The Last Naval Battle Of The Revolution
THE HEROIC CAPTAIN BARNEY IN THE "HYDER ALI" CAPTURES THE "GENERAL MONK"
YOU must think by this time that we had many bold and brave sailors in
the Revolution. So we had. You have not been told all their exploits,
but only a few among the most gallant ones. There is one more story that
is worth telling, before we leave the Revolutionary times.
If you are familiar with American history you w
ll remember that Lord
Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington in October, 1781. That is
generally looked on as the end of the war. There was no more fighting on
land. But there was one bold affair on the water in April, 1782, six
months after the work of the armies was done.
This was in Delaware Bay, where Captain Barry had taken a war vessel
with a few rowboats. The hero of this later exploit was Captain Joshua
Barney, and he was as brave a man as John Barry.
Captain Barney had seen service through the whole war. Like John Paul
Jones, an accident had made him a captain of a ship when he was a mere
boy. He was only seventeen, yet he handled his ship with the skill of an
old mariner. War broke out soon afterward and he became an officer on
the Hornet, though still only a boy. Soon after he had some lively
service in the Wasp, and captured a British privateer with the little
Then he had some bad fortune, for he was taken prisoner while bringing
in a prize vessel, and was put on the terrible prison-ship Jersey. Few
of the poor fellows on that vessel lived to tell the story of the
frightful way in which they were treated. But young Barney managed to
escape, and went to sea again as captain of a merchant vessel. In this
he was chased by a British war-vessel, the Rosebud. Shall I tell you
the way that Captain Barney plucked the petals of the Rosebud? He
fired a crowbar at her out of one of his cannon. This new kind of
cannon-ball went whirling through the air and came ripping and tearing
through the sails of the British ship. After making rags of her sails,
it hit her foremast and cut out a big slice. The Americans now sailed
quietly away. They could laugh at John Bull's Rosebud.
On the 8th of April, 1782, Captain Barney took command of the Hyder
Ali. This was a merchant ship which had been bought by the State of
Pennsylvania. It was not fit for a warship, but the State was in a
hurry, so eight gun-ports were cut on each side, and the ship was
mounted with sixteen six-pounder cannon. Then she set sail from
Philadelphia in charge of a fleet of merchant vessels.
On they went, down the Delaware river and bay, until Cape May was
reached. Here Captain Barney saw that there was trouble ahead. Three
British vessels came in sight. One of these was the frigate Quebec.
The others were a brig, the Fair American, and a sloop-of-war, the
Before such a fleet the Hyder Ali was like a sparrow before a hawk.
Captain Barney at once signaled his merchant ships to make all haste up
the bay. Away they flew like a flock of frightened birds, except one,
whose captain thought he would slip round the cape and get to sea. But
the British soon swallowed up him and his ship, so he paid well for his
On up the bay went the other merchantmen, with the Hyder Ali in the
rear, and the British squadron hot on their track. The frigate sailed
into a side channel, thinking it would find a short-cut and so head them
off. Captain Barney watched this movement with keen eyes. The big ship
had put herself out of reach for a time. He knew well that she could not
get through that way, and laid his plans to have some sport with the
small fish while the big fish was away.
The brig Fair American was a privateer and a fast one. It came up with
a fair breeze, soon reaching the Hyder Ali, which expected a fight.
But the privateer wanted prizes more than cannon balls, and went
straight on, firing a broadside that did no harm. Captain Barney let her
go. The sloop-of-war was coming fast behind, and this was enough for him
to attend to. It had more guns than his ship and they were double the
weight--twelve-pounders to his six-pounders. As the war sloop came near,
Barney turned to his helmsman, and said:
"I want you to go opposite to my orders. If I tell you to port your
helm, you are to put it hard-a-starboard. Do you understand?"
"Aye, aye!" answered the tar.
Up came the General Monk, its captain thinking to make an easy prize,
as the Fair American had been let go past without a shot. When about a
dozen yards away the British captain hailed:
"Strike your colors, or I will fire!"
"Hard-a-port your helm," roared Barney to the man at the wheel. "Do you
want her to run aboard us?"
The order was heard on board the enemy, and the captain gave orders to
meet the expected movement. But hard-a-starboard went the helm, and the
Hyder Ali swung round in front of the enemy, whose bowsprit caught and
became entangled in her fore-rigging.
This gave the American ship a raking position, and in a moment the grim
tars were hard at work with their guns. Broadsides were poured in as
fast as they could load and fire, and every shot swept from bow to
stern. The Englishman, though he had double the weight of metal, could
not get out of the awkward position in which Barney had caught him, and
his guns did little harm. In less than half an hour down went his flag.
It was none too soon. The frigate had seen the fight from a distance,
and was making all haste to get out of its awkward position and take a
hand in the game. Barney did not even wait to ask the name of his prize,
but put a crew on board and bade them make all haste to Philadelphia.
He followed, steering now for the Fair American. But the privateer
captain had seen the fate of the General Monk and concluded that he
had business elsewhere. So he ran away instead of fighting, and soon ran
ashore. The Hyder Ali left him there and made all haste up stream. The
frigate had by this time got out of her side channel, and was coming up
under full sail. So Captain Barney crowded on all sail also and fled
away after his prize.
If the frigate had got within gunshot it would soon have settled the
question, for it could have sunk the Hyder Ali with a broadside. But
it was not fast enough, and after a speedy run the victor and her prize
drew up beside a Philadelphia wharf.
Never had the good people of the Quaker City gazed on such a sight as
now met their eyes. Nothing had been done to remove the marks of battle.
The ships came in as they had left the fight. Shattered bulwarks, ragged
rents in the hulls, sails in tatters and drooping cordage told the story
of the desperate battle.
And the decks presented a terrible picture. Blood was everywhere. On the
General Monk were stretched the dead bodies of twenty men, while
twenty-six wounded lay groaning below. The Hyder Ali had suffered much
less, having but four killed and eleven wounded.
In all the Revolutionary War there have been few more brilliant actions;
and his victory gave Joshua Barney a high standing among the naval
commanders of the young Republic.
Shall we take up the story of the gallant Barney at a later date? Thirty
years after his victory over the General Monk, there was war again
between Americans and Britons, and Commodore Barney, now an old man,
took an active part.
He started out in the early days of the war with no better vessel than
the schooner Rossie, of fourteen guns and 120 men. He soon had lively
times. The Rossie was a clipper, and he could run away from an enemy
too strong to fight, though running away was not much to his taste.
In his first cruise he was out forty-five days, and in that time he
captured fourteen vessels and 166 prisoners.
In a month's time he was at sea again. Now he got among British frigates
and had to trust to the heels of his little craft. But in spite of the
great ships that haunted the seas, new prizes fell into his hands, one
being taken after an hour's fight. In all, the vessels and cargoes taken
by him were worth nearly $3,000,000, though most of this wealth went to
the bottom of the sea.
The next year (1813) he was made commodore of a fleet of gunboats in
Chesapeake Bay. Here for a year he had very little to do. Then the
British sailed up the Chesapeake, intending to capture Washington and
Baltimore, Barney did not hesitate to attack them, and did considerable
damage, though they were much too strong for his small fleet.
At length there came from the frightened people at Washington the order
to burn his fleet, and, much against his will, he was forced to consign
his gunboats to the flames. With his men, about four hundred in all, he
joined the army assembled to defend the capital.
These sailor-soldiers made the best fight of any of the troops that
sought to save Washington from capture; but during the fight Commodore
Barney received a wound that brought his fighting days to an end.
Fortunately there was little more fighting to do, and peace reigned over
his few remaining years of life.