Born on this day in 1745 in Tacumshane, County Wexford, Ireland. John Barry was the son of a poor tenant farmer. He was raised on stories of the butchery of the Irish by the English under Cromwell. Evicted by their English landlord they went to live in Rosslare with an uncle who owned a fishing skiff. Barry carried a hatred of the British with him for the rest of his life.
Barry signed up as a cabin boy and worked his way up through the ranks and across the Atlantic to the American Colonies. He was a successful merchant captain sailing between Philadelphia and the Caribbean. He commanded many ships including the Barbados, the Patty and Polly, the Industry, the Page and the Black Prince.
He lost his brother Patrick “lost at sea on a French frigate the limey’s sunk.” His hatred of the British deepened further.
In 1776, prior to the declaration of Independence, he was awarded a commission in the Continental Navy by John Hancock. He went on to command the Delaware, the Lexington, the Raleigh and the Alliance.
So successful was Barry that the British offered him the huge sum of £100,000 and command of any Royal Navy Frigate if he would defect. Captain Barry responded that not all the money in the British treasury or command of its entire fleet could tempt him to desert his adopted country
After the war, in 1797 Barry was issued Commission No.1 in the US Navy by George Washington and became thereafter “Commodore Barry” and “Father of the American Navy”.
“In placing Barry at the head of the Navy I have special trust and confidence in [his] patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities” President George Washington