessels coming and going." Barry's "well-known bravery and good conduct" were commended. The British "frigates and small armed vessels," however, attacked Barry. After a long and severe engagement he was obliged to ground and abandon the 'Alert,' though he saved her guns and most of her tackle, so Washington reported to Congress on March 12th.
That day Washington wrote to Barry:
"I have received your favor of the 9th inst. and congratulate you on the success that has crowned your gallantry and address in the late attacks on the enemy's ships. Although circumstances have prevented you from reaping the full benefit of your conquests, yet there is ample consolation in the degree of glory which you have acquired.
"May a suitable recompense always attend your bravery."
Alexander Hamilton, writing to Governor Clinton, of New York, from Washington's Headquarters, Valley Forge, March 12, 1778, said: "We have nothing new in camp save that Captain Barry has destroyed, with a few gunboats, two large ships belonging to the enemy, laden with forage from Rhode Island. He also took an armed schooner which he has since been obliged to run ashore after a gallant defense. 'Tis said he has saved her cannon and stores—among the ordnance four brass howitzers."
Barry with twenty-seven men had captured one major, two captains, three lieutenants, ten soldiers and one hundred seamen and marines—one hundred and sixteen taken by twenty-seven. He captured also many letters and official papers relating to the Hessians in British service, as well as the Order of Lion d'Or for General Knyphausen. This was sent the Hessian general. Barry's success won the admiration of friend and foe. It was at this time Sir William Howe is said to have offered Captain Barry twenty thousand guineas and the command of a British frigate if he would desert the service of the United Colonies. The alleged answer of Barry is stated to have been: "Not the value and command of the whole British fleet can seduce me from the cause of my country."
Any such offer, if made, would more probably have been made by Lord Howe, Commander of the British fleet, brother to General Howe, Commander of the Army. It is of record that he sent Commodore Hazlewood, of the Pennsylvania Navy, a summons to surrender, to which reply was made that he "would not surrender but defend to the last." A like summons to Barry, Commander of the Continental Navy, doubtless received a similar reply, but there is no known evidence or authoritative record that Barry was tempted to desert his country.
PRAISE FOR BARRY'S SUCCESS—BRITISH DESTROY BARRY'S "EFFINGHAM" AND OTHER VESSELS ON THE UPPER DELAWARE—APPOINTED TO THE "RALEIGH"—PROTECTS THE COAST FROM NORTH CAROLINA TO MASSACHUSETTS—ENCOUNTER WITH TWO BRITISH FRIGATES—BARRY RUNS THE "RALEIGH" ASHORE—HIS ACTION APPROVED AND HIS BRAVERY DECLARED.
Barry's operations on the Delaware were of foremost importance at this period of gloom and darkness. The British were in possession of Philadelphia, the Capital of "the rebels." Washington's men were suffering the distress of Valley Forge, ill-fed and scantily clothed. Barry was destroying forage and capturing supplies. General Wayne was operating around Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey in a like endeavor.
"For boldness of design and dexterity of execution, Barry's operations were not surpassed, if equaled, during the war," says Frost's Naval Biography.
"The gallant action reflects great honor on Captain Barry, his officers and crew," wrote William Ellery, one of Massachusetts' delegates in Congress.
Colonel Laurens wrote his father telling of the deeds of Captain Barry, "to whom great praise is due." Washington reported to Congress "with great pleasure the success" of Captain Barry.
Captain Barry considered the Delaware Bay "the best place for meeting with success where he could use his little squadron." On the upper Delaware where the "Effingham," "Washington" and other Continental vessels had been sunk, near Bordentown, by order of General Washington, in April by his orders, also, the Pennsylvania Navy Board, directed that the galleys, shallops and brigs be dismantled and sunk, shot buried and stores lodged throughout New Jersey. All this after "a rather stubborn insistance on the part of the officers" against so doing, just as Captain Barry had protested. Later in the month Barry's "Effingham," the "Washington" and other Continental vessels were raised "from the soft bottom of the river," but on May 7, 1778, a British force, under Major Maitland, was sent from Philadelphia and burned twenty-one or more vessels and naval stores and destroyed all supplies.
