Posts Tagged ‘Commodore John Barry’

The John Paul Jones Memorial

The John Paul Jones Memorial

The John Paul Jones Memorial near the Potomac River was my destination on this bike ride. Located in West Potomac Park near the National Mall, the memorial is situated at the terminus of 17th Street near Independence Avenue (MAP) on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin in southwest D.C.

The memorial consists of a 10-foot bronze statue by American sculptor Charles Henry Niehaus, mounted on a 15-foot marble pylon. On the sides of the monument are ducts, out of which water flows into a small pools on either side. And the back of the pylon includes a relief of Jones raising the U.S. flag on his ship, the Bonhomme Richard, an event which is believed to be the first time the flag was flown on an American warship. The memorial was dedicated on May 16, 1914, and is the oldest monument in Potomac Park. It is part of a group of fourteen statues in D.C. known collectively as the “American Revolution Statuary.” These statues are scattered across the city, mainly in squares and traffic circles, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

John Paul Jones was the United States’ first well-known naval hero of the Revolutionary War. Despite having made enemies among America’s political elites and never rising about the rank of Captain in the Continental Navy, his actions in British waters during the Revolution earned him an international reputation which persists to this day. Based on this, he is sometimes referred to as the “Father of the United States Navy”, an appellation he shares with Commodore John Barry. He is also widely remembered as the Captain of the USS Bonhomme Richard, who, in response to a taunt about surrender from the enemy captain of the HMS Serapis during Revolutionary War’s Battle of Flamborough Head, exclaimed, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

But despite his eventual success and fame, John Paul Jones came close on several occasions to losing out on his place in history. He had an inauspicious start in life, and there were several events early in his career that had the potential to not only end his career, but could have landed him in prison for the rest of his life.

John Paul (he added “Jones” later) was born to John Paul, Sr. and Jean McDuff on July 6, 1747 in Scotland. He started his maritime career as an apprentice at the age of 13, with many of his destinations being near Fredericksburg, in the Province of Virginia, where his older brother William Paul had settled. He worked his way up the ranks on a number of different sailing ships until, having become disgusted with the cruelty in the slave trade, he abandoned his prestigious position as first mate on a profitable ship named “Two Friends” while docked in Jamaica, and found his own passage back to Scotland.

After eventually obtaining another position on a different ship, John Paul’s maritime career unexpectedly took off when both the captain and a ranking mate suddenly died of yellow fever. He was able to navigate the ship back to a safe port, for which the vessel’s grateful Scottish owners rewarded him by making him the ship’s captain.

However, as quickly as his reputation had been earned, it was nearly destroyed during a subsequent voyage. John Paul viciously flogged one of his sailors, which resulted in accusations that his discipline was “unnecessarily cruel.”  When the disciplined sailor died a few weeks later, he was arrested and imprisoned for his involvement in the man’s death. After being released on bail, he fled Scotland.

Leaving Scotland behind, John Paul commanded a London-registered vessel named The Betsy, which he sailed to Tobago in the southern Caribbean and made a fortune engaging in commercial speculation. This ended after approximately 18 months, however, when he killed a member of his crew named Blackton with a sword in a dispute over wages. He would later claim that it was in self-defense but, nonetheless, fled Tobago to avoid the hangman’s noose.  Leaving his fortune behind, he fled to his brother’s home back in Fredericksburg.

It was at this time that John Paul began using the alias John Jones. At the suggestion of his brother, he began using the name John Paul Jones. Shortly after settling in North America, he went to Philadelphia and volunteered his services to the newly founded Continental Navy at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Advertisements
Commodore John Barry Statue

Commodore John Barry Statue

On today’s anniversary of his death in 1803 at the age of 58, I chose to write about my bike ride to Franklin Square, at 14th Street and K Street in northwest D.C., (MAP) to see the local monument commemorating Commodore John Barry.  The monument consists of a statute of Barry standing on top of a base of pink marble with steps of pink granite. The base is adorned by the carved figure of a woman standing on the bow of a ship, with her raised right hand holding out an olive branch. Her lowered left hand holds a shield and sword steady at her side. To her right, an eagle standing on a branch of oak leaves gazes up at her.

The bronze statue by American sculpture John Boyle is near the western border of the square.  It was dedicated on May 16, 1914, and is part of a group of fourteen statues in D.C. known collectively as the “American Revolution Statuary.” These statues are scattered across the city, mainly in squares and traffic circles, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Commodore John Barry Statue is not the only attraction in D.C. with a connection to Barry. The USS Barry Museum Ship, which currently lies moored at Pier 2 in the Anacostia River at The Washington Navy Yard (MAP), was also named after Barry.  It is one of four Navy vessels which were named for the commander.

John Barry was born on March 25, 1745, at Ballysampson on Our Lady’s Island, which is part of Tacumshin Parish in County Wexford, Ireland. The place of his birth had two very strong influences on his life. First, Wexford, at the southeasternmost part of Ireland, has always had a strong maritime tradition. And this tradition was instilled in Barry. Also, Barry learned at a very young age of the massacre of some 3,000 Wexfordians under an invading English force led by Oliver Cromwell in 1649, which led to a lifelong opposition to both oppression in general and the British in particular.

Barrry was 10 years old when his family immigrated to the American colonies after they were forced out of their home and off their land by a British landlord.  And his loyalty to his newfound adopted homeland became evident early on. Late in 1776, after the colonies had declared their independence from England, Barry was approached by an acquaintance who sympathized with the British, and offered a monetary bribe along with a commission in the Royal Navy and his own ship under Royal authority if he would turn his American ship over to the British. He indignantly refused because, in his own words, he “spurned the eyedee of being a treater.”

Barry presented an imposing and commanding figure. He was a burly and in shape man of 6’4″, with a ruddy-complexion who spoke in a commanding tone. In an era when most men stood only about 5’5″, Barry’s physical presence served him well throughout a career which took him from humble cabin boy to senior commander of the entire United States fleet after becoming America’s first commissioned naval officer, at the rank of Commodore, receiving his commission from President George Washington in 1797.

Barry is widely credited as “The Father of the American Navy,” although it is moniker which is shared with one of his contemporaries, Commander John Paul Jones. As most naval historians note, Barry can be classed on a par with Jones for nautical skill and daring, but he exceeds him in the length of service to his adopted country and his fidelity to the nurturing of a permanent American Navy. Although frequently obscured by his Commander Jones, Barry is an unsung hero of the young American Republic and is indeed deserving of the byname, “Father of the American Navy.”

JohnBarry02