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


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.

Captivity Among The Japanese Dartmoor facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail