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Chapter 15

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Gallant John Barry

William Bell Clark

published by
The Macmillan Company
New York

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 17

This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p219  XVI.

The Atalanta and Trepassey

During early May, while the Marquis de La­fayette was being towed ignominiously toward England, John Barry was contemplating the most dangerous lap of his homeward voyage. His distant view of the Jamaica fleet had been off the Newfoundland Banks. Between there and the American coast was a stretch of water dominated by the enemy. Before essaying the final dash — if the laboring Alliance's movements could be dignified by a word so descriptive of speed — the Captain found it necessary to repair one of his prizes. The brig Adventure had been badly storm-damaged before her capture, and Midshipman Kirby had his hands full — too full, in fact, for his youth.

Several experienced riggers were sent to the brig, on May 4, "to Repair her She Being much in want of it." With them in the pinnace went Midshipman Gardner and two more hands. Barry had decided to put a better-fitted officer in command. Someone was careless in fastening the pinnace to the prize. It went adrift, and the Alliance set off in pursuit. There was something ludicrous in a thirty‑six gun frigate chasing an empty boat, and the Captain, from his journal entry, must have chuckled over the incident. It was late afternoon before the pinnace was overtaken, and still later when repairs were completed on the Adventure and the course resumed.

A more serious note was struck in the journal next day. Barry recorded, that "from Perticular Reason it was thought by the Officers that some of the Prisoners with the Old Offenders might rise." More than 100 Britishers were in the Alliance's hold under guard. They were a constant menace, particularly with eight former mutineers at liberty in the crew, who might have access to them. Just what "Perticular Reason" had  p220 alarmed the officers, the Captain did not specify, but he "Kept a bright Look out." Nothing happened in the way of trouble with prisoners or crew. Probably Barry's drastic method of handling mutiny was the deterring factor.

Again the weather created difficulties. Heavy gales, accompanied by thunder and lightning, became almost daily occurrences. During one of them, on May 12, the two prizes were driven from sight, and did not regain the convoy. Five days later came a catastrophe. Amid booming rolls of thunder and with a heavy sea running, a bolt of lightning struck the main topmast, shivering it from cap to heel, carrying away the mainyard and springing the foremast. Blinding light flared amid­ships as the bolt ran down the mast, felling more than a dozen men, and burning the skin from several. Surgeon Kendall attended the injured while Barry directed repairs.

A new topmast was stepped in and the foremast fished, but there was no extra spar to replace the shattered mainyard. Without it, the Alliance continued her course. It was without a mainyard that Captain Parke, an amateur painter of mediocre talent but a stickler for detail, portrayed her on canvas a month later.

[image ALT: A painting, maybe an oil painting, of an expanse of sea with slightly cresting waves, in which can be seen a three-masted sailing ship in the right foreground, a smaller two-masted ship in the left foreground, and two small rowboats; in the background, a cliffed shore on which sit three largish houses, but mostly a tall lighthouse in the typical shape of a thin tapering cone, with three small rectangular windows top middle and bottom. What appear to be a cow, and separately, a man with a dog, roam the fields in front of the buildings. It is a view of Boston lighthouse, further detailed in the caption.]

Two more days and they sighted two ships which the Captain took to be homeward-bound British merchantmen. He watched for awhile, but made no effort to draw near. What was the use? The Alliance was so poorly manned she could not have spared prize crews. Unsuspecting their danger, the merchantmen went off unmolested.

"We were not in Condition to take them," Barry reported.

A resume of the situation brings conviction that he knew whereof he spoke. The frigate had sailed from L'Orient with a personnel totalling 241. Since then, eight hands had been signed on, four from the privateers taken April 2, and four from the Jamaicamen on May 2. The grand total was 249, but of these, two men had been lost overboard, and thirty‑six had been sent off in prizes. The net, as May drew toward a close, was a total of 211 officers, men and boys, of which three were in irons, eight were under surveillance, and fifty were on the doctor's list.

