Review by Blake A. Magner, IRISH EDITION reprinted with permission
Among others, two of the most important people to found and develop the United States Navy were John Adams and John Barry. Who? John Barry? Despite his lack of notoriety he is regarded as the “Father of the American Navy.”
Born in Ireland, Barry went to sea as a very young man. Little is known of his childhood. His travels brought him to America and Philadelphia prior to the Revolution. Here he kept up his trade working his way up to become a successful merchant captain. He commanded the most prestigious ship in the American colonies and during one Atlantic crossing his ship logged an incredible 237 miles in one twenty-four hour period. That was the fastest known sailing in the eighteenth century.
When the Revolution began Barry assisted in the assembling of the Pennsylvania navy. Though eager to go to sea he was of more value on land and was passed over numerous times for a command. Finally he was placed in command of the Lexington which captured the first enemy warship taken by the Continentals. He then went on to command the Raleigh and the Alliance. Without a command during the winter of 1776-77 he led a naval battery at the battle of Princeton.
Following the Revolution he remained at sea when on a trip to China he helped open trade with that nation. He was commissioned by President Washington in 1794 becoming the first commissioned officer in the United States Navy. He was later given the title commodore. He died on September 12, 1803.
Tim McGrath has penned an outstanding volume. It is not a dull old biography as many are, but rather a terrific story of an Irish-American hero. The text is fun to read, full of great tidbits of information. Westholme, whose books I have reviewed before, has once again done an outstanding job of publishing. The illustrations are crisp and clear. I strongly recommend this volume to anyone with an interest in the U. S. Navy, sailing, or American history.
So the next time you walk behind Independence Hall in Philadelphia stop and look at the statue that stands there. It is John Barry. If you have your walking shoes on, wander down to St. Mary’s churchyard at Fourth and Locust. Just behind the church in the small graveyard is John Barry’s simple grave. And the next time you travel across the Commodore Barry Bridge you will know who it is named for.
John Barry was a man that all Irish can be proud of.