On December 7, 1775, the Continental Congress commissioned its first warship, the USS Lexington. Command of the 14 gun ship was given John Barry, who received his official naval commission as Captain from Congress in March 1776. Over time Barry has become known as the "Father of the American Navy." Sometimes he shares that honor with the better-known John Paul Jones. Jones seminal moment was the epic naval engagement between HMS Serapis and Bonhomie Richard, where he uttered his immortal line, “I have not yet begun to fight,” to the British commander.
Unline Jones, Barry earned his distinction as Father of the American Navy as the first Captain ever to be commissioned by Congress. Barry proved to be a very competent and vigorous fighter, commanding four warships in his career. During a variety of naval operations on the Atlantic Ocean, Barry managed to defeat the Royal Navy on multiple occasions. So, respected was his command of the sea that the English tried to bribe Barry to abandon the American cause and join their forces. Barry had no use for this, particularly given that he was born and raised in Ireland and experienced firsthand the treatment of the British towards their Irish subjects, having been evicted from his home by his British landlord. After the American Revolution, Barry was appointed the first Commodore of the United States Navy by President George Washington in 1797. As thus he is also regarded as the Navy’s first Flag Officer. It is Barry’s portrait statue that stands outside the main entrance to Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.