“Jack Barry”


Commodore Barry in Alliance meets the British Sibyl. "We fought them till our cannon brought the British ensign down." Alliance captures Sibyl and returns with their prize to Philadelphia.


Ranson: "In searching for the songs of the Wexford coast I was very anxious to find something in ballad form about the Tacumshane man who was the founder of the American Navy. [This ballad is] attributed to William Collins, the Irish-American poet." - BS

John Barry (1745-1803) did not actually found the American navy, though he was its senior officer when he died. (Not admiral, we note; the American navy did not have its first admiral until the Civil War.)

Born in Tacumshane, he moved to Philadelphia in 1760, and was given his first ship, the _Lexington_, in 1776. He commanded the _Alliance_ from 1780-1782, though she did not make her first voyage under his command until 1781. Peace with Britain came in January 1783, but with communications so slow, neither Barry nor the commander of the 28-gun _Sybil_ knew of it, and so fought their battle during peacetime. The battle is usually dated March 10, but I've seen a source dating in March 11.

The _Alliance_ (36 guns), built in 1777, was initially named _Hancock_ but renamed when the French allied with the American revolutionaries. Her early career was not distinguished; Captain Pierre Landais seemed to have more interest in attacking his commander John Paul Jones than in fighting the British (at one point, he is thought to have deliberately rammed the _Bonhomme Richard_). He was eventually relieved, commandeered what had been his own ship, and was imprisoned by his crew.

_Alliance_ itself was paid off in 1785, the last ship in the American navy at the time. When the navy was revived a few years later, Barry became the commander of its first major ship, the _United States_. - RBW

Historical references

  • Mar 10, 1783 - John Barry on board Alliance defeats "Sybille" in the last battle of the Revolutionary war (source: _The Father of the American Navy_ by Richard M. Reilly in "The Journal of American History," 1907, quoted on Jeffrey C Weaver's New River Notes site)


  1. Ranson, p. 80, "Jack Barry" (1 text)
  2. Roud #7348
  3. BI, Ran080


Author: William Collins (1838-?)
Earliest date: 1948 (Ranson)
Keywords: battle navy war
Found in: Ireland