Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BARRY, John, naval officer, born in Tacumshane, county Wexford, Ireland, in 1745; died in Philadelphia, 13 September 1803. He followed the sea from childhood, and, making his home in Philadelphia at the age of fifteen, acquired wealth as the master of a vessel. He offered his services to congress at the opening o1; the revolutionary war, "abandoning the finest ship and the first employ in America" (his own words), and, in February 1776, was given the command of the "Lexington," in which he made the first capture of a British war vessel accomplished by an American cruiser, that of the tender "Edward." He was then transferred to the frigate "Effingham." During the winter of 1776-'7, while navigation was closed, he commanded a company of volunteers and assisted in the operations at Trenton with some heavy artillery. In 1777, with four boats, he captured a British war-schooner in the Delaware without losing a man. For some time he acted as aide-de-camp to General Cadwalader. When the British occupied Philadelphia in the latter part of 1777, he took the "Effingham" up the Delaware to save her from capture. The enemy offered him a heavy bribe to deliver up the ship, and finally succeeded in destroying her by fire. In 1778 he was assigned to the command of the "Raleigh," which was pursued and driven on shore by a British squadron, after making a gallant resistance. In February 1781, in the "Alliance" he conveyed Colonel Laurens on a special mission to France, and cruised with success until he put in for repairs in October. In a desperate combat he captured the "Atalanta" and the "Trepassy," and was severely wounded. After carrying Lafayette and Noailles to France, he cruised in the West Indies, and in the early part of 1782 fought a sharp battle with an English ship, until the appearance of a superior force compelled him to desist, to avoid capture. On the establishment of the new navy in 1794, he was named the senior officer, with the rank of commodore. He commanded the frigate "United States," the building of which he had superintended.
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