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Commodore Joshua Barney manuscript collection

Identifier: MS 3168


This collection contains the papers of Joshua Barney and his descendants. This includes correspondence, financial documents, land records, business papers, military service records, and more.


  • 1711 - 1978


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

Commodore Joshua Barney, widely regarded as a naval war hero, served in both the American Revolution and War of 1812. His command of the Chesapeake Flotilla during the War of 1812 helped propel the Americans to victory over the British. Barney was born near Baltimore, on Bear Creek off the Patapsco River, on July 6, 1759 to William and Francis Holland Watts Barney. His parents had inherited a significant amount of farmland on the river. He was one of fourteen children, but his family’s fortune allowed him to attend school. Barney left school at ten years old, having decided he had learned all he could, and in 1769, he was apprenticed to a merchant in Alexandria, Virginia.

By 1771, he had decided to pursue a career at sea instead and took a position aboard a pilot-boat schooner that traversed the Chesapeake. He later joined his brother-in-law Captain Drysdale’s crew on the “Sidney.” In 1775, Drysdale fell sick and died leaving the 15-year-old Barney to captain the ship. This led to a dramatic series of events when Barney finally got his ship to port, including his imprisonment and the temporary confiscation of his schooner. By the time he arrived back in Baltimore, the Revolutionary War had broken out at Lexington and Concord. In 1776, he decided the join the Continental Navy. He became renowned for his valor, engaging the British in serval battles. His biggest victory came during the Battle of Delaware Bay when his much smaller, outgunned “Hyder Ally” handily defeated the “HMS General Monk.” After the war, he spent a time with the French Navy, where he was put in charge of a squadron and earned the commodore rank.

During the War of 1812, he returned to the American Navy. He was first a privateer which successfully harassed and took captive several British ships. He then went on to defend the Chesapeake Bay as a captain for the Navy. His flotilla kept the British preoccupied and prevented the from wreaking more havoc along the shores of the Bay. Barney and his sailors also fought at Bladensburg in 1814 to defend the Capitol. The Americans lost and Washington, D.C. was burned, but Barney and his men held out as long as they could, even as the rest of the American force retreated. Barney was shot in the leg, a wound that would eventually prove fatal. After the battle, he returned to Elkridge, Maryland, but eventually decided to move to Kentucky. En route to his new home in 1818, his battle wound flared, as the musket ball was never removed. He died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 1.

Barney’s life on the high seas often kept him away from his family for long stretches. In 1780, Barney married Anne Bedford (1755-1808), and they had five children. Until Barney could make enough money to support his family, his wife lived with her brother in Philadelphia. She died in 1808, possibly of complications related to a broken hip. Barney shortly remarried to Harriet Coale of Anne Arundel County, and they had three more children together. After Barney’s death in 1818, Harriet and her children lived in Kentucky.

Their daughter, