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The trophies of his valor, productive of no personal benefit to himself, nor calculated for mere display, consisted of articles eminently serviceable to the American army, which was then in great want of them.
In September, 1778, he was appointed to the command of the frigate Raleigh, of thirty-two guns, which then lay at Boston, and on the 25th, went to sea. He was not long upon the ocean before his courage and abilities were subjected to a new trial by the appearance of a British fleet, from which he in vain endeavored to escape. With the view of getting into a harbor he sailed for land, which he succeeded in approaching, the enemy being in full chase; but to his infinite grief not a man on board was acquainted with the coast, or knew of a harbor in the vicinity, so that before he could reach a place of security, the smallest of the hostile ships was within gunshot. Believing that he was a match for her, he ordered the American colors to be hoisted and a gun fired. The St. George's ensign was immediately exhibited by the enemy, and the ships exchanged broadsides as they crossed each other. A warm action ensued which lasted for about seven hours. Being obliged to carry all the sail that he could to keep clear of the large ship, by an unforeseen accident, the foretop-mast, the main-top-gallant-mast, jib and fore-stay-sail of the Raleigh went over the side and rendered four of the guns useless. It was with difficulty, in a warm engagement, that the ship could be freed from the encumbrance of the wreck. Finding it impossible to escape with his ship, his next expedient was to board the vessel with which he was engaged, before the large one could come up, but the enemy perceiving the project, and having the command of his ship, shot ahead and went to the windward, where he remained during the rest of the engagement. The enemy at length retired, apparently much injured, and made signals, supposed to be of distress. Captain Barry now determined to run the Raleigh ashore, but before this could be accomplished, the battle was renewed by both of the enemy's vessels, which lasted for half an hour before the Raleigh struck the ground, and a quarter of an hour afterwards, when the British ships retired and came to, half a mile astern of the Raleigh. Captain Barry now discovered that he was on a desolate island, or rather a barren rock, about twelve leagues from the main land, with the wind right ahead to interpose another obstacle to their reaching the shore. He, however, succeeded in saving eighty-five of his men, and but for an act of treachery would have destroyed the ship; a midshipman having been left to set fire to the combustibles, whilst
the master with a boat's crew waited to carry him ashore. He faithlessly extinguished the lights, and the master having waited until daylight, found it necessary to retire, the enemy being within sight. The conduct of Captain Barry was submitted to the examination of a court martial, and the loss of a ship so valiantly defended, did not impair the confidence of his country.
His services were afterwards actively employed in several voyages to the West Indies; and in 1781, he took the command of the frigate Alliance of thirty-six guns. In February of that year, he sailed from Boston for L'Orient, to which place he carried Colonel Laurens, who was on an embassy to the French court, and subsequently cruised with great success until the 29th of May, when it was his fortune to come in contact with two British vessels, the Atalanta, Captain Edwards, and her consort, the brig Trepasa, Captain Smith. He ordered them to haul down their colors, which not being done, the battle commenced. A dead calm left the Alliance floating on the water like a log, whilst the enemy, by means of sweeps were enabled to command their movements. They accordingly selected a position in which the guns of the Alliance could do them the least injury. In the midst of the engagement, Captain Barry received a wound on the left shoulder, and after remaining upon deck for some time, the loss of blood rendered it necessary for him to be carried below. The colors of the Alliance having been shot away in the interval of loading the guns, the enemy supposed that she had struck. One of the lieutenants went to Captain BARRY and represented the great injury which the ship had sustained, and the difficulties with which they were contending, and asked whether they should surrender. “No !" said the hero, “if the ship can't be fought without, I will be carried on deck.” The reply communicated to the crew, animated them to renewed exertions. A favorable wind enabled the Alliance to pour a broadside into the enemy, and before the dressing of the gallant captain's wounds would permit him to reach the deck, both of the hostile vessels, after a battle which had lasted nearly the whole of the day, had struck their flags. The loss on board of the Alliance was eleven killed, and twenty-one wounded. The ship was much injured in her rigging and hull. The enemy had an equal number killed, and thirty wounded.
In the succeeding fall, Captain BARRY was ordered to refit the Alliance for the purpose of carrying the Marquis de Lafayette and Count Noailles to France on public business. After accomplishing that object, she sailed for Havana and cruised with her usual success until March, 1782, when another conflict with the enemy acquired fresh laurels for her entrepid commander. The Alliance during that month left the Havana for the purpose of convoying the American sloop of war Luzerne, Captain Greene, having on board a large amount of specie, the safety of which was of the utmost importance to the country. The appearance of a British squadron proved a severe trial of the naval skill and dauntless courage of Captain Barry. The largest of the enemy's vessels sailed with equal rapidity with the Luzerne, whilst the English sloop surpassed her, and was making rapid advances to an apparently easy conquest. The Luzerne was lightened by throwing her guns overboard, to furnish her with a better opportunity of escaping. The specie was removed to the Alliance, and the condition of the Luzerne seemed so hopeless that her abandonment by the Alliance was resolved upon,
as affording the only prospect of saving the valuable treasures from the grasp of the enemy. But the spirit which animated the naval hero, and which had borne him triumphantly through many dangers, impelled him to rush to the rescue. Those great abilities which had been so often signally displayed in the most hazardous emergencies, were at that critical period exhibited in more than their usual lustre. Captain BARRY took his station on the weather quarter of the Luzerne, and as the British sloop endeavored to close with her, he bore down and engaged her before the other ships had time to come to her relief. The coolness of Captain Barry was eminently conspicuous; by his example and exhortation, he inspired his men with that heroic courage which filled his own breast. The guns of the enemy had been kept actively employed from the commencement ; the fire of the Alliance was rendered more effective by being reserved until she was within a very short distance of the British sloop. The action lasted for about three quarters of an hour, when the enemy retired and made signals of distress to her consorts. A sail, which had appeared in sight prior to the engagement, was now discovered to be a French frigate. The united forces gave chase to the British, which was continued until they lost sight of them in the darkness of the night, when the Alliance, being at a considerable distance ahead of her companions, it was deemed prudent to join them. The loss on board the Alliance was three killed and eleven wounded, whilst the enemy had thirty-seven killed and fifty wounded. The specie that was saved contributed to found the bank of North America. The British officers on various occasions indulged in
generous feelings when describing their defeat, and applauding the wonderful skill and intrepidity by which the Luzerne was rescued.
Captain BARRY continued in the public service after the close of the war, and contributed to the introduction of a superior model for ships, and of naval arrangements which have often supplied the want of numerical force in the American navy. Under Mr. Adams' administration, he superintended the building of the frigate United States, of which he retained the command until she was laid up
in ordinary during the administration of Mr. Jefferson. During the French war he was busily employed in protecting our commerce from depredation.
The active and useful life of this distinguished hero, was closed by an asthmatic affection with which he had been for many years afflicted. He died at Philadelphia on the 13th of September, 1803.
His private life was as estimable, as his public career was brilliant. In his domestic relations he was ingenuous, frank, and affectionate. In his intercourse with mankind, his deportment procured an extensive circle of friends. Deeply impressed with religion, he exacted an observance of its ceremonies and duties on board of his ship, as well as in the retirement of private life. His lofty feelings of honor secured the confidence of the most illustrious men of the nation, and gave him an extensive influence in the various spheres in which his active life required him to move. The regard and admiration of General Washington, which he possessed to an eminent extent, were among the enviable fruits of his patriotic career. His public services were not limited by any customary rule of professional duty, but without regard to expense, danger, or labor, his devotion to his country kept him constantly engaged in disinterested acts of public utility.