John Barry




NA/Mid-Atlantic region


Maritime Republic (1751-1815)






The son of an Irish farmer, Barry was sent to sea at 10. In 1765, at age 20, he became a resident of Philadelphia, where he worked as a mariner. By 1775 he was captain of the Black Prince, the merchant ship Robert Morris gave to the Continental Navy (later the Alfred).

Barry received a commission in the Continental navy in 1776 and command of the sloop Lexington . His successful encounter with the British sloop Edward on April 6, 1776 off the Virginia Capes, was the new navy's first victory at sea. In 1777 Barry was promised command of the Effingham, then under construction in Philadelphia, but the ship had to be destroyed when the British occupied the city in September. He later commanded the Alliance and ended the war as one of the country's most successful and admired naval officers.

In the 1780s Barry sailed merchant ships to China and took an active interest in sailors' rights. When Congress created a permanent navy in 1794, Barry was commissioned as its senior captain. In this position he helped train several of the next generation's American naval officers. More then John Paul Jones, he merits recognition as the father of the American navy.

Record ID: 809