The man regarded as “the Father of the American Navy” returns to the quarterdeck in John Barry: An American Hero in the Age of Sail, the first comprehensive biography of this legendary officer in generations. Son of a hardscrabble Irish farmer from County Wexford, Barry was sent to sea as a child, arriving in Philadelphia during the restless decade before the American Revolution. Brave and ambitious, he ascended the ratlines to become a successful merchant captain at a young age, commanding the most prestigious ship in the colonies and recording the fastest known day of sail in the century.
Volunteering to fight for the Continental cause, Barry saw his star rise during the War for Independence. As captain of the Lexington, Raleigh, and Alliance, Barry faced down broadsides, mutinies, and even a fleet of icebergs. He captured the first enemy warship taken by a Continental vessel and fought the last battle of the American Revolution. His hard-won victory over two British warships simultaneously garnered him international notoriety, while his skill as a seafarer and cool temper established Barry as a worthy foe among British captains. Without a ship during the winter of 1776-77, the ever resourceful Barry lead a battery of naval artillery at the battle of Princeton. With peace came a historic voyage to China, where Barry helped open trade with that reclusive empire. In 1794, President Washington named Barry as the first commissioned officer in the new United States Navy. Given the title of commodore, Barry ended his career during America’s naval war with France, teaching the ropes to a new generation of officers, most notably Stephen Decatur.
Drawn from primary source documents from around the world, John Barry: An American Hero in the Age of Sail by Tim McGrath brings the story of this self-made American back to life in a major new biography.
This book establishes McGrath, an executive who has written for Naval History magazine, as an accomplished naval historian. Combining sophisticated use of sources with a pleasing writing style, he masterfully rescues a father of the U.S. Navy from unmerited eclipse. McGrath's own extensive recreational sailing experience adds an extra dimension by vividly conveying the physical facts of life at sea that structured the navy's military and economic aspects. An Irish Catholic, John Barry (1745 1803) went to sea as a boy, emigrated to Philadelphia, and became a successful merchant captain. In the fledgling Continental Navy of the American Revolution, he began by commanding a converted merchantman. He finished by fighting the war's last naval battle as a frigate captain. In between, he established a reputation as a skillful seaman, fighting captain, and successful taker of prizes. Returning to the merchant service, Barry made one of America's first trading voyages to China. In 1794 he was named the first commissioned officer in the new U.S. Navy and continued to offer valuable service through the quasi-war with France in 1798 1799, confirming his contemporary reputation as "first of patriots, and best of men." 51 illus.