BREVARD HISTORY: Last Naval Battle of American Revolution Fought Near Cape Canaveral March 10, 1783

By  //  February 2, 2021

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the USS Alliance defeated the HMS Sybil in the last naval battle of the American Revolution

John Barry was an officer in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War and later in the United States Navy. He has been credited as “The Father of the American Navy.” He was the first captain placed in command of a U.S. warship commissioned for service under the Continental flag and after the war, became the first commissioned U.S. naval officer, at the rank of commodore, receiving his commission from President George Washington in 1797. Barry fought the last sea battle of the Revolutionary War off the coast of Cape Canaveral, which also marked the last battle fought by a Continental Navy ship, the USS Alliance. (Kingsborough Community College image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – On March 10, 1783, the last naval battle of the American Revolution was fought off Cape Canaveral, as Captains John Barry and John Green tried to deliver a shipload of Spanish silver to the Continental Congress.

Barry, captain of the Alliance, the Continental Navy’s 36-gun sailing frigate, arrived in Martinique from France in January 1783 and found orders from Robert Morris of the Continental Congress to sail to Havana, Cuba to pick up 72,000 Spanish silver dollars that were to be used to finance the Continental Army.

When Barry arrived in Havana, he discovered that Captain John Green aboard the USS Duc de Lauzun was already there with the same orders from Morris.

The silver was already loaded on Green’s ship so the captains decided to sail together in case they encountered any enemies along the way. The ships left Havana on March 6 and sailed partway with a Spanish and French fleet that was making its way to Jamaica.

On March 7, the Americans left the fleet and headed north, but ran into British ships including the HMS Alarm and the HMS Sybil – in company with the sloop-of-war HMS Tobago.

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Barry and Green then headed back toward the Spanish and French fleet, and as soon as the British ships saw the fleet, they retreated.

Then, on March 8, Barry and Green sailed to the north again and reached Florida, with Barry constantly slowing his ship because the Duc de Lauzun, an armed transport vessel of 20 guns, was much slower.

On the 9th, the two agreed to transfer much of the money to the Alliance because the Duc de Lauzun’s slow speed made it vulnerable to the British ships patrolling the area.

On the 10th, the Alarm, the Sybil and a third British ship, the Tobago, found the American ships off the coast of Cape Canaveral.

The last naval battle of the American Revolution was fought off the Brevard County Coast where the USS Alliance defeated the HMS Sybil. (Painting by Irwin Bevan)

As the British gave chase, as usual, the Duc de Lauzun dragged behind. Captain Barry pulled alongside Green and persuaded him to throw most of the ship’s cannons overboard to lighten the load.

A fourth ship of unknown origin appeared on the horizon, which caused the British ships to hold back, making Barry think it must be French or Spanish.

Barry then maneuvered between the Duc de Lauzun and the Sybil, which began firing. The Alliance took several direct hits, including one in the captain’s quarters which killed one and wounded several others.

Barry commanded his men not to fire, but sailed directly for the Sybil. When they were in an extremely close rage, he ordered the men to fire and they unleashed a torrent of cannon fire on the Sybil. After a firefight of 40 minutes, the Sybil fell quiet and began to sail off.

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Nearly 40 had been killed on the ship and another 40 wounded.

The Alliance, the Duc de Lauzun and the ship from the horizon, which turned out to be the French ship Triton, chased the British ships but lost them in the night.

The rest of the silver was transferred to the faster Alliance and the ships then headed north. The Duc de Lauzun was able to travel up the Delaware River to Philadelphia on March 18 and the Alliance made it to Newport, Rhode Island on the 20th.

Only a few days later, word arrived that the Treaty of Paris had been signed on February 3, bringing the American Revolutionary War to a close and making this engagement the last naval battle of the Revolution.

– Story courtesy of Revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

This state historic marker, courtesy of the Canaveral Port Authority, describes the last naval battle of the American Revolution. (Florida Historical Society)

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