Of the commissioned and warrant officers, Dr. Bradford was still under arrest in his cabin, while the third lieutenant, four  p221 midshipmen and two master's-mates were absent, included in the thirty‑six on prizes. Add to this the prisoners below decks, and we can appreciate why John Barry felt apprehension, when, on the evening of May 27, he espied two suspicious sail standing toward him on the weather bow. Nor were his fears allayed when, as darkness fell, the strangers, keeping well within sight, hauled to the wind and stood on a course parallel with the Alliance. Through the night an occasional lantern beam indicated their continued presence just beyond gunshot to starboard.

* * *

His majesty's sloops-of‑war Atalanta and Trepassey had cleared St. John's, Newfoundland, early in May on a cruise against the rebels. On the afternoon of May 27, they were in latitude 41° north, and longitude 61° west, about 200 miles southeast of Cape Sable. There they observed a sail four leagues to the southeast, and, toward dusk, "finding her a large ship, supposed her a two‑decker." With darkness coming on, the sloops-of‑war hauled their wind, "and sailed in sight of her all night."

Rated as sloops-of‑war, the Atalanta and Trepassey were a ship and a brig respectively. The former carried sixteen 6‑pounders and a crew of 125 men. She was commanded by Captain Sampson Edwards, nephew of Admiral Edwards, in charge of the Newfoundland station. The Trepassey was smaller, boasting fourteen 6‑pounders, and manned by a crew of 80. Her commander was an acting Captain Smith. Neither officers, considering their conjectures as to their opponent's size, had any thought of sailing discreetly away — a tribute to heroism if not to judgment.

Until dawn, they clung to a position about a league off the strange ship's starboard beam. Then the light breeze died. At sunrise, the Atalanta and Trepassey hoisted English colors, and their drummers beat the crew to quarters. By daylight they had learned the ship was a thirty‑six gun frigate. From her silence to private signals, she most certainly was not British. Nevertheless, Captain Edwards, of the Atalanta, was "very confident" they could subdue her.

Across that league of mirror-smooth water, John Barry, his  p222 crew at quarters, had identified his opponents as an armed ship and an armed brig. With the sea like a mill-pond and not a breath of air stirring, there was nothing he could do save hope for a breeze. When it came, it consisted of little puffs, each puff dying down in an aggravating manner. By skillful handling, the Alliance took some advantage of this vagrant and elusive wind. Inch by inch, she crept toward the enemy, and, at eleven o'clock, was within speaking distance. From the mizzen shrouds just above the quarter-deck rail, Barry leaned out, one arm crooked about a ratline, and trumpeted the customary question:

"Ship ahoy! What ship is that?"

"The Atalanta sloop-of‑war," the answer came back distinctly, "in the service of his Britannic Majesty, Captain Edwards commanding. And you, Sir?"

"This is the Continental frigate Alliance, in the service of the American Congress, John Barry commanding. I would advise you, Captain Edwards, to haul down your colors.

"Thank you, Sir, perhaps I may," and the reply ended on a note of amusement, "but not until after a trial."

Testifying later, at his own court-martial, Edwards said he had wanted to prolong the conversation to enable his consort to come up. Barry gave him no such opportunity. Back to the deck the Captain dropped and nodded to a quartermaster. The Stars and Stripes rose to the main peak, but hung limp. The slight puffs of air had given way to dead calm. As the distance between the opponents had dwindled to about two cable-lengths, the Alliance opened the engagement with a broadside. No one saw what damage was inflicted, as the powder smoke, with no breeze to clear it, engulfed the ship. Through the choking murk, they noted red flashes. To their ears came the roar of return fire.

Neither British captain proposed to lay inert and take the pounding of the frigate's heavier metal. Their sweeps were out as soon as the fighting began. Within a half-hour, they had propelled their comparatively light vessels out of the direct line of fire, coming upon the Alliance athwart her stern. About noon, in her anxiety to get into position, the Trepassey, with too much headway, shot abreast of the frigate. Barry's gunners poured in two destructive broadsides, killing Captain Smith and several of the crew. The brig's lieutenant took command,  p223 and the sweeps were plied frantically until she dropped astern. From then on, the enemy vessels clung to their selected posts — the Atalanta on the Alliance's starboard quarter, the Trepassey to port. By that maneuver they had discounted the frigate's weight of metal.

