Database:   Alliance-Atalanta  

Alliance - Atalanta.

Other names:

What: 28 May 1781. *Capt. John Barry Alliance vs. Cdr. Sampson Edwards Atalanta, Cdr. SmithTrepassey.

Where: 40.0, -63.0, Alliance - Atalanta, 9 March 1778

Maps: [map notes]


  • Boatner: Not found in Google Book Search.

  • Edgar Stanton Maclay, A History of the United States Navy, from 1775 to 1893, 1893, D. Appleton and Company:
    Date of action: 28 May 1781
    Capt. John Barry, Alliance
    Commander Sampson Edwards, Atalanta
    Commander James Smith, Trepassey

  • Google Gardner W. Allen, A Naval History Of The American Revolution, Boston, Houghton, 1913, Chapter IX, pp. 550-554. Provides full-text search:
    Latitude: about 40N
    Longitude: about 63W

  • James Herring, James Barton Longacre, The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, 1835, Rice, Rutter & Co. Portrait of John Barry.

  • John Frost, Drawing of action, The Pictorial History of the American Navy: Comprising Lives of Its Distinguished Commander, 1850, Nafis & Cornish.

  • "Alliance". "Dictionary of American Fighting Ships."
    (Fr: t. 900; 1. 151'; b. 36'; dph. 12'6"; s. 13 k.; cpl. 300; a. 28 12-pdr. sb., 89-pdr. sb.)

    After spending two days looking for her lost charge, Alliance continued on toward America alone. On 2 May [1781], she took two sugar-laden Jamaicamen. Off Newfoundland Banks later that day, the frigate sighted, but escaped the attention of a large convoy from Jamaica and its Royal Navy escorts. Ironically, a few days before, the missing Marquis de Lafayette and her treacherous master had fallen prey to this same British force.

    Almost continuous bad weather plagued Barry's little force in the days that followed until Alliance permanently lost sight of her two prizes on 12 May. During a tempest on the 17th, lightning shattered the frigate's main topmast and carried away her main yard while damaging her foremast and injuring almost a score of men.

    Jury-rigged repairs had been completed when Barry observed two vessels approaching him from windward 10 days later [28th] but his ship was still far from her best fitting trim. The two strangers kept pace with Alliance roughly a league off her starboard beam. At first dawn, they hoisted British colors and prepared for battle. Although all three ships were almost completely becalmed, the American drifted within hailing distance of the larger vessel about an hour before noon; Barry learned that she was the sloop of war Atalanta. Her smaller consort proved to be Trepassey, also a sloop of war. The American captain then identified his own vessel and invited Atalanta's commanding officer to surrender. A few moments later, Barry opened the inevitable battle with a broadside. The sloops immediately pulled out of the field of fire of the frigate's broadsides and took positions astern of their foe where their guns could pound her with near impunity. In the motionless air, Alliance—too large to be propelled by sweeps—was powerless to maneuver.

    A grape shot hit Barry's left shoulder, seriously wounding him, but he continued to direct the fighting until loss of blood almost robbed him of consciousness. Capt. Hoystead Hacker, the frigate's executive officer, took command as Barry was carried to the cockpit for treatment. Hacker fought the ship with valor and determination until her inability to maneuver out of her relatively defenseless position prompted him to seek Barry's permission to surrender. Indignantly, the wounded captain refused to allow this and asked to be brought back on deck to resume command.

    Inspired by Barry's zeal, Hacker returned to the fray. Just then a wind sprang up and restored the battered frigate's steerage way, enabling her to bring her battery back into action. Two devastating broadsides knocked Trepassey out of the fight. Another broadside forced Atalanta to strike, ending the bloody affair. The next day, while carpenters labored to repair all three ships, Barry transferred all of his prisoners to Trepassey which—as a cartel ship—would carry them to St. John's, Newfoundland, to be exchanged for American prisoners.

  • Archive "Naval Battles 1776-1800", map. Somewhat southeast of location shown. Former basis of site location.

  • "Sailing Navies: Chronology - 1775 to 1799". "MAY 28 Continental Navy frigate Alliance, 36, captures the British sloop Atalanta, 16, and the British brig-sloop Trepassy, 14."

  • RevWar75  
    May 1781 listing. Not shown. Search found no listing for Atalanta

    Related sites: Alliance-Sybil

    Confidence level: 2