At this time Captain Barry was in command of the squadron in the lower Delaware River and in the Bay. By the destruction of the "Effingham" in the upper Delaware he was without a command other than the temporary one in which he was operating. Accordingly, on May 30, 1778, the Marine Committee appointed him to the command of the frigate "Raleigh," then in Boston Harbor. He was directed to "repair immediately to that place" to take command. He succeeded Captain Thomas Thompson, who was charged with having deserted the "Alfred" (Barry's old-time "Black Prince") in the battle with the British frigates "Ariadne" and "Ceres," by which the "Alfred" became captive.
Captain Barry proceeded to Boston and, taking command of the "Raleigh," refitted her for service and went to sea, stopping at Rhode Island, where he received the orders of Marine Committee, on August 24, 1778, ordering him to cruise in company with the Continental brigantine "Resistance," Captain Burke, between Cape Henlopen and Occracok on the coast of North Carolina to intercept British armed vessels infesting that coast. On May 28th orders were sent to Hampton, Virginia, for delivery to Captain Barry, directing him to take under convoy six or more of the vessels loaded with commissary stores and protect them to the places of destination. Then he and Captain Burke were to proceed and protect the coast line of Virginia and North Carolina, reporting once a week at Hampton for orders, which he, as Senior Officer, should communicate to Captain Burke, and also there receive supplies furnished by the Governor of Virginia.
Captain Barry in the "Raleigh" cruised along the coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts Bay. On September 8, 1778, off Boston Bay he reported to the Marine Committee that many of the guns of the "Raleigh" had burst in proving and the ship was "exceedingly foul" and unfit to further cruise. He was, on September 28, 1778, directed to proceed to Portsmouth, Virginia, where there was a Continental shipyard, and have the "Raleigh's" bottom cleaned. That done he was to continue "to cruise upon the coast," the "Deane" or any other vessel with him, Barry was to order to cruise while the "Raleigh" was being cleaned.
The Committee had information that the British frigate "Persius," of 32 guns was cruising singly on the coast of South Carolina. Barry was then ordered as soon as his ship was cleaned to extend his cruising ground so as to cover the coast of that State, taking the "Deane" or other vessel with him in search of the "Persius" and endeavor to "take, burn, sink or destroy" the said frigate or any other of the enemy's vessels "that he might fall in with." If he made a capture he was to take it to Charleston and there fit, man her and take her on the cruise with him.
This order, sent to Hampton, Virginia, did not reach the "Raleigh" as, on September 25, 1778, she had sailed from Boston convoying a brigantine and sloop. That day and the following, two British frigates were seen but avoided. The next day—Sunday—the frigates chased the "Raleigh" from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon when, nearing each other, the "Raleigh" hoisted her colors and the headmost frigate "hoisted St. George's ensign." "We gave her a broadside which she returned, tacked and came up on our lee quarter and gave the "Raleigh" a broadside," which carried away its foretopmast and mizzentop gallant mast, which, to "the unspeakable grief" of Captain Barry, caused him, "in a great measure, to lose command" of the "Raleigh," "determined to victory" as he was. "The enemy plied his broadsides briskly, which was returned as brisk," though the "Raleigh" "bore away to prevent the enemy from raking us." The British sheered off and dropped astern. During the night Barry perceived the stern-most ship gaining on us very fast and, being disabled in our sails, masts and rigging and having no possible view of escaping, Captain Barry, with the advice of his officers, ran the "Raleigh" on shore to prevent her falling into the hands of the enemy. The engagement, however, continued "very warm until midnight"—a five-hours' contest, when the frigate sheered off to wait the consort. The "Raleigh's" mizzentopsail had been shot away. Captain Barry ordered the other sails cut loose from the yards. The two frigates appeared and endeavored to cut the "Raleigh" "from the land." The headmost ship proved a two-decker of at least fifty guns. The "Raleigh," "not in the least daunted, received their fire, which was very heavy, and returned ours with redoubled vigor."
