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Barney, Joshua (06 July 1759–01 December 1818), seaman and naval officer, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of William Barney and Frances Holland, farmers. Barney left school at age ten and was sent by his father to Alexandria, Virginia, to be put in the care of a local merchant. After spending nearly one year in Virginia Barney returned to Baltimore, where he signed on as a crew member aboard a local pilot boat....

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Barry, John (1745?–13 September 1803), shipmaster and naval officer, was born in County Wexford, Ireland. His parentage is uncertain: his father was a farmer, and his mother’s maiden name was Kelly. Apprenticed on a Wexford merchantman as a cabin boy in 1755, he diligently applied himself to the naval profession. Philadelphia became his permanent home in 1760; he became a devoted patriot and successful shipmaster. On 31 October 1767 he married Mary Cleary. The union produced no children before she died in 1774. In November 1775 he relinquished command of the 200-ton ...

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Biddle, Nicholas (10 September 1750–07 March 1778), naval officer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Biddle, a merchant, and Mary Scull, a map purveyor. With only a basic academy education, he entered the merchant service at the age of thirteen on the ...

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Conyngham, Gustavus (1747–27 November 1819), naval officer, was born in County Donegal, Ireland, the son of Gustavus Conyngham and a cousin of the elder Conyngham, whose maiden name was also Conyngham (first name unknown). In 1763 Conyngham immigrated to Philadelphia and settled in that city with his parents. He shipped in the coastal trade to the West Indies and by the eve of the Revolution he was master of a small vessel. In 1773 he married Ann Hockley, daughter of a Philadelphia merchant; they had no children. Early in the fall of 1775 Conyngham, in command of the ...

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Fiske, John (11 April 1744–28 September 1797), naval officer and merchant seaman, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Samuel Fiske, a Christian minister, and Anna Gerrish. Besides the educational instruction he received from his father, Fiske attended local schools. At an early age, he determined to make his living as a sailor, and by the time he was twenty-one he commanded a brigantine in trade with Spanish ports. In 1766 he married Lydia Phippen, with whom he had a large family. An outgoing, garrulous man, he was appreciated by those who were employed by him because of his handsome largesse and his congenial spirit as a master....

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Hopkins, Esek (26 April 1718–26 February 1802), naval officer, was born in Providence (present-day Scituate), Rhode Island, the son of William Hopkins and Ruth Wilkinson, farmers. The Hopkins family was large and well respected in Rhode Island. When William Hopkins died in 1738, leaving a widow and nine children, Esek went to sea. Like many Providence seafarers, Hopkins sailed primarily to the West Indies. He did well, proving to be both an astute businessman and a skillful seaman, and within a few years rose to command. He married Desire Burroughs in 1741 and moved with her to Newport, remaining there until 1748, when they returned to Providence. They had ten children....

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Jones, John Paul (06 July 1747–18 July 1792), revolutionary war naval officer and hero, was born John Paul in Kirkbean, Kirkcudbrightshire, on the southwestern coast of Scotland, the son of John Paul, a gardener, and Jean MacDuff. After attending the local Presbyterian school, he apprenticed at age thirteen to a shipowner at the nearby port of Whitehaven. His first ship made several voyages that carried provisions to Barbados, thence rum and sugar to Virginia, and returned to Whitehaven with tobacco. The postwar economic slump ended his apprenticeship and sent him briefly into the slave trade, which he called “abominable.” At twenty-one Paul was master and supercargo of a ship sailing out of Kirkcudbright to the West Indies. Returning to Scotland from Tobago, he was briefly jailed in 1770 on a charge of murder, for having flogged a sailor who later died. Exonerated, Paul became the master of a large West Indies trader out of London. Again he found trouble in Tobago: during a mutiny he killed a sailor in what he claimed was self-defense. Perhaps in fear for his life, he fled to Virginia in October 1773 and became “Mr. John Jones.”...

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John Paul Jones. Color lithograph with the inscription "Painted after an etching by Moreau made from the life in 1780." Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2761).

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Little, George (10 or 15 Apr. 1754–22 July 1809), naval officer, was born in Marshfield, Massachusetts, the son of Lemuel Little and Penelope Eames (or Ames). Growing up near the Massachusetts seacoast, he was drawn to maritime life and became a merchant seaman. He also purchased a farm near his home town and in 1779 married a local woman, Rachel Rogers, with whom he had a son....

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Manley, John ( August 1732?–12 February 1793), naval officer and privateer, was born apparently near Torquay, England, the son of Robert Manley. His mother’s name is unknown. By 1757 he was living in Boston and was a captain in the merchant marine. In 1763 he married Hannah Cheevers. As of 1768 Manley was master of a vessel called the ...