By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Members of the Commodore Barry Club of Brooklyn will have to pack their bags this spring as they set off on two separate journeys in their quest to get the country to give more recognition to the Irish immigrant and Revolutionary War hero who has been dubbed by historians as the Father of the U.S. Navy.
Mary Nolan, president of the Bay Ridge-based club, said she and her members will travel down to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland on May 9 for the dedication of a monument to Barry. “We’re thrilled there’s finally going to be a monument,” Nolan told the Brooklyn Eagle.
The academy’s front gate was named in honor of Barry a few years ago.
On May 25, the club will make its annual bus trip to Philadelphia to visit Barry’s gravesite. “He is buried behind old Saint Mary’s Church. We always place a wreath at the grave,” Nolan said. Barry died in 1803.
USAhistory.org called Barry “an unsung hero” of the Revolutionary War. He was born in County Wexford in Ireland in 1745 and came to the colonies at a young age. He served in the U.S. Navy during the war, becoming the first to capture a British war vessel, according to usahistory.org, which reported that he captured over 29 British ships, including capturing two ships after being severely wounded in a ferocious battle. Barry also fought on land at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. He wrote a signal book which established a set of signals to be used for communication between ships and fought in the last naval battle of the Revolutionary War aboard the frigate Alliance in 1783.
Barry was promoted to the rank of commodore by George Washington in 1797.
But Barry’s heroics are often obscured in history books by his more famous contemporary, John Paul Jones.
“Commodore Barry contributed a tremendous amount to the Revolutionary War. And yet children don’t know about him. Social Studies books don’t give him his due,” Nolan said. “You like to know your history and learn about the people who made this great country what it is,” she said.
The club, which formed in 1951, has dedicated itself to raising public awareness of the contribution Barry made to the US, Nolan said. Barry symbolizes the contributions Irish-Americans have made to the nation, she said.
The effort to get recognition for Barry has made slow but steady progress over the years. There are monuments to Barry in various places, including a park near the Brooklyn Navy Yard dedicated to him.
Club members spent three years working with the Irish-American organizations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians to raise funds for the Naval Academy monument. “It’s the perfect place for a tribute,” Nolan said.
The plans to visit Annapolis and Philadelphia were discussed at the club’s dinner-dance last month. The event, which took place at Saint Patrick’s Church auditorium, featured guest speakers such as Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst), Steve Kiernan, chairman of the Kings Country Ancient Order of Hibernians, and Kathleen McDonough, chairman of the Brooklyn Irish-American Saint Patrick’s Parade.
For more information on the club, visit commodorebarryclubbrooklyn.org.