Once again, the weather played John Barry a scurvy trick. With a little breeze, the two sloops-of‑war would have been no match for the Alliance. Without that needed breeze, they were dangerous and deadly opponents. The frigate lay "like a log," unable to make steerage way. Save for one or two guns in the aftermost ports, her twenty-eight 12‑pounders were useless.

"We could not bring one‑half our guns, nay, oft time, only one gun out astern to bear on them." Thus Midshipman Kessler reported, in the best existing narrative of this unusual sea‑fight. Consequently, the battle raged with the Alliance's six 9‑pounders on the quarter-deck representing her main offensive weapons, supplemented by cohorns and the muskets of the marines. About pistol-shot away, the Atalanta's and Trepassey's thirty 6‑pounders concentrated a furious, raking fire, using grape-shot as well as solid balls.

"No part of our ship escaped the Fury of their Shot through," said Barry. "We were very much Shattered in our Rigin, Spars, and Sails."

The Alliance's quarter-deck, swept by grape, peppered by musket balls, shattered by 6‑pound shot, was an inferno. Only bulwarks and battle-nettings protected the sweating men who served the guns, and the marines, whose long barrels poked over the rail as they sought a mark through the opaque clouds. The protection was inadequate. Lieutenant of Marines Samuel Pritchard was mangled by a solid shot and carried to the cockpit mortally wounded. Sergeant of Marines David Brewer, son of Colonel David Brewer, of Boston, died at his post, a musket ball through his head. Seaman George Green, one of the mutineers who had felt the flail of the cat-o‑nine-tails, was killed by a hurtling splinter.

In the cockpit, Surgeon Kendall was ministering to many wounded, several, like Lieutenant Pritchard, too badly injured for any hope of recovery. Many of the sick he had attended before the fighting began had dragged themselves between decks to help pass powder from the magazine. Others had staggered  p224 to their posts, too weak to be of much service, but anxious to do their bit.

The hot afternoon rolled along, a living hell on the face of the placid ocean. The roar of cannon fire was almost incessant, punctuated by the crack of muskets, the screams of the wounded and dying, the shouts of the sweaty, powder-grimed combatants. Over all hung the battle smoke, a gray pall whose pungent odor sent men coughing and choking about their duty.

Through it John Barry moved, a charmed figure on that bloody quarter-deck. His voice rose encouragingly to stimulate the exhausted crew to fresh efforts. His commands rang out, clear and distinct above the tumult. Here was a fighting man to be obeyed. His tall, calm presence brought reassurance to the faint-hearted. There he stood, and, suddenly, he was down!

A large grape shot had struck the Captain in the left shoulder, felling him to the deck. He arose, blood streaming from the wound. Several officers would have helped him below, but he waved them aside. His place was on the quarter-deck, and there he would remain. Stay he did, until from loss of blood he was nigh fainting away. Then he consented to be carried down to the cockpit. Hoysted Hacker took command.

As the Captain disappeared below, a shot carried away the Alliance's colors. Such guns as bore upon the enemy had been fired and were re‑loading. In the unusual lull, the Britishers thought the frigate had struck. Men leaped into the shrouds of the Atalanta and Trepassey, cheering. Their jubilation was short-lived. Using a mizzen-brail for a halyard, a new Continental ensign was hoisted, and the now loaded guns thundered again. The enemy redoubled its fire on the quarter-deck. Quartermaster William Pownall was killed at the wheel. Lieutenant of Marines Warren was wounded.

Lieutenant Hacker, with consternation, saw the growing list of casualties, noted the increasing damage below and aloft, and ran down to the cockpit. Barry's wound was being dressed, Surgeon Kendall having removed the ball from his shoulder.