"Encouraged by our brave commander, we were determined not to strike," related one of the officers. "After receiving three broadsides from the large ship and the fire of the other frigate on our lee quarter," the "Raleigh" struck the shore, when the enemy poured in two broadsides, which were returned. She then hove in stays, our guns being loaded gave us a good opportunity of raking her, which we did with our whole broadside. After that she bore away and raked us and both British frigates kept up a heavy fire in order to make us strike to them, which we never did. They ceased and came to anchor a mile distant from the "Raleigh."
The island on which the "Raleigh" struck was uninhabited and being rocky could not be fortified for the defense of the ship. The enemy kept up an incessant fire on her and the men being exhausted after the long contest with the two frigates, Captain Barry ordered the men to land and the "Raleigh" to be set on fire. The eighty-five men were landed, but the treachery of Midshipman Jesse Jaycockt, an Englishman, who extinguished the fire, prevented the destruction. The other officers and men were made prisoners before the boats could return to take them off.
This "unequal contest with two ships was fought with great gallantry and though Captain Barry lost his ship he gained laurels for himself and honor for his country. Perhaps no ship was ever better defended," wrote John Brown, Secretary of the Navy Board at Boston to the Marine Committee of Congress, adding, "Captain Barry's conduct is highly approved and his officers and men are greatly pleased with him."
"His good conduct and bravery are universally allowed," said the Pennsylvania Post.
Captain Barry "fought with his usual bravery. His officers and men being sworn not to surrender, our brave Captain Barry avoided violating his oath by running the 'Raleigh' ashore," wrote Colonel John Laurens to his father.
The British frigates were the "Experiment," of 50 guns, and the "Unicorn," of 22 guns, or 72 guns against Barry's 32. The latter had ten men killed and was greatly damaged in hull and rigging in the contest of nine hours duration. The "Raleigh" lost twenty-five killed and wounded. The ship was added to the Royal Navy under the same name. This battle took place off Seal Island, or Fox Island, in Penobscot Bay.
Cooper's History of the Navy said, "Captain Barry gained credit for his gallantry on this occasion."
"A noble and daring defence," said Watson's Annals of Philadelphia.
This disaster left Barry without a ship. The loss, though regrettable, did not lessen his reputation as a skillful and sagacious commander nor mar the character he had won for bravery.
The Marine Committee in ordering the Navy Board at Boston to "order a Court of Inquiry on Captain Barry's conduct," said: "The loss of the 'Raleigh' is certainly a very great misfortune, but we have a consolation in reflecting that the spirited and gallant behavior of her commander has done honor to our flag."
And that it held him not censurable is shown by its statement that as "Captain Harding has been appointed to the command of the frigate at Norwich named the 'Confederacy,' which prevents our giving that ship to Captain Barry."
The Committee was ready at once to give him another command had a vessel been ready for him. That too without waiting the action of the Court of Inquiry, which it had ordered. But the Committee had soon occasion to give an appointment which showed the estimation in which his abilities were held as the foremost naval commander, worthy to be entrusted with its best commands and ships.
BARRY APPOINTED TO COMMAND AN EXPEDITION AGAINST FLORIDA—EXPEDITION ABANDONED, BARRY ENTERS THE PENNSYLVANIA PRIVATEER SERVICE—MAKES CAPTURES—RESISTS THE IMPRISONMENT OF HIS CREW—"MY NAME IS JOHN BARRY."
That the loss of the "Raleigh" brought no discredit upon Captain Barry, but rather added to his reputation as a brave and skillful commander is attested by the action of the Marine Committee in appointing him to command an expedition against East Florida.
Major-General Lincoln was to command the Continental and State army forces in the reduction of St. Augustine, Florida, as it "was of the highest importance to the United States."
On November 10, 1778, Congress Resolved:
"That Captain John Barry be and is hereby directed to take command of all armed vessels employed in the intended expedition, subject to the order of the Commander-in-Chief in the Southern Department; and that this commission continue in force till the expedition of the intended invasion of the Province of East Florida or till the further order of Congress; that he proceed with the utmost despatch to the State of Maryland in order to expedite the equipment of the gallies to be furnished by that State and proceed with them to Charleston in South Carolina."
At Charleston armed gallies from Virginia were to be joined. "The success of the expedition depended in the most essential manner on their service." The Continental share of all property taken would be released to the captors.
