Immigrants Who Made the Brooklyn Navy Yard Great: John Barry

This post is part of our eight-part series profiling immigrants to the United States who made significant contributions to the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the eighteenth century to the present day.

John Barry (1745–1803)

Born in Ireland’s southeast County Wexford, John Barry grew up with an abiding hatred for the English. When he was 12, his Catholic family was dispossessed of their land by an English landlord, forcing them to live with family nearby and beginning a period of immense hardship for the family. Barry began apprenticing on his uncle’s fishing vessel, learning the trade of the sea, and at 15 he left Ireland for the Americas, eventually settling in Philadelphia. His career was remarkably successful, as he became master (captain) of a small merchant vessel at just 21 and was the trusted master for one of Philadelphia’s most prominent shipowners, John Nixon. When war broke out and the Continental Navy was formed, Barry became the first commissioned captain to command an American naval vessel, taking on the 14-gun USS Lexington on December 17, 1775.>> Continue reading