"I have to report the ship in frightful condition, Sir," Hacker said. "The rigging is much cut, damage everywhere great, many men killed and wounded, and we labor under great disadvantage for want of wind. Have I your permission to strike our colors?"

 p225  "No Sir!" Barry thundered, trying to struggle erect, his eyes blazing. "If the ship cannot be fought without me, I will be brought on deck. To your duty, Sir."

Back on deck Hacker, new resolution infused in him by the angry Captain. As he reached the quarter-deck, he felt a breeze on his cheek, heard his men cheering. The wind they had prayed for had arrived — not strong, but sufficient. Answering her helm, with the air billowing out such canvas as had not been rent to shreds, the Alliance swung slowly around. The entire starboard battery was brought to bear upon the enemy. Fourteen 12‑pounders crashed, concentrating on the ship. Fourteen guns were run in, loaded, run out and fired again; this time with the brig as a very close and easy target.

The Trepassey's colors came down after that one blasting broadside. The Atalanta still showed fight. One more broadside ended her resistance. It was three o'clock in the afternoon. The battle had lasted more than three hours. Powder-grimed men leaped to shrouds and bulwarks, wild with delight, cheering madly.

In the cockpit, John Barry, struggling to get into his coat, heard the cheering and sank back, exhausted but happy.

Midshipman Kessler, a dirty bandage around a wound in his leg, went off in the pinnace to bring the British captains on board. Reaching the Trepassey, he learned her captain had been killed. He kept on to the Atalanta, ridge with Captain Edwards.

Lieutenant Hacker received the disheartened Briton at the gangway rail. To him Captain Edwards silently proffered his sword. Hacker waved it aside.

"I am not the captain," he explained. "Captain Barry has been wounded and awaits you in his cabin. May I have the honor of escorting you to him?"

He led the way below. Barry was seated in an easy chair, his arm in a sling, shoulder wrapped in thick bandages. Again, in silence, Captain Edwards extended his sword. It was received and handed back.

"I return it to you, Sir," Barry said. "You have merited it, and your King ought to give you a better ship. Here is my cabin, at your service. Use it as your own.

After that, Lieutenant King, of the Trepassey, was brought  p226 on board. From the Britons, the Captain learned the Atalanta had five men killed and fifteen wounded; the Trepassey, six killed, including Captain Smith, and ten wounded. Both vessels were in shattered condition. Barry did not dare add 200 additional prisoners to those already on the Alliance. His decision was to send a cartel to Newfoundland with all prisoners he had on board. Captain Edwards assured him such a cartel would be acceptable at St. John's, and an equivalent number of American prisoners exchanged for those so returned.

It was too late to accomplish the transfer that night. Temporary prize crews were placed on the ship and brig. Captain Edwards and Lieutenant King addressed their people from the frigate's quarter-deck. Their voices carried clearly to the Atalanta and Trepassey, which lay close by. The gist of their remarks was that Captain Barry had agreed to return all hands in the brig to Newfoundland, therefore an orderly behavior should be preserved through the night.

Three badly battered vessels of war rode out the darkness in a sea faintly rippled by a slowly rising breeze. The Atalanta's mainmast, weakened by wounds, went over the side next morning. Fore- and mizzen masts had been shot away in the fighting. Though reduced to a hulk, Barry considered her the more valuable, particularly as she was copper-bottomed. A carpenter's crew and riggers went to work on her. Other hands boarded the Trepassey, and proceeded to transform her into a cartel. Guns were thrown overboard; warlike stores removed to the frigate.

Transfer of prisoners began later that day. All wounded were carried on board the Alliance, with the Atalanta's surgeon in attendance. Captain Edwards, Lieutenant King and several others were held as hostages. The remainder of the two crews were placed on the disarmed brig. To her also were sent the crews of the privateer Mars and the two Jamaicamen. Under command of Philip Windsor, master of the Trepassey, the cartel sailed off, on May 30, for Newfoundland. Windsor's instructions were explicit. At St. John's, the prisoners were to be exchanged for an equal number of Americans who were to sail the Trepassey to Boston "as rebel property."

