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Barney I (Torpedo Boat No. 25)

(Torpedo Boat No. 25: dp. 175 (n.); l. 157'0"; b. 17'75"; dr. 4'11" (mean); s. 29 04 k. (tl.); cpl. 34; a. 3 1 pdrs., 3 18" tt.; cl. Bagley)

Joshua Barney, born in Baltimore on 6 July 1759, went to sea at an early age and commanded a merchantman at 15. He entered the new Continental Navy in October of 1775 in Hornet. Later, in Wasp, he participated in engagements with HMS Roebuck and HMS Liverpool in April 1776 and subsequently helped to defend Nancy after that merchant brig had run aground attempting to slip through the British blockade to Philadelphia.

Appointed a lieutenant in the Continental Navy in June 1776, Barney sailed on 6 July, his 17th birthday, as Sachem's executive officer. After that sloop captured British letter of marque Three Friends on 12 August, Barney commanded the crew that took the prize to Philadelphia.

Transferred to Andrew Doria, Barney sailed on 23 October for St. Eustatius for a cargo of military stores. While returning home, that warship captured the 12 gun British sloop Racehorse and the armed British snow, Thomas, of which Barney was appointed prize master. While sailing home, the prize was retaken by the British on 4 January 1777.

Exchanged on 20 October 1777, Barney was appointed 1st lieutenant of Virginia but again became a prisoner when that long-blockaded new frigate was captured on the night of 31 March 1778 while attempting to escape to sea. Exchanged again in August 1778, Barney, finding no openings in the Continental Navy, served in privateers until becoming 1st lieutenant of Continental sloop Saratoga in the summer of 1780.

After escorting the packet Mercury to sea, Saratoga fought an inconclusive battle with the British brig HMS Keppel and captured the rum-laden snow Sarah and the sloop Elizabeth. Early in October, when Saratoga encountered a 22 gun letter of marque in company with another ship and a brig, Barney led the 50 man boarding party that captured Charming Molly and took command of the prize. However, the leaking Charming Molly was retaken by the ship of the line HMS Intrepid.

After escaping from England's Old Mill Prison, Barney commanded Hyder Ally. While escorting a convoy of merchantmen down the Delaware in April 1782, that Pennsylvania state ship encountered the frigate HMS Quebec, the 20 gun ship HMS General Monk, and several Loyalist privateers. General Monk and privateer Fair American bore down on the American convoy as Barney attempted to shepherd it back upriver. After giving Hyder Ally two broadsides, Fair American went after the convoy. While waiting for his larger opponent, Barney held his fire keeping his gunports closed to lure General Monk in close, instructing his helmsman to steer in the opposite direction from that called out. Accordingly, when Barney ordered the helm to port, General Monk's captain gave the same command. However, Hydr Ally's helmsman actually turned to starboard, causing General Monk to become entangled with Barney's ship. Barney lashed the two ships in a position that enabled Hyder Ally's starboard guns to rake General Monk, rendering her deck a shambles, wounding her captain and killing most of her other officers. Barney's men then cut General Monk's rigging and made her unmanageable. The last British officer on his feet, a midshipman, then struck General Monk's colors.

In General Monk, renamed General Washington, Barney voyaged to Haiti with dispatches to the French fleet, and thence to France where Benjamin Franklin presented the young officer to the court of Louis XVI. The voyage home, begun early in January 1783, brought news of peace and recognition of independence to America.

Before returning to civilian life, Barney retained command of General Washington, the last active ship of the Continental Navy, until May 1784, making several voyages to Europe on diplomatic missions. He became a post captain in the French Navy early in 1795, but his service to France brought him little but the empty distinction of reaching a rank equivalent to that of commodore. As a civilian, the former naval hero made two unsuccessful campaigns for Congress and supported retaliation for British depredations against American shipping.

When war came, Barney departed the Chesapeake Bay on 15 July 1812 in the 12-gun schooner Rossie and captured 18 ships, including His Majesty's packet ship Princess Amelia, before returning on 21 November 1812. Upon learning that a British naval force had entered the Chesapeake Bay in July 1813 and was preying on American shipping and coastal communities, Barney presented President James Madison and Secretary of the Navy William Jones with a plan to defend the region. Approving his program, they appointed him Commodore of the Chesapeake Flotilla.

