The title “Father of the U.S. Navy” has been bestowed upon President John Adams and John Paul, but Military History magazine, in a new cover story, has bestowed the title of “true father of the U.S. Navy” on Commodore John Barry.

Here are 5 facts about John Barry:

1. Barry set a record by traveling 237 miles by dead reckoning in a 24-hour period ― the fastest known sailing day recorded in the 1700s.

2. Barry volunteered for President George Washington by serving as his courier, helping to facilitate the crossing of the Delaware and participating in the battles of Trenton and Princeton.

3. When Congress formally established the U.S. Navy in March 1794, Barry became not only the first commissioned officer, but also the first flag officer in the sea of service.

4. Barry fought the last sea battle of the Revolutionary War off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla., in March 1793, which also marked the last battle fought by a Continental Navy ship, the USS Alliance.

5. Barry’s brother-in-law William Austin, a Tory, is believed to have come aboard the frigate Effingham to promise him 20,000 gold guineas plus command of a Royal Navy ship to surrender the frigate to the British. But Barry simply rejected the proposition and “spurned the eyedee of being a treater.”

An in-depth profile on John Barry appears in the January 2018 issue of Military History, a Military Times sister publication. For more information on Military History, and all of the HistoryNet publications visit

Puja Murgai is Special Projects Editor for Military Times.

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