Repairs to the Atalanta were completed on May 31, and Hezekiah Welch placed on board as prizemaster with eleven hands. Barry ordered him for Boston, hoping the battered vessel  p227 might be lucky enough to get in undetected. Putting the Alliance in shape to continue her voyage required another day. The Captain by then gave up all thoughts of making Philadelphia.

"We being at that time in a Shattered Condition very foul and hardly Men enough to work our Ship," he explained, "I tho't most prudent to mak the nearest Port we could."

That nearest port was Boston, a little more than 400 miles due west. Toward that destination, the Alliance made sail on the evening of June 1.

* * *

At Boston, Alliance had been given up for lost, "as either taken or foundered." Lieutenant Fletcher had arrived, on May 12, with the prize privateer Mars, and a belief that Barry could not be more than a day's sail behind him, convoying in the Marquis de La­fayette with her precious cargo. When the days lengthened into a week, and the weeks into a fortnight with the frigate still unreported at Nantasket, fears assailed the Navy Board. The Continental navy seemed on the verge of eclipse. The Saratoga had disappeared at sea in March. The Confederacy had been taken off the Delaware capes in April. Two frigates remained, the Deane, moored to the Long Wharf in Boston, "a dead log for want of men," and the Trumbull, in the same plight at Philadelphia. Small wonder the faint-hearted were "lamenting that their naval force was at an end."

Despair gave way to joy, on the morning of June 6, when the battered Alliance, minus a mainyard, sails perforated with innumerable shot holes, came up the harbor — sixty-nine days from L'Orient. Joy was tempered with sorrow when the first boat from the frigate brought ashore her captain, "badly but not mortally wounded." They carried John Barry to a hospitable private home, where his first act was to send young John Kessler express to Philadelphia to bring Sarah Barry immediately to Boston.

Despite protests from Surgeon Kendall, the Captain insisted that day upon drafting reports to the Admiralty and Navy Boards. Propped up in bed, he dictated long dispatches to his clerk, Fitch Pool. At considerable detail, he told the principal events of the entire cruise — the taking of the Alert and the liberation  p228 of her Venetian prize, the decision at L'Orient to convoy the Marquis de La­fayette, the near mutiny, the capture of the Mars and Minerva, the desertion by Captain de Galatheau, the bagging of the two Jamaicamen, the eluding of the Jamaica fleet, the storms and their damaging results, and, finally, the desperate battle with the Atalanta and Trepassey, and the disposition of both prizes.

"We had five Men killed and twenty‑two wounded, three of which has died of their wounds since," he reported. "I am amongst the wounded the Occasion of my wound was a large Grape Shott which lodged in my left Shoulder, which was soon after cut out by the Surgeon I am flattered by him that I shall be fit for duty before the Ship will be ready to Sail and I am of the same opinion as the Ship is shattered in a most shocking manner and wants new Masts, Yards, Sail and Rigging."

Typical of Barry's tenacity of purpose was the conclusion of that dispatch. At L'Orient he had urged Franklin to have the Alliance copper-bottomed, and had failed. Now he pressed the Admiralty Board on the same subject. For three years, to his knowledge, a quantity of copper and nails suitable for sheathing ships had laid in the hands of the Continental agent at Boston.

"It will not cost so much to put it on the Ship as it will to Clean her," he told the Board. "If you would order the Alliance to be sheathed with it you may keep her the whole war if not you may be assured that whenever she is Catched at sea foul you will lose her. Sheathing the Ship with Copper will render an Assential Service to the Country."

The letter went off by the next post for Philadelphia, the Captain having time for a brief postscript. He had just heard that the snow from Jamaica had arrived at a safe port to the eastward, and he expected "the Attalanta in every hour." Everybody was hopeful about the Atalanta and the Marquis de La­fayette, but neither ever arrived. We know about the latter. As to the Atalanta, Lieutenant Welch ran afoul of a British blockading squadron, on June 7, near Cape Cod. Four frigates gobbled up the crippled sloop-of‑war, and changed her destination to Halifax.

 p229  John Barry's accomplishments in the Alliance spread throughout the country, traveling as rapidly as those days of slow transportation and communication permitted.

