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Commodore Barney






No old Triton who has passed his calms under the bows of the long-boat
could say of Joshua Barney that he came into a master's berth through
the cabin windows. He began at the rudiments, and well he understood
the science. All his predilections were for the sea.

Having deserted the counting room, young Barney, at the age of twelve,
was placed for nautical instruction in a pilot-boat at Baltimore, till
he was apprenticed to his brother-in-law. At the age of fourteen, he
was appointed second mate, with the approbation of the owners, and
before he was sixteen he was called upon to take charge of his ship at
sea, in which the master had died. This was on a voyage to Nice. The
ship was in such a state that it was barely possible to make
Gibraltar, where for necessary repairs he pledged her for L700, to be
repaid by the consignee at Nice, who however declined, and called in
the aid of the Governor to compel Barney to deliver the cargo, which
he had refused to do. He was imprisoned, but set at large on some
intimation that he would do as desired, but when he came on board, he
struck his flag, and removed his crew, choosing to consider his vessel
as captured. He then set out for Milan, to solicit the aid of the
British Ambassador there, in which he succeeded so well that the
authorities of Nice met him on his return to apologize for their
conduct. The assignee paid the bond, and Barney sailed for Alicant,
where his vessel was detained for the use of the great armada, then
fitting out against Algiers, the fate of which was a total and
shameful defeat. On his return home, his employer was so well
satisfied with his conduct, that he became his firm friend ever after.

He soon offered himself as second in command on board the sloop
Hornet, of ten guns, one of two vessels then preparing for a cruise
under Commodore Hopkins, for this was in the early part of the
revolution. The sloop fell in with a British tender, which she might
have captured, but for the timidity of the American captain. The
tender, mistaking her enemy, ran alongside and exposed herself to much
danger.--Barney stood by one of the guns as the enemy came near, and
was about to apply the match, when the bold commander commanded him to
desist. Barney, whose spirit revolted at such a cause, threw his
match-stick at the captain, with such force that the iron point stuck
in the door of the round-house. This, in a youth not seventeen, urged
well for the pugnacity of the man. At the end of this cruise, he
volunteered on board the schooner Wasp, in which he soon had a brush
with the Roebuck and another frigate, and with the aid of some galleys
in which he had a command, the enemy was forced to retreat, with more
loss than honor. Barney for his good conduct in this affair, was
appointed to the command of the sloop Sachem, with the commission of
lieutenant before he was seventeen.

Before the cruise, however, Captain Robinson took command of the
Sachem, which soon had an action with a letter-of-marque of superior
force and numbers. It was well contested, and nearly half the crew of
the brig were killed or wounded. In about two hours the
letter-of-marque struck.--The captors secured a valuable prize, in a
cargo of rum, and also a magnificent turtle intended as a present to
Lord North, whose name was marked on the shell. This acceptable West
Indian, Lieutenant Barney presented to a better man than it had been
designed for, for he gave it to the Hon. R. Morris. On the return of
the Sachem, both officers were transferred to a fine brig of fourteen
guns, the Andrew Doria, which forthwith captured the Racehorse, of
twelve guns and a picked crew. This vessel was of the Royal Navy, and
had been detached by the Admiral purposely to take the Doria.

On this voyage a snow was captured, in which the Lieutenant went as
prize master, making up the crew partly of the prisoners. Being hard
by an enemy's ship, he discovered signs of mutiny among his crew, and
shot the ringleader in the shoulder; a proceeding that offered so
little encouragement to his comrades, that they obeyed orders, and
made sail, but it was too late to escape. The purser of the frigate
which captured him, was on a subsequent occasion, so much excited as
to strike Barney, who knocked him down, and went further in his
resentment than fair fighting permits, for he kicked him down the
gangway. The commander obliged the purser to apologize to Barney.
Having been captured in the Virginia frigate, which ran aground at the
Capes, and was deserted by her commander, Barney, with five hundred
other prisoners, was sent round, in the St. Albans frigate, to New
York. As the prisoners were double in number to the crew, Barney,
formed a plan of taking the ship, which was defeated or prevented by
the treachery of a Frenchman.

