John Barry was born in Ireland in 1745, went to sea while still a young boy and in 1760 adopted Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as his permanent residence. Remaining active in the seagoing trade, he had command of the merchantman Black Prince in 1775 and assisted in her entry into the Continental service under the name Alfred. He commanded the Continental brig Lexington during the first part of 1776, capturing several British vessels. Later in the year, he received the rank of Captain in the Continental Navy and was appointed Commanding Officer of the new frigate Effingham. Though his ship was unable to get to sea, Barry used her armament and men effectively during the long campaign to defend the Philadelphia region against greatly superior British forces.
In 1778, Captain Barry commanded the frigate Raleigh. Barry's gallant conduct at the time of her loss in September 1778 ensured that he received further active employment. After a time as captain of a privateer, in 1780 he was given the frigate Alliance, in which he captured three enemy privateers and three Royal Navy warships during 1781-1783. Alliance also carried American diplomats across the Atlantic to France and performed valuable services in the Caribbean area.
Following the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, Barry returned to the merchant service. In 1794 he was appointed the senior Captain of the newly established United States Navy and subsequently was in charge of constructing the large frigate United States. Captain Barry commanded the new ship in the West Indies during the 1798-1801 Quasi-War with France, including a period as Commodore of U.S. Navy forces in the region. He served ashore at Philadelphia for the remainder of his life. Commodore John Barry died there on 13 September 1803.
The U.S. Navy has named four destroyers in honor of John Barry, including: USS Barry (Destroyer # 2), 1902-1920; USS Barry (DD-248, later APD-29), 1920-1945; USS Barry (DD-933), 1956-____; and USS Barry (DDG-52), 1992-____.
For more information on John Barry, see his entry in the online series "Biographies in Naval History".
This page features all the portraits we have of Commodore John Barry, USN, (1745-1803).