"The Alliance has taken six prizes; two sloops of war, two West Indiamen and two privateers," gloated General William Heath, from Roxbury, on June 7. "In the engagement with the sloops of war, which were both at the same time, and in a calm Capt Barry received a wound in the shoulder by a grape shot."

"Captain Barry is unfortunately among the wounded," ran a letter from Newport which related the story of his success. "Captain Barry had 5 men killed and 22 wounded, himself among the latter," read another dispatch. In Philadelphia, where Kessler had brought the news, the editor of the Pennsylvania Packet penned an item for the issue of June 23:

"We have the pleasure to inform the public that the wound which the gallant captain Barry received is in his arm, and but a flesh wound. That he was in high spirits, and in a fair way of soon being able to add to the laurels he hath gathered in the service of his country."

Sarah Barry, escorted by Kessler, was already enroute to Boston, when the Captain's official report reached the Board of Admiralty, on the morning of June 26. It gave John Brown keen pleasure to write to his friend that the Board "entirely approve of your Conduct and Congratulate with you on your Success."

This letter is a magnificent testimonial to the honor and respect in which John Barry was held.

"Amidst their [Board of Admiralty] rejoicing it gives them pain to think that so Gallant and diligent an Officer should by a wound be prevented even for a Short time from rendering those Services which he hath always shown such an inclination and Ability to perform." Thus John Brown wrote. "We heartily wish that your wound may be soon healed — that the use of your Arm be restored and only an honorary scar left behind."

Brown explained the Navy Board had been directed to present the thanks of the nation "to you — Capt Hacker and all your gallant officers." His conclusion meant more to Barry than all the eulogies — the Board of Admiralty had agreed to sheath the Alliance with copper and wanted a prompt job "to  p230 give you an Opportunity of rendering still further Services to your Country."

Nor did the expressions of appreciation end there. Barry's report was read in Congress, on June 26, along with an earlier letter from John Laurens. To the Congressional Fathers, it seemed a God‑given opportunity to make a play for the friendship of a neutral — the Republic of Venice. Hence, they resolved that the Board of Admiralty be instructed to inform the Captain that Congress approved his conduct in releasing the Venetian ship Buona Compagnia, "retaken by him from a British privateer, on the fourth of March last, it being their determination always, to pay the utmost respect to the rights of neutral commerce."

The Committee of Intelligence saw to it that this resolution appeared in the American newspapers, and that a certified copy went to Franklin in Paris for diplomatic use. Before its publication, Francis Lewis, Chairman of the Board of Admiralty, had forwarded another certified copy to the Captain, enclosing it with a warm letter of praise.

"The reason for their [Congress] taking notice particularly of that part of your conduct," Lewis explained in accounting for the resolution, "was, as appears from the Close of the resolve, to show their respect for the rights of neutral Commerce; and not because they did not approve the whole of it, which, as it merits, so it receives universal approbation. We are concerned to hear that you was so ill of your wound that there was no possibility of your being soon able to render that public service which nothing we are sure but the want of health will ever prevent, and are anxious for your speedy recovery."

* * *

Through July, John Barry convalesced rapidly. No doubt, the ministrations of the devoted Sarah, who arrived at Boston early in the month, had much to do with his good recovery. Letters of praise, pouring in from everywhere, also were tonics in speeding him back to health. Not that the contents of every epistle he received were wholly pleasing.

One letter, in particular, from John Donaldson, one of the joint owners with him of the brig American, conveyed the disagreeable news that their vessel had been taken at St. Eustatia,  p231 when the British Admiral, Rodney, had captured that Dutch island in February. The Philadelphia merchant rendered a complete profit and loss statement to the Captain, covering all the brig's voyages, and was happy to report he had insured her to the tune of £3,000 specie, which sum he hoped to receive in due time. He had also done a little speculative insurance for Barry on one of his prizes — the privateer Minerva — and hoped his action would be approved. How this venture came about, he explained in detail. When the Mars reached Boston, Lieutenant Fletcher had announced the Minerva in company with the Alliance. After a fortnight had elapsed with no word from either vessel, Donaldson consulted John Brown, and then placed a 6,000 livre policy on the prize.

