John Barry, Father of the U.S. Navy

John Barry (1745 – September 13, 1803) was an officer in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War and later in the United States Navy. He is often credited as “The Father of the American Navy”. Barry was born in Tacumshane, County Wexford, Ireland and appointed a Captain in the Continental Navy on December 7, 1775. On October 31, 1767, Barry married Mary Cleary, who died in 1774. On July 7, 1777, he married Sarah Austin, daughter of Samuel Austin and Sarah Keen of New Jersey. Barry had no children, but he helped raise Patrick and Michael Hayes, children of his sister, Eleanor, and her husband, Thomas Hayes, who both died in the 1780s. Barry died at Strawberry Hill, in present-day Philadelphia on September 13, 1803, and was buried in the graveyard of Old St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Center City, Philadelphia. He commanded Lexington, Raleigh, and Alliance. He and his crew of the Alliance fought and won the final naval battle of the American Revolution off the coast of Cape Canaveral on March 10, 1783. He was seriously wounded on May 29, 1781, while in command of Alliance during her capture of HMS Atalanta and Trepassey. Barry was successful in suppressing three mutinies during his career as an officer in the Continental Navy. He was still in command of the Alliance when it participated in the last battle of the Revolutionary War.Appointed senior captain upon the establishment of the U.S. Navy, he commanded the frigate United States in the Quasi-War with France. Barry authored a Signal Book published in 1780 to improve communications at sea among vessels traveling in formation. On February 22, 1797, he was issued Commission Number 1 by President George Washington, backdated to June 4, 1794. His title was thereafter “Commodore.” He is recognized not only as the first American commissioned naval officer but also its first flag officer.

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