It is a pity that Errol Flynn during the Golden Age of Hollywood never had the opportunity to do a biopic on Joshua Barney. Barney’s life was more adventuresome and filled with derring-do than the fictional characters that Flynn portrayed.
The scion of a Catholic Maryland family, Barney was born on July 6, 1759 in Baltimore, one of 14 children. At 10 he announced to his startled father that he was leaving school. His father found him a job in a counting shop, but Barney refused to spend his life chained to a desk. He left his father’s farm at 13 to seek his fortunes on the sea. He became an apprentice mate on the brig Sydney engaged in the Liverpool trade. The captain of the brig died suddenly on a voyage to Europe and the 14 year old Barney assumed command and successfully completed the voyage.
Barney, an ardent patriot, joined the newly formed Continental Navy at the beginning of the American Revolution. During the War he was involved in 35 naval engagements and the space of a blog post will only allow me to hit the most important portions of his extremely active wartime service.
A seasoned mariner at 16, Barney was appointed in February 1776 Master’s Mate aboard the ten gun converted sloop Hornet, second in command to the captain. He took part in the raid on New Providence in the Bahamas by an American fleet under Commodore Esek Hopkins on March 3, 1776. He then served on the sloop Wasp which was involved in several skirmishes against the British and captured a number of smaller ships, including the armed British brig The Tender. For his gallantry in this action Barney was promoted to Lieutenant. (more…)