To prevent difference among officers of the respective States whose gallies would be employed, Captain John Barry was appointed to command the naval part of the expedition. Captain Barry "made some extraordinary demands upon Congress for allowance of a table and a secretary, which the House did not determine on," wrote Henry Laurens, President of Congress, to General Lincoln; adding that "though Captain Barry is a brave and active seaman, the intended service is not pleasing to him, 'tis possible, therefore, he may wish to avoid it and besides you will find old commanders in the two Southern States who will be much mortified should he actually proceed and take the command of them, consequences will arise which will be disagreeable to you and which may prove detrimental to the service."
The British probably became aware of the intended invasion and so organized a counter-movement against General Lincoln and obliged him to defend his occupancy of Charleston. General Clinton, on December 26, 1778, sailed from New York and a month later, delayed by storms, reached Savannah, the base of his operations against Lincoln. This obliged Congress to abandon its projected expedition against East Florida. So Captain Barry's "extraordinary demands" or the jealousies of the Southern naval officers were, by the course of events, set aside. The aggressive movement of Sir Henry Clinton had frustrated the intended invasion and so all the minor considerations involved therein.
But the high esteem in which Barry was held was proven by the appointment to command the expedition and this, too, immediately after the loss of the "Raleigh." His defense of the "Raleigh" was so bravely performed that the appointment to the Southern expedition was given him as the best testimonial of worth and of fidelity to duty. The loss of the "Raleigh" and the abandonment of the invasion of East Florida left Captain John Barry without an available Continental ship. But such a brave and active seaman could not be listless nor idle while an opportunity could be found or made for doing service for his country. When the "Effingham" and other vessels were tied up in the Delaware, Captain Barry became a landsman and did shore duty, leading a company of volunteers in the Trenton and Princeton campaign.
Now that his country had no ship to give him to do duty for America, he entered the service of his adopted State, Pennsylvania, and became "a bold privateer" by becoming commander of the Letter-of-Marque, the brig "Delaware," owned by Irwin & Co., of Philadelphia. His commission bears date of February 15, 1779. It is in the Lenox Library, New York.
The "Delaware" was a new brig of 200 tons, built to replace the schooner of the same name, which had been driven on the New Jersey shore and set on fire to escape the British early on the morning of November 21, 1777, when the State's Navy had passed up the Delaware River after the attack on Fort Mifflin.
The new "Delaware" carried ten guns and forty-five men when commissioned, but Captain Barry increased the force to twelve guns and sixty men.
The day he was commissioned he stood sponsor and his wife a witness to the baptism of Anna, daughter of Thomas, his brother, born on that morning. On July 21st following, Captain Barry's wife, Sarah Austin Barry, became a Catholic and was baptised, conditionally, Anna Barry, wife of Thomas, being the only sponsor. At this time Captain Barry was cruising in the West Indies. Judith, "the slave of Captain John Barry," an adult, was also baptised on August 19, 1779.
In the "Delaware" Captain Barry made two cruises to Port-au-Prince. Of his first voyage no record has been discovered, but of his second there is sufficient in the account given by his Mate, John Kessler. The "Delaware" sailed on its second cruise in the fall of 1779 in company with three other Letter-of-Marque brigs and one schooner. Of this fleet Captain Barry was made Commodore. He was always so appointed whenever two or more vessels were assigned to one cruise or expedition in which he engaged. When abreast of Cape Henlopen the British sloop-of-war the "Harlem," with eighty-five men and fourteen four-pounders, was taken without resistance, though the officers escaped in boats after heaving overboard all the guns.
The "Harlem" was sent to Philadelphia. The crew was delivered to the militia at Chincopague. Captain Barry reported to the owners that "the commanders in our little fleet are very complaisant and obliging to each other." That the "Harlem" had fourteen four-pounders and eighty-five men. The guns and other things were thrown overboard without firing a shot. The Captain, with ten men, went off in a whale-boat, "but," reported Captain Barry, "we have reason to think, is since overset." The prisoners were taken out, a prize crew put on board, the "Harlem" sent to Philadelphia and the men landed at Sinipaxan, Virginia, as they were too many to keep with safety on board the little fleet. "We have every reason in the world to think we shall catch more before long," reported Barry. The "Harlem" was "a fine vessel and had been a cruiser since the enemy took New York, but at present she is much out of tune," he added.
