by Senator MOYNIHAN.
United States Senate - July 11, 2000


Mr. President, today I rise to introduce a joint resolution, recognizing Commodore John Barry as the first flag officer of the United States Navy.

Commodore Barry had been described as the `Father of the American Navy' by his contemporaries for his unfailing service to the United States Navy. The Commodore, born in Tacumshin Parish in County Wexford, Ireland and son to a poor Irish farmer, began his maritime career at an early age. He rose through the ranks and, at the outset of the American Revolution, was made responsible for outfitting the first Continental Navy ships.

On March 14, 1776, the Marine Committee awarded Barry with a Captain's commission to the Continental Navy and his first warship, the brig Lexington.

In his first conflict at sea with this ship, the Commodore brought the fledgling Navy its first victory at sea and captured the Edward, a British tender. Barry reported to the Congress, `This victory had a tremendous psychological effect in boosting American morale, as it was the first capture of a British warship by a regularly commissioned American cruiser.' While awaiting the completion of his second warship, the Effingham, Barry enlisted as a soldier in the Continental Army and served under General John Cadwalader, fighting in the Battles of Trenton and of Princeton. But it was not until his return to the Navy that the Commodore fought his most famed battle. Aboard the 36-gun frigate Alliance, Barry put up a brilliant defense against two British sloops, the Atlanta and the Tresspassy. In his crusade, he was badly wounded in his shoulder and lost a large volume of blood. His second-in-command reported that the ship was in a desperate condition and recommended that the ship surrender. But the Commodore refused. He said, `If this ship cannot be fought without me, I will be brought on deck!' Broken and bandaged, Commodore Barry continued forward with the battle. After almost four hours, the Atlanta and the Tresspassy surrendered.

The Commodore's final battle in the American Revolution was also the final sea battle of the Continental Navy. Aboard the Alliance, Barry escorted the Duc De Sauzon, a ship carrying Spanish silver, and warded off the Royal Navy's Sybil, protecting the vital cargo destined for the Continental Congress. Even after his retirement from battle, Barry's contributions to the Navy continued. In 1797, President Washington invited Barry to receive Commission Number One in the Navy. His new position placed him in charge of the new Navy and oversight of the construction and outfitting of its first frigates. The U.S.S. United States and the U.S.S. Constitution were both built under his command.

Commodore John Barry served as Commodore under Presidents Washington, Adams and Jefferson until he died in 1803.

Before he died, the Commodore wrote a Signal Book for the Navy, which provided a practical means of communication between ships. He also suggested creating the Department of the Navy, a separate Cabinet position from the Secretary of War. This vision was realized in 1798 with the creation of the United States Department of the Navy. Most importantly, Barry was responsible for training many Naval heros of the War of 1812.

It is with great honor and pride that I introduce this joint resolution, recognizing Commodore John Barry, a fellow Irishman and Naval Officer, as the first flag officer of the United States Navy.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the resolution be printed in the Record. There being no objection, the resolution was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

S.J. Res. 49

Whereas John Barry, American merchant marine captain and native of County Wexford, Ireland, volunteered his services to the Continental Navy and was assigned by the Continental Congress as Captain of the Lexington, taking command of that vessel on March 14, 1776, and soon afterward gave to American liberty its first victory at sea with the capture of the Royal Navy sloop Edward;

Whereas Captain John Barry was principally responsible for organizing the crossing of the Delaware River which led directly to General George Washington's victory at Trenton during Christmas 1776, a victory in which Captain Barry also served actively as a combatant;

Whereas Captain John Barry rejected British General Lord Howe's flattering offer to desert Washington and the patriot cause, stating: `Not the value and command of the whole British fleet can lure me from the cause of my country.';

Whereas Captain John Barry, while in command of the frigate Alliance, successfully transported French gold to America to finance the War for America Independence, and also won the last sea battle of that war by defeating the HMS Sybille on March 10, 1783;

Whereas when the First Congress, acting under the new Constitution, authorized the raising and construction of the United States Navy, it was to Captain John Barry that President George Washington turned to build and lead the new nation's infant Navy;

Whereas on February 22, 1797, President Washington personally conferred upon Captain John Barry, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, the rank of Captain, with `Commission No. 1', United States Navy, dated June 4, 1794;

Whereas it was as Commodore of the Navy that John Barry built and first commanded the United States Navy and the squadron which included his flagship the USS United States and USS Constitution (`Old Ironsides');

Whereas John Barry served at the head of the United States Navy (the equivalent of the current position of Chief of Naval Operations), with the title of `Commodore' (in official correspondence) under Presidents Washington, Adams, and Jefferson;

Whereas Commodore John Barry is recognized, with General Stephen Moylan, in the Statue of Liberty museum as one of the six foreign-born great leaders of the War for Independence;

Whereas pursuant to resolutions of Congress, `Commodore John Barry Day' was proclaimed for September 13, 1982, by President Reagan and for September 13, 1991, and September 13, 1992, by President Bush; and

Whereas in recognition of the historic role and achievements of Commodore John Barry, and of the sentiments of Navy and Merchant Marine veterans, of Irish-Americans, and of the patriotic population generally that United States history be properly told and heroes of the United States be properly honored:

Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Commodore John Barry is recognized (effective as of February 22, 1797), and is hereby honored as the first flag officer of the United States Navy.

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