Betsy’s Circle: Joshua Barney

Joshua-barney-circa-1800
Sketch of Joshua Barney, c. 1800, Wikimedia Commons

As I mentioned yesterday, the man Jerome visited in Baltimore was Joshua Barney, a naval officer. Barney was born in Baltimore in 1759, and he served in the U.S. navy during the American Revolution. During that war, he was taken prisoner several times and then exchanged for British officers. In 1779, he was captured again and imprisoned in England. He escaped in 1781, and the next year, as commander of the ship Hyder Ally, he captured the much more heavily armed HMS General Monk.

After the American Revolution, he served in the French navy for a while, which is probably how he met the Bonapartes. Barney returned to the United States in 1800. During the War of 1812, he served first as a privateer and then rejoined the U.S. navy as a captain.

In June 1814, Barney’s flotilla encountered a British fleet in Chesapeake Bay. The British pursued the U.S. vessels, which retreated up the Patuxent River and then up St. Leonard’s Creek, which was too shallow for the British frigates. The British blockaded the mouth of the creek so the Americans could not escape. Rather than allow the British to capture his flotilla, Barney scuttled the ships.

Two months later, he took part in the defense of Washington and was severely wounded, taking a ball in his thigh—which could never be removed and which troubled him the rest of his life. He died in 1818 of complications from that old wound. He was only 59.

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