General Joseph Martin Chapter
Cumberland Gap, TN
Cumberland Gap Patriot
John Barry, the first Naval Captain of the Continental
Navy to capture a
British warship, and who was also responsible for the American victory
in the last naval engagement of the American Revolution, was born in
1745 in County Wexford Ireland. Not much is known about John Barry's
life before 1775. It is assumed that Barry loved the sea, and probably
worked on merchant vessel since a child, and probably could have even
served aboard a Royal Navy Ship as well.
Sometime before 1775, Barry moved to the American Colonies. When War
broke out between the American colonies and Great Britain, Barry was
appointed captain of the Continental warship Lexington named after the
town Lexington where war had broke out in April 1775.
The First British Ship ever captured by the Continental navy was the
HMS Edward, captured off of the coast of Virginia. This capture would
make Barry , one of the most famous naval officers in Us Naval History.
In 1781, Barry captured another British warship named the HMS Atlanta.
In January 1783, Barry went on a secret mission to Cuba to pick
up over 75000 Spanish silver dollars, and deliver it to Philadelphia,
PA, which was to be used to pay the Continental soldiers. The
Continental Congress had ran out of money. If it hadn't been for Spain's
generosity, the war might have been over.
On March 10, 1783, Barry was sailing near present day Cape Canaveral
Florida, when he met three British war ships. Barry first planned to
outrun the ships. Suddenly a Spanish war ship appeared in the horizon.
Two of the British warships sailed towards the Spanish war ship, leaving
the HMS Sybil chasing and firing at Barry's Ship, the Alliance.
Barry, knowing he out gunned the HMS Sybil, turned around and waited for
the HMS Sybil to come closer. Barry pretended the Alliance was damaged.
When the HMS Sybil got almost close enough to board, Barry ordered all
36 cannons of the Alliance to fire broadside at the HMS Sybil. The HMS
Sybil fired her 28 cannons, but to no avail, she was our gunned and
damaged during the first volley. The naval battle lasted for one hour.
The HMS Sybil was so badly damaged, it sailed away in retreat. This was
the last naval battle of the American Revolution. Had the HMS Sybil
captured the Alliance and its 75000 treasure chest the war would have
been over for the Continental army.
Barry still had to get the money to Philadelphia. Upon arrival at
Philadelphia, Barry found the port of Philadelphia blockaded by British
warships. Barry decided to sail to Newport RI. From Newport , the money
was brought south to Philadelphia.
After the war, Barry returned to Philadelphia. In 1798, the Quasi
war war broke out between France and the United States. the Quasi war
started over France's anger over the United States trading with Great
Britain after the signing of the Jay Treaty which opened up trade
between the United States and Great Britain after the American
In 1796, France captured hundreds of United States merchant ships
carrying trade goods to Great Britain. This forced the United States to
create its first Navy. By 1798, the United States had 25 ships. During
the Quasi war, over 85 French warships and merchant vessels were
captured. The Quasi war ended with the Convention of 1800 signed on
September 30, 1800 between France and the United States agreeing to end
all hostilities toward each other.
On September 3, 1803, almost 3 years after the Quasi war, Barry
died at his home in Philadelphia, and was buried in St. Mary's Cemetery
in Philadelphia, Pa.
On September 13, 1981, Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation declaring
September 13 John Barry day, honoring John Barry for his service in the
United States Navy.
John Barry, was truly one of the great naval heroes of the American
revolution. Barry captured the First British war ship during the
American Revolution, and almost sank the last British warship in the
last naval engagement of the American Revolution.
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