John Barry (March 25, 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 ... show more
John Barry (March 25, 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" and was appointed a Captain in the Continental Navy on December 7, 1775. He was the first Captain placed in command of a US warship commissioned for service under the Continental flag.
Barry was born in Tacumshane, County Wexford, Ireland. Barry's family was driven from their ancestral home by the British. On October 24, 1768, 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.
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 as not only the first American commissioned naval officer but also as its first flag officer.
Barry's last day of active duty was March 6, 1801, when he brought the USS United States into port, but he remained head of the Navy until his death on September 12, 1803, from asthma. Barry died childless.