Of the rest of the voyage out and home nothing specially noteworthy occurred except that a merchant ship from Liverpool was captured and later retaken by the noted Goodrich and carried into Bermuda.
During the war there was often contention between the commanders of the Continental and those of the States' service. The Continentals, when in need of men, often impressed the seamen of the States' fleet and also those of merchant vessels. On Captain Barry's return to the Delaware River the Continental frigate "Confederacy" lay at Chester. She had been impressing the crews of merchant vessels coming up the river. The pilot gave this information to the crew of the "Delaware." It alarmed them very much and many desired to be put on shore. Captain Barry addressed them saying, "My lads, if you have the spirit of freemen you will not desire to go ashore nor tamely submit against your wills to be taken away, although all the force of all the frigate's boats' crew were to attempt to exercise such a species of tyranny." This address, records Kessler, satisfied them, as it implied his consent to their defending themselves. They resolved to do it at all hazards, and for that purpose put themselves under the command and direction of the boatswain and armed themselves with muskets, pistols and boarding pikes, and thus arrived within hailing distance of the "Confederacy." Her commander ordered the brig's maintopsail to be hove to the mast. Captain Barry answered that he could not without getting his vessel ashore. The commander of the frigate then ordered that the brig should come to anchor.
Captain Barry gave no answer but continued on his way, beating up with tide and flood and wind, when a gun was fired from the frigate and a boat, manned, left her and came towards the "Delaware." Captain Barry directed that the officers of the boat should be admitted on board, but as to the men with them, the "Delaware's" crew could do as they pleased. The boat soon arrived and two officers, armed, jumped on board and on the quarterdeck, ordering the maintopsail halyards to be cast off, which, however, was not done. Captain Barry asked whether they were sent to take command of his vessel. The boat's crew were about coming on board when the "Delaware's" men threatened instant death to all who came on board.
The officers after trying to intimidate our boatswain by presenting their pistols at him, and finding it of no avail, hastily sprang into their boats and left.
Another gun was fired from the "Confederacy." Captain Barry ordered the guns cleared and declared that if a rope-yard was injured he would give the "Confederacy" a whole broadside. A third gun was fired. Captain Barry hailed and asked the name of the commander of the frigate.
The answer was "Lieutenant Gregory."
Captain Barry addressed him: "Lieutenant Gregory, I advise you to desist from firing. This is the brig 'Delaware,' belonging to Philadelphia and my name is John Barry."
"Nothing further was said or done by Lieutenant Gregory," recorded Mate Kessler, who added: "Our whole crew arrived at Philadelphia, but the other vessels of our fleet were obliged to anchor, as the pressing of those who did not get on shore obliged them to remain until assistance was sent from Philadelphia. After our arrival Barry left the command of the brig, he having been ordered to take charge of a Continental 74-gun ship then building in the State of New Hampshire," relates Kessler. James Collins, First Lieutenant, became Captain Barry's successor in command of the "Delaware," which had taken two prizes, the distribution of which was made among the officers and crew, Kessler receiving "in the threefold capacity of clerk, steward and captain of marines."
CAPTAIN BARRY APPOINTED TO SUPERINTEND THE BUILDING OF THE "AMERICA," FRIGATE—GIVEN COMMAND OF THE "ALLIANCE" AS SUCCESSOR OF LANDAIS, THE FRENCHMAN—THE DISCOVERY OF ARNOLD'S TREASON—"WHOM CAN WE TRUST NOW?"—THE ANSWER TO ARNOLD.
The Continental 74 to which Captain Barry was sent immediately on his arrival at Philadelphia in the "Delaware" was the frigate "America," then building at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. To this command he was appointed on November 6, 1779, by the Marine Committee of Congress, which that day notified the Navy Board at Boston that Captain Barry on his way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he goes to hasten the building and fitting out of the new ship on the stocks at that place, would present the notification desiring the Committee to "push forward with all possible expedition" the work Captain Barry had been entrusted with. Barry's orders were "to hasten as much as may be in your power the completing of that ship, which we are desirous of having done with all despatch."