By 17 March 1814, when he put out of Baltimore and sailed south to meet the British, Barney had put together a force of 13 barges, two gunboats, and his flagship Scorpion, a 5 gun cutter. With this small flotilla, Barney played an adroit cat and mouse game as he opposed a vastly superior enemy until late in the summer. Then, hemmed in by an overwhelming more powerful enemy, he left a skeleton force to destroy the flotilla and struck out overland with 400 battle tested sailors to join in the land defense of Washington. Meanwhile, British General Ross’s 4,500 redcoats began their march north along the left bank of the Patuxent while Admiral Cockburn led a flotilla of small craft up the river on the right flank. As Cockburn's force hove in sight of the Chesapeake Flotilla, Barney's stubborn barges blew up in their faces.

On the morning of 24 August, Barney and his men hurried to join in a battle that was brewing near Bladensburg, Md. The action had already begun when they arrived, so the American sailors took up station in the third and final line of defense. After the British had smashed the first two American lines, only Barney and his flotillamen remained on the field with their five guns supported by some of the braver remnants of other units. The commodore, a conspicuous target on horseback, directed the fire at the oncoming redcoats. In all, his battery and 400 to 500 men stopped four British frontal assaults. However, ravines on both sides of Barney's position enabled the British to mount flanking movements that doomed Barney and his men. Support units on both flanks abandoned him and snipers harassed the embattled sailors. The commodore's horse was shot from under him; but Barney, ignoring the wound in his thigh, continued the fight until ammunition for the cannon ran out. At that point, he ordered his sailors to spike the guns and retire. Barney once more fell captive to the British.

The British went on to sack and burn the nation's capital before retiring to their ships. Barney was paroled and returned to his farm at Elkridge, Md., to convalesce. When exchanged he resumed command of the flotilla on 10 October and carried out that frustrating assignment until the flotilla was disbanded in April 1815.

Resuming private life Barney made several trips to Kentucky. In November 1817, President James Monroe appointed him Naval Officer of the Port of Baltimore. Late in October 1818, he began another journey to Kentucky with the intention of moving there, but, during a stopover at Pittsburgh occasioned by ill health, Barney died on 1 December 1818.


The first Barney (Torpedo Boat No. 25) was laid down on 3 January 1900 at Bath, Maine, by the Bath Iron Works; launched on 28 July 1900; sponsored by Miss Esther Nicholson Barney, great-granddaughter of Commodore Joshua Barney; and placed in commission at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I., on 21 October 1901, Ens. Clarence A. Abele in command.

On 6 November 1901, the torpedo boat put to sea for a voyage to Port Royal, S.C.; but upon her arrival there, went into reserve. The following year, she returned to active service on the North Atlantic station and participated in maneuvers and exercises along the eastern seaboard and in the West Indies. On 19 February 1903, Barney was placed in reserve at Norfolk, Va. As a unit of the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla between 1903 and 1908, she remained inactive there but for brief periods underway to check out her machinery and torpedo equipment.

On 1 July 1908, the torpedo boat returned to full commission and cruised off the east coast as a unit of the 3d Torpedo Flotilla. The following December, she rejoined the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla at Norfolk. In August 1909, the warship moved to Charleston, S.C., but remained in reserve. From 1911 to 1914, she was based at Annapolis, Md., as a training ship for Naval Academy midshipmen. She also cruised in the Potomac River on occasion to train members of the District of Columbia Naval Militia. At the end of February 1916, Barney moved to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. On 9 March 1916, she was placed in ordinary at Philadelphia; and, on 21 November, she was decommissioned.

Towed to Charleston, S.C., in May 1917, the torpedo boat was recommissioned there on 1 September 1917. Soon thereafter, Barney moved to Norfolk where she served as a patrol vessel in the lower reaches of Chesapeake Bay. On 1 August 1918, her name was changed to Coast Torpedo Boat No 11 so that the name Barney could be assigned to Destroyer No. 149. Ordered to the Philadelphia Navy Yard early in 1919, she arrived there on 27 January 1919. On 11 March 1919, the small warship was placed out of commission for the last time. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 28 October 1919; and she was sold to the U. S. Rail and Salvage Corp., Newburgh, N.Y., on 19 July 1920.

Raymond A. Mann

7 March 2006

Published: Tue Jun 23 08:41:46 EDT 2015