Comm. John Barry Plaza and Memorial

For decades the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America has petitioned United States Navy historians and many others in the United States government to honor a true Irish American naval hero of the American Revolution. Commodore John Barry is part of The Constitution of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America as we ask our Divisions and Boards to honor him on our near September 13 each year.

Brothers, two of our outstanding members from Washington DC have accomplished something that many people from the Ancient Order of Hibernians and graduates of the United States Naval Academy had never thought possible. Jack O’Brien and John McInerney have persuaded, through persistence and hardwork, the United States Naval Academy Oversight Committee to approve a John Barry Memorial at the Academy in Annapolis, Maryland to recognize a Revolutionary War hero and the man who supervised the building of the first U.S. Navy ships in 1797, the frigate United States. As Jack and John stated one of their aims would be that students and visitors alike would be able to say “Let’s Meet at the Barry Gate”.

Members of the AOH have accomplished what was once considered impossible by Irish Catholics in the United States. We, the AOH, have carried the memory of Commodore John Barry for Irish America.

  • First Mike Kearney of Brooklyn, NY, had the United States Congress recognize John Barry of Philadelphia, PA and Wexford, Ireland as the “First Flag Officer” of the United State Navy.
  • Then National Vice President Seamus Boyle has had the letters and papers of Barry catalogued and digitalized at the Philadelphia Seaport Museum under the care of their historians.
  • John Barry is buried in the graveyard at the rear of Old St. Mary’s Catholic Church near the Penn’s Landing piers in Philadelphia from which he once sailed to attack the British Fleet during the American Revolution.

When the American Revolution ended the Naval heroes of that conflict were John Paul Jones who was Scottish by birth and the Irishman John Barry now of Philadelphia. The fledgling American Navy, consisting mostly of merchant ships converted to warships, was decommissioned and the ships returned to civilian service as merchant ships. Jones set out to continue as a naval officer under other flags and died of natural causes while serving as an Admiral in the Russian Fleet.

The Irishman John Barry returned to Philadelphia and his position as a successful merchant sea captain at the end of the Revolutionary War but soon Congress came calling in 1794 and he was commissioned as First Captain in 1797 and he was asked to serve his country by supervising the building of the Six Frigates, which would be the new Navy, as well as training of a U.S. Naval Officer Corp to command them. He thus became Commodore John Barry, First Flag Officer of the United States Navy. There were no Admirals in the U.S. Navy at that time.

Fundraising for the Barry Gate

In the Constitution of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America Commodore John Barry is recognized as an Irish American hero listed as a National Holiday of the Order on September 13 each year.

If we are to honor Commodore John Barry at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis we will need to raise funds in two distinct stages for this to progress and honor this Irish American Revolutionary War hero to take his rightful place at the United States Naval Academy.

Stage #1: We must have $15,000 in donations to raise the Wrought Iron arch over “The Barry Gate” and make a forever a historical representation of a man who has long remained in the shadows of the history of the United States and the American Revolution.

Stage #2: Will be the much larger project for the statue and the garden, the largest we have undertaken since the project for the AOH/LAOH Victims of Katrina in New Orleans. We do not have the final numbers but it will be somewhat in the neighborhood of $150,000 that we will need to have raised.

Those figures may seem to be quite daunting for our Order and your Hibernian Charity but we cannot fail at an opportunity to fulfill a promise to a man, Commodore John Barry, whose efforts for our shared adopted country, putting his skill and daring as a seaman in service of the Continental Congress, when few had those skills so needed for the war, in its time of greatest need during the American Revolution. In fact the British, recognizing what his skills meant to the colonists, attempted with money to have him become a Benedict Arnold and switch sides. At times during the most perilous moments of the American Revolution that would have seemed a poor choice to many but I’m sure not to Barry who as an Irish Catholic realized that he never would have been a Sea Captain in an Ireland under British rule.

Let this year’s “Holiday” for Commodore John Barry be a fundraiser to immortalize a very symbolic Irish American who has been honored by the AOH/LAOH these many years. We would ask every Division and Board in the United States to make a contribution of at least $100.00, larger groups of course more, to this long sought cause.