On November 20th, as desired by Captain Barry, Captain George Jerry Osborne was appointed to command the marines of the ship, but as it would be "a considerable time before there is occasion to raise the men," he was appointed "on the principle of his being useful in doing matters relative to the ship until that time." How long Captain Barry continued to superintend the building of the new Continental ship—later named the "America," does not appear, but on June 1, 1780, there is record in the Pennsylvania Archives [Vol. I, 5th Series] that Captain John Barry became the commander of the Pennsylvania privateer, the "American," of 14 guns and 70 men. Possibly the work of directing the construction of a vessel was not congenial to the active spirit of one who was at his best amid the more earnest exertions required by a life at sea, seeking the destruction or capture of the armed vessels of the enemy. So again he became a privateersman in the service of his State. He so served three months.
On June 26, 1781, Captain John Paul Jones was appointed, in succession to Barry, to superintend the construction of the "America," while Barry was doing service at sea in command of the "Alliance." The expense of launching and equipping the "America" was paid from the shares of the United States "in the prizes taken by Captain Barry" in the first cruise of the "Alliance" under his command. The Board of Admiralty were directed to assign these shares to Robert Morris by Resolution of Congress, June 3, 1781. The "America" when launched in November, 1781, was presented to France to replace the "Magnifique," wrecked in Boston Harbor.
The Continental Marine Committee, knowing well Barry's worth, on September 5, 1780, appointed him "to the command of the Continental frigate 'Alliance' now in the port of Boston." He was "directed to repair there as soon as possible to get the ship ready for sea with all possible despatch." The "Alliance" was the largest and finest vessel of the Continental Navy.
Thus we see again that the best available position was always given to Captain Barry. The first armed cruiser under direct Continental authority—the "Lexington"—was given him, then the "Effingham," of 32 guns, the largest armament of any vessel, was assigned him, and he was made Senior Commander of the Port of Philadelphia. On its destruction by the British, while he was operating in the lower Delaware, he was appointed to the "Raleigh." On its loss, for which Captain Barry suffered no detriment, he was made commander of the projected expedition to Florida. When that enterprise was abandoned he was given command of a fleet of the Navy of Pennsylvania. At the termination of the cruise the appointment to construct the best vessel the country had projected was given him. Then he was commissioned to the "Alliance," the best and finest vessel the United Colonies ever possessed. In that he remained as commander while the war continued, and at its close he was Commodore of all armed vessels remaining in the service of the Colonies, just as Washington was Commander-in-Chief of all the forces, military and naval, at the end of the war. As commander of the fleet, Barry was second to Washington.
The "Alliance," which Captain Barry took charge of in September, 1780, was so named in honor of the alliance with France. As a further compliment to the French, Captain Pierre Landais, a Frenchman, had been appointed Captain. He was relieved of the command and Captain Barry succeeded him. These were the only commanders the "Alliance" ever had—Landais the Frenchman and Barry the Irishman. Landais is buried in St. Patrick's cemetery, New York; Barry in St. Mary's, Philadelphia. One in faith and one in endeavor for our country.
The "Alliance" was the only American vessel in the expedition sent out by King Louis XVI, under John Paul Jones, which resulted in the ever memorable encounter with, and capture of, the "Serapis" by the "Bonne Homme Richard," commanded by Captain John Paul Jones. During the battle the "Alliance" twice fired into Jones' vessel and did damage. For this, on arrival in France, he was called on to make explanations and John Paul Jones, as Commodore of all American vessels in Europe, was appointed by Commissioner Benjamin Franklin, on June 16, 1780, to take "command of the 'Alliance' in her present intended voyage to America." But Silas Deane supported Landais, who ordered Jones off the vessel and set sail for America. On the voyage, his mental faculties becoming more erratic, the officers took the command from him and entrusted it to Lieutenant James Degges.
On arrival at Boston, Captain Barry was appointed to the command and the Courts of Inquiry and Courts-Martial tried Landais and dismissed him from the service. He died in New York in 1818 and is buried in St. Patrick's graveyard.
