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.
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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.
Tim McGrath is an executive who lives outside of Philadephia. An avid sailor, he has been published in Naval History magazine.