Barney was a prisoner at New York, for five months, after which he
took the command of a schooner of two guns, and eight men, with a
cargo of tobacco for St. Eustatia, for he was better pleased to do a
little than to do nothing. He was however, taken, after a running
fight, by boarding, by a privateer of four large guns and sixty men.
His next cruise was with his friend Robinson, in a private ship of ten
guns and thirty-five men, in which they encountered the British
privateer Rosebud of sixteen guns and one hundred and twenty men. On
the return, a letter-of-marque of sixteen guns and seventy men was
captured. The Lieutenant had now prize money enough to be converted,
on his return, into a large bundle of continental bills, which he
stowed away in a chaise box, on taking a journey, but which he could
not find when he arrived at his destination. He kept his own secret,
however, and "went to sea again," second in command of the United
States' ship Saratoga, of sixteen nine-pounders. The first prize was a
ship of twelve guns, captured after an action of a few minutes.

On the next day, the Saratoga hoisted English colors, and came along
side a ship which had two brigs in company, then running up the
American ensign, she poured in a broadside, while Lieutenant Barney,
with fifty men, boarded the enemy. The immediate result was, the
conquest of a ship of thirty-two guns and ninety men. The two brigs,
one of fourteen and the other of four guns, were also captured. The
division of prize money would have made the officers rich, but no
division took place, for all but the Saratoga were captured by a
seventy-four and several frigates. Lieutenant Barney was furnished
with bed and board, on deck, and with him, bed and board were
synonymous terms, but he was allowed to choose the softest plank he
could find. In England he was confined in prison, from which he
escaped, and, after various adventures, arrived at Beverly,
Massachusetts, and, as soon as he landed, was offered the command of a
privateer of twenty guns. On his arrival at Philadelphia, he accepted
the command of one of several vessels, cruising against the enemies'
barges, and the refugee boats, that infested the Delaware River and
Bay. His ship was the Hyder Ally, a small vessel of sixteen six
pounders. As a superior vessel of the enemy was approaching, Barney
directed his steersman to interpret his commands by the rule of
contraries.

When the enemy was ranging alongside, Barney cried out, "Hard a-port."
The helmsman clapt his helm the other way, and the enemy's jib-boom
caught in the fore rigging, and held her in a position to be raked,
and never was the operation of raking more suddenly or effectually
performed. The British flag came down in less than half an hour, and
the captors made little delay for compliments, for a frigate from the
enemy was rapidly approaching. The prize was the General Marle, of the
Royal Navy, with twenty nine pounders, and one hundred and thirty-six
men; nearly double the force and metal of the captors. After the
peace, Commodore Barney made a partial settlement in Kentucky, and
became a favorite with the old hunters of that pleasant land. He was
appointed Clerk of the District Court of Maryland, and also an
auctioneer. He also engaged in commerce, when his business led him to
Cape Francois during the insurrection, and where he armed his crew,
and fought his way, to carry off some specie which he had secreted in
barrels of coffee.

On his return he was captured by a pirate, which called herself an
English privateer. Barney, however, was a bad prisoner, and with a
couple of his hands rose upon the buccaneers and captured their ship.
In this situation it was no time for Argus himself to sleep, with more
than an eye at a time. The Commodore slept only by day in an armed
chair on deck, with his sword between his legs, and pistols in his
belt, while his cook and boatswain, well armed, stood the watch at his
side. On another occasion, he was captured in the West Indies, by an
English frigate, where he received the usual British courtesies, and
he was tried in Jamaica for piracy, &c. It is needless to say that,
though in an enemy's country, he was acquitted by acclamation. This
accusation originated with the commander of the frigate, who, however,
prudently kept out of sight; though an officer in the same frigate,
expressed at a Coffee House, a desire to meet Barney, without knowing
that he was present, that he might have an opportunity to settle
accounts with the rascal. The rascal bestowed upon the officer the
compliments that were usual on such an occasion, and tweaked that part
of his head that is so prominent in an elephant.

We cannot follow the Commodore through his subsequent fortunes and
adventures. In France he received the hug fraternal of the President
of the Convention, and the commission of Captain of the highest grade
in the Navy. He fitted out several vessels of his own to harass the
British trade, in which he was very successful. He received the
command of two frigates, which were almost wrecked in a storm, though
he succeeded in saving them. In the last war, his services are more
immediately in our memories.





Next: Naval Battles Of The United States

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