"I did not think it prudent to mention the matter to Mrs. Barry," the merchant wrote, "as she was at that time very unhappy at not hearing from you and my proposing a matter of this kind to her would induce her to believe I had apprehensions for your Safety."

Then there was the long letter James Nicholson had written him from Philadelphia, on June 24. This epistle is an amusing exposé of how John Paul Jones's ambition to rank at the head of the Continental navy was frustrated. At the same time, it is a sad commentary upon the intrigues which permeated Congress and naval circles. While it throws considerable light upon the overweening ambitions of Jones, it likewise portrays Nicholson for the schemer he was. Remembering how this same Nicholson, almost five years earlier, had been made ranking naval captain, the becomes laughable to read of his denunciations of those who would now disturb the seniority list.

No question but what John Barry had a pretty good appreciation of James Nicholson's character. Hence, in reading that letter, he discounted much of its contents. How Nicholson was righteously championing Barry's cause, no doubt, drew a chuckle from the Captain. Catch James Nicholson championing anybody but himself.

"Your arrival and success came very opportunily," Nicholson wrote, "and I did not fail to make use of it I mean outdoors in presence of Cap. Jones & some of his advocated Members, by observing that you had acquit yourself well, which they acknowledged. I then told them they could not do less than make  p232 you Admiral also. I had not a sentense of reply. It irritated the Chevalier so much that he was obliged to decamp."

The Jones menace was not yet ended, Nicholson warned. Probably the ship-of‑the-line America, Barry's old command, would be completed and assigned to him — to "suit his Vanity."

To the Captain, it all sounded picayune and childish. He had more important matters to worry about than Jones and his ambitions and Nicholson and his jealousies. While he had been laid up, there had been a general exodus of officers from the frigate — all by permission of the Navy Board. Lieutenant Hacker had left the ship. So had Captain Parke and Lieutenants Elwood and Warren, of the marines, and Surgeon Kendall. He had Lieutenant Fletcher and Sailing-master Buckley only to rely upon; the former "a very young man," and the latter, "the best Officer I had in the last Ships Cruize." A promotion was due Buckley, the Captain felt, and recommended it, but the Board of Admiralty ignored his request.

By July 25, he could report himself "almost recovered of my wound," and hopeful of being fit "to attend my duty" in three or four days. When he did get on his feet, his first attention was to the Alliance. The Navy Board had succeeded in having her hauled out on the ground, on July 21, and the copper sheathing was underway. Until that was finished, the question of new masts, rigging and sail cloth would have to wait. There were no funds available for everything needed. Only by "fair promises & a little assistance received from the Agent," could the Navy Board keep the artisans at work. By August 15, the copper bottom was so well along that the Board hoped to have the frigate in the stream within a few days, "but money will be wanting to get her to sea."

The Trepassey had reached Boston, on August 3, bringing back 130 American prisoners exchanged from Newfoundland and Halifax. Under the terms agreed upon in dispatching her as a cartel, she was now a legal prize. Barry had her libeled against and sold by public vendue on August 27. During August, also, the three Alliance mutineers were tried by court-martial, convicted and sentenced to be hanged from the frigate's yardarm. The trio languished in Boston gaol until Congress should formally approve the proceedings.

Meanwhile, the Mars, and the Jamaica brig Adventure,  p233 which had arrived at Boston, had been libeled against in Admiralty court, condemned as prizes and sold. The court awarded two‑thirds of the prize money for the Mars to the crew of the Alliance, and one‑third to the crew of the Marquis de La­fayette, a decision which the French consul appealed to Congress. Barry was one of the purchasers of the Mars, taking a one‑sixteenth interest. Henry Mitchell, a Boston merchant, who hailed originally from Ireland, was the heaviest shareholder with seven-sixteenths. They equipped her as an American privateer, called her the Wexford, a name indicative of the Captain's interest, and sent her out under John Peek Rathbun, former Continental captain, to cruise in "the Chops of the Irish & English Channels." She sailed on August 20, and, to anticipate, on September 28, just after arriving on her cruising ground, was taken by the British frigate Recovery. The venture cost Barry a small investment, and practically bankrupted Mitchell.