Captain Barry now commanded "the most perfect piece of naval architecture" than which the navies of France or England had none more complete. Landais and Barry were the only duly commissioned and regularly appointed by Continental authority commanders of the "Alliance," who at sea, on voyage or in battle ever directed her operations, yet a block of timber of the "Alliance" exhibited in the Revolutionary Relic Museum at Independence Hall is inscribed: "Commanded by John Paul Jones during the Revolutionary War."
There is no mention of its chief commander, John Barry, and that ignoring of his right to recognition is within sight of his statue erected by THE FRIENDLY SONS OF ST. PATRICK, of Philadelphia, March 16, 1907. Let that Society now secure the Commodore's right to the command his country gave him.
The appointment of Captain Barry had special significance at the time it was made—after the discovery of the treason of Benedict Arnold. He had issued on October 7, 1780, an "Address to the Soldiers of the American Army," in which he declared he thought "it infinitely wiser and safer to cast his confidence upon Great Britain's justice and generosity than to trust a monarchy too feeble to establish your Independence, so perilous to her distant dominions and the enemy of the Protestant faith."
Washington, in almost faint-hearted despair on the discovery of Arnold's treachery, had asked: "Whom can we trust now?" Was the answer to Washington and Arnold that made by the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress by the appointment of Captain John Barry to the largest, finest and best American war-vessel named in honor of an alliance with France, the alleged "enemy of the Protestant faith," as Arnold had declared?
Was that the answer to Arnold by the Congress whom he had denounced "as mean and profligate" and "praying a soul out of purgatory," because the members had attended the Requiem service in St. Mary's Church, Philadelphia, in behalf of the soul of Don Juan de Miralles, the Spanish Agent to the Congress, and in the very church which Captain Barry attended when in Philadelphia.
The Irish-born Catholic, John Barry, could be trusted with the very best when the native-born Protestant, Arnold, had betrayed the country for pelf and position among the oppressors of the native land of John Barry and the native land of the infamous Benedict Arnold.
What more could the adopted land of John Barry do for one who had been so faithful and so helpful from the first day of opportunity to serve her? It will erect a monument at the Capital of the Nation for America as Ireland's SONS OF ST. PATRICK have erected one at Independence Hall. His new country had given him the first, and at all times the best, she had to bestow, as his native land had given to America. Place of birth nor creed of faith made no disparagement of such superior worth as John Barry possessed.
The Congress that had, to the people of Great Britain, denounced Barry's religion as "one fraught with impiety, bloodshed, rapine and murder in every part of the globe," had given to the Irish-born Catholic who gave the best he possessed in talent, ability and service to the cause of America, had also given him the first of her war vessels, continued to give him the best she, too, possessed and, finally, while the native-born traitor almost paralyzed the hearts of the patriots, gave to the foreign-born and staunch Catholic, the foremost vessel in her navy, one "so swift, so warlike, stout and strong," as to be the admiration of Europe's most expert naval commanders, while America had dismissed from her service, as incompetent, the native-born Esek Hopkins, the first Commander-in-Chief of the Navy of the Colony. It is somewhat singular, therefore, that the foremost naval commanders of the Navy during the Revolutionary War were John Barry, of Ireland, and John Paul Jones, of Scotland—"foreigners," as John Adams spoke of both in 1813.
The lines of the Poet of the Revolution, Philip Freneau, may most appropriately be inserted here, to show the regard in which the vessel was held while John Barry was its commander:
"When she unfurls her flowing sails, Undaunted by the fiercest gales, In dreadful pomp she plows the main, While adverse tempests rage in vain. When she displays her gloomy tier, The boldest Britons freeze with fear, And, owning her superior might, Seek their best safety in their flight. But when she pours the dreadful blaze And thunder from her cannon plays, The bursting flash that wings the ball, Compels those foes to strike or fall."
"She was in many engagements and always victorious—a fortunate ship—a remarkably fast sailer—could always choose her combat—could either fight or run away—always beating her adversary by fight or flight," Philadelphia's annalist, Watson, made that record of her.
Such was the vessel commanded by Captain John Barry, the Wexford boy, in the closing and eventful year of the Revolution, which established our country's Independence and Liberty, to become the home of countless thousands of all lands who might enjoy the Liberties John Barry had so conspicuously aided in winning.
THE "ALLIANCE" SAILS FOR FRANCE—CAPTURES A BRITISH CRUISER—RETURN TO AMERICA—THE LOSS OF THE "LA FAYETTE"—MUTINY.
The selection of John Barry, at this crisis in our country's struggle for Liberty and Independence, to the command of the foremost ship of the new Republic is a most conspicuous and honorable testimony to his merits, abilities and services. None additional is needed.
The "Alliance" was selected to convey Colonel John Laurens as a special Commissioner to France to seek "an immediate, ample and efficacious succor in money, large enough to be a foundation for substantial arrangement of finance, to revive public credit and give vigor to future operations."
There was delay in sailing owing to a shortness of crew and the inability to procure recruits. In the meantime Captain Barry was, on November 10, 1780, appointed, by the Navy Board of the Eastern Department, President of a Court-Martial, together with Captains Hoystead Hucker, Samuel Nicholson and Henry Johnson, Lieutenants Silas Devol, Patrick Fletcher, Nicholas E. Gardner and Samuel Pritchard, Lieutenant of Marine, to meet on November 21st to try Lieutenant James Degges to determine whether he was justified in revolting against the authority of Captain Landais of the "Alliance" and usurping command on the voyage from France. A Court-Martial was also held for the trial of Captain Landais, and he was dismissed the service. There is much interesting history connected with these trials, but they do not properly enter into this recital further than to say that Captain Landais' erratic conduct in command of the "Alliance" was due to mental deficiencies as was afterwards generally acknowledged. These became so manifest in the voyage to America that the officers took the command from him.
On February 2, 1781, so impatient at the delay had become Colonel Laurens that, as all other resources had failed, he applied to General Benjamin Lincoln to allow recruits for the army fitted for marine service to be engaged and nowhere so advantageously employed.
Patrick Sheridan, an enlisted soldier of Boston, is one known to have been given leave to join the "Alliance." On February 11, 1781, the "Alliance" sailed from Boston with Colonel Laurens, Thomas Paine, Comte de Noailles, brother-in-law of Lafayette and other celebrities. On the way to France the "Alliance" captured, on March 4th, the British cruiser "Alert," which had possession of the "La Buonia Compagnia," a Venetian ship which, "contrary to the Laws of Nations and every principle of justice" had been seized by the British cruiser called the "Alert" from Glasgow, Francis Russell commander, by whom the Venetian crew were put in irons and otherwise cruelly treated.
Captain Barry released the Venetian "out of respect for the Laws of Nations and the rights of neutrality." Colonel Laurens in reporting to Congress, from L'Orient, March 11, 1781, where the "Alliance" had arrived two days before, related the action of Captain Barry, whereupon on June 26th it was resolved that Congress approve of Captain Barry's conduct in releasing the ship belonging to the Republic of Venice, retaken by him from a British privateer on March 4th last, it being the determination always to pay the utmost respect to the rights of neutral commerce. The Venetian Senate also expressed to Franklin, our Ambassador at Paris, through the Ambassador of Venice, their "grateful sense of the friendly behavior of Captain Barry, commander of the 'Alliance,' in rescuing one of the ships of their State from an English privateer and setting her at liberty."
It may be remarked as a singular circumstance that the "Alert" was, probably, the cruiser which, on September 10, 1777, had captured Barry's first command, the "Lexington," which was then commanded by Captain Henry Johnson and which Barry had, in March, 1778, captured in the Delaware Bay, but which was retaken by the British a few days later and which, on September 17, 1778, captured the American cruiser "La Fayette." If so, Captain Barry's gratification must have been great in again capturing the "Alert."
The importance of Captain Barry's services in this voyage must be noted. He succeeded in conveying to France Colonel Laurens, whose father had been sent on a similar mission, but had been taken prisoner while on the way, and at the time of his son's going on the same mission was a prisoner in the Tower at London. Captain Barry's responsibility was, therefore, great. Skill and acuteness were most essential to avoid encounter with a superior British force and thus endanger the safety of the special Commissioner charged with so important a duty at this "infinitely critical posture of our affairs," as Washington wrote Franklin.