John Barry, legendary Irish hero in the Continental Navy

If one were to query the public regarding the Father of the American Navy, they would likely hear the name, John Paul Jones. The Scotsman, John Paul, who added the name Jones to gain some anonymity while hiding in the colonies from the British, deserves great recognition. As a protégé of Benjamin Franklin, he raised havoc along the British Coast before losing his pride, the Bonne Homme Richard, and capturing the more powerful battleship the Serapis, while serving under the French King.

A 6’4 Irishman from County Wexford, Commodore John Barry, however, is far more deserving of the title. By my count, he captured over 30 vessels, including the sloop Edward, the first “armed” vessel captured by the Colonials. The dates, vessel names, and additional details are available on my blog,

Furthermore, Barry:

  • Aided in transporting Washington’s army across the Delaware and led a company of volunteers during the Trenton and Princeton Campaigns.
  • Assisted in supplying Washington at Valley Forge; cheese and a jar of pickled oysters intended for General Howe’s table were sent to Washington with Barry’s compliments.
  • Partnered with General 'Mad Anthony' Wayne in a cattle roundup to feed Washington’s army at Valley Forge.
  • Took Marquis de Lafayette to France on an urgent mission.
  • Hindered all ocean-going traffic until the governor of the Bermudas released all American prisoners.
  • Fought the final battle of the war two weeks after the signing of the Versailles Peace Treaty.

By the war’s end, Barry was commodore of all armed vessels in the service of the colonies. Buried in Philadelphia’s Saint Mary’s Graveyard along with his Ancient Order of Hibernians’ friend, Steven Moylan, Barry, whose Wexford memorial was honored by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, has statues at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and Annapolis. He had been long remembered during Philadelphia’s annual Barry Day Parade.

While we’re on the topic, John Paul wasn’t the only seaman sponsored by Benjamin Franklin. An excellent article “The Fearless Luke Ryan” appeared in the January/February 2013 edition of Ireland of the Welcomes. JS

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Tags: Ancient Order of Hibernians, Continental Navy, George Washington, John Barry, Luke Ryan, Mad Anthony, Military History, St. Mary's Graveyard, Steven Moylan, Valley Forge, More…Wexford

Comment by Gerry Regan on March 5, 2013 at 11:00am

Jim, we'll look to add a photo tonight, and feature this. Most interesting insights and perspectives here! Have an article on Steven Moylan?


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