« AnteriorContinuar »
AMONG the naval heroes of America, who have advanced, by the utility of their services and the splendour of their exploits, the interests and glory of their country, commodore John Barry holds a distinguished rank, His eminent services during our struggle for independence, the fidelity and ability with which he discharged the duties of the important stations which he filled, from the period of the establishment of that independence till within a few years of the close of his life, give him a lasting claim upon the gratitude of his country.
His memory is cherished, and his character duly appreciated by those who were attached to him, by the habits of a long tried friendship; by those who shared with him the toils of war; and by those illustrious men who acquired, under his auspices, those habits of discipline, and that exactness of naval science, which combined with and directing their dauntless intrepidity, have recently won unfading laurels for their country.* But
* So many of the distinguished naval men of the present day commenced their career under commodore Barry, that he may justly be considered as the “ father of our navy."
for the want of some authentic record to perpetuate his fame, oblivious time has almost effaced from general recollection the impression of his services.
A full delineation of his character would, at this period, be peculiarly interesting; but the materials which have been supplied are not sufficient for such a work. We must content ourselves with presenting a hasty sketch, leaving it to the industry and research of the future historian of the achievements of our gallant navy, to fill up the outline, and give to the picture that detail of incident and richness of colouring which the subject merits.*
Commodore Barry was born in the county of Wexford, in the kingdom of Ireland, in the year 1745. His father was a highly respectable farmer; under whose roof he received the first impressions of that ingenuousness, and that high-toned magnanimity which were conspicuous attributes of his character. At a very early age he manifested a strong inclination to follow
His father was induced to gratify his desire, and he was put on board a merchantman, in which service he continued several years. The opportunities afforded by the intermissions of his voyages, were improved to his advantage, by applying himself to the acquisition of knowledge. Possessed of a strong and active mind, he was enabled, with indefatigable industry, to acquire a good practical education. In the fourteenth or fifteenth year of his age he arrived in America, which he immediately determined to make the country of his adoption.
In his new situation he was not long without employment, but applied himself diligently to his profession; and in a very short time his nautical skill, the steadiness of his habits, and the integrity of his character, recommended him, successively, to some of the most respectable merchants of that day. long in the service of Mr. Reese Meredith, Messrs. Willing and Morris, and Mr. Nixon. While in the employ of the latter gentleman, he commanded a very valuable ship, in the London trade, called the Black Prince, which was afterwards purchased
The incidents adverted to in this sketch have been politely furnished by two gentlemen now living, who were intimately acquainted with commodore Barry, and enjoyed his friendship from a very early period in life; one of whom sailed with him during the revolution as a subordinate officer.
by the congress for a vessel of war. During his continuance with those gentlemen he possessed their unreserved confidence: they always spoke of him in terms of the highest approbation; his connexion with them was the ground of a friendship, reci. procal, sincere, and lasting,
He thus continued, growing in reputation, and acquiring, by industry and perseverance, a decent competency, until the controversy between the mother country and her then colonies gave a direction to thought, and opened new prospects to ambition. He could not but feel a deep interest in passing events; he did not hesitate as to the part he should act, as the bias of his youth was in favour of liberty. At that interesting crisis, when Great Britain brought her veteran armies and powerful navies, to coerce a compliance with her unjust demands; and when all but men struggling for their liberties would have deemed resistance folly, it became important to select officers whose valour and discretion, whose experience and skill could give the utmost efficiency to our insignificant means of defence and annoyance. The rare union in commo. dore Barry of all these qualities, recommended him to the notice of congress, and he was honoured by that body with one of the first naval commissions. In February, 1776, he was appointed to the command of the brig Lexington of sixteen guns. She was the first continental vessel of war that sailed from the port of Philadelphia. Having cruised successfully in her, he was, in the latter part of the same year, transferred to the Effingham, one of three large frigates built in Philadelphia. In the eventful winter of that year, the navigation of the Delaware being impeded by ice, and all naval employment suspended, his bold and restless spirit could not be inactive. So zealous was he in his country's cause, that he volunteered his services in the army, and served with distinguished reputation as aidecamp to general Cadwallader, in the important operations which took place in the vicinity of Trenton.
When the British obtained command of the city, and forts on the river, in 1777, it was deemed prudent to send the vessels of war up the river to Whitehill, where they might possi
bly escape destruction. Commodore Barry, with several others, effected their escape with great dexterity. The vessels, however, were soon after destroyed by the enemy.
While the frigates were lying near Whitehill, commodore Barry formed a project, which, for boldness of design, and dexterity of execution, was not surpassed, if equalled, during the war. It struck him that the enemy might be severely annoyed by means of small boats, properly armed, which being stationed down the river and bay, might intercept supplies going to the enemy, and in case of danger, take refuge in the creeks. He accordingly manned the boats of the frigates, and, under cover of night, with muffled oars, descended the river. He arrived opposite the city before the enemy or citizens had any intimation of their movement. In a moment all was consternation and alarm; the enemy apprehending some impending disaster, while the citizens, supposing the project impracticable, despaired of the safety of their friends.
The object was effected; and the success which crowned the adventure was worthy of the enterprising spirit which conceived it. They not only succeeded in intercepting supplies of provisions from the surrounding country, but captured several vessels loaded with military munitions and valuable stores for the Britisb officers.
General Washington always spoke with great satisfaction of this enterprise, and those concerned in it; indeed, he gave a public expression of thanks to the commodore and his officers.
After the destruction of his frigate, he was appointed to the command of the Raleigh, of thirty-two guns; which ship he was obliged, by a large squadron of British vessels of war, to run on shore, on Fox's island, in Penobscot bay.
Having made several voyages to the West Indies in letter of marque vessels, during one of which he was commodore of a large squadron of them, he was afterwards ordered to take command of a seventy-four gun ship building in Newhampshire. Congress having, however, concluded to present her to the king of France, the commodore was appointed to the command of the frigate Alliance, of thirty-six guns, then at Boston. In February, 1781, she sailed from Boston for L'Orient, having on