That the voyage to L'Orient with John Laurens had not been in vain, Barry learned on August 25. That day the colonel and Tom Paine arrived at Boston in the French frigate Resolu, two transports with military stores and money under convoy. The Captain had but a brief few minutes with them as the impetuous South Carolinian spurred off for camp almost immediately, anxious to end his diplomatic role and return to the army.

John Paul Jones rode into Boston on August 29, and he and Barry breakfasted together. Their ways had not crossed in more than four years. They had met in Philadelphia in the winter of 1775‑1776, while the first Continental fleet was outfitting, and had been together only once since then — at Philadelphia, in early April, 1777. There was mutual respect, but no close friendship between them, because the association which might have produced such friendship was lacking. Certainly, there was no enmity, no jealousy, no dark suspicions on either side. Pitting Jones against Barry, or Barry against Jones came in later years — long after each had gone to his grave — and was the result of a protracted, silly controversy as to who founded the Continental navy — a distinction neither claimed in his lifetime.

Portsmouth was Jones's ultimate destination. He had been  p234 commissioned in the America, and, no doubt, Barry regaled him with his own experiences in command of the ship-of‑the‑line in the fall of 1779. Also, Barry painted the naval situation in Boston; the Deane with no crew and little prospect of one; the Alliance with a motley crew, paid off but willing to reship if the frigate were once ready for sea. What was needed was the usual indispensable — money.

Over the breakfast table, Jones gave Barry a tip on procedure. The place to apply was not the Navy Board, nor the Board of Admiralty, but the office of the Superintendent of Finance in Philadelphia. That Superintendent of Finance was Robert Morris, and Jones was positive Morris was the only man on the continent who could secure the funds to reequip and reman the Alliance. Morris's influence had procured Jones the America, and finally had manned and sent out James Nicholson's frigate, the Trumbull.

"And small profit in that," Barry interposed. "Nicholson lost the Trumbull off the Delaware capes a day or two after he sailed. The Boston newspapers published an account of it last week. According to them, the Trumbull was brought into New York by the Iris frigate and a sloop-of‑war."

Jones' comment upon this news is not available. He departed next day, and, from Portsmouth, a week later, as a little gesture of goodwill, sent Barry a red, white and blue cockade, which he hoped every American naval officer would wear. It was known in France as "our Cocade of Triple Alliance," ones explained, and he had presented similar ones "to the first characters in Europe."

The seed Jones had planted took root. The whole Continental navy afloat — the Alliance and Deane — lay in Boston harbor. If either or both were to be of further service, someone should present their condition clearly to Morris. A note had come to him from the Superintendent of Finance, recommending a young midshipman and commenting that "the frigate should take every young man that offers in order to bring up and breed both seamen and officers." It gave Barry a pretext for replying, but he despaired of any letter doing justice to the situation. While he hesitated, reluctant to slight the Board of Admiralty by a direct appeal to Morris, a paragraph in the Boston Independent Chronicle, of September 20, caught his  p235 eye. It was a dispatch from London, announcing the capture of the Marquis de La­fayette. That settled it. He would plead the cause of the navy in person with the Superintendent of Finance, and he would be prepared, as well, to answer for his part in the loss of the munition ship.

The Alliance, copper-bottomed at last, was back in the stream, but not a stroke of re‑outfitting work had been done. The Navy Board pleaded poverty, and there was truth to its plea. So, the Captain settled his accounts, on October 1, took the Board's receipt, and he and Sarah set off by coach upon the long journey to Philadelphia.

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Page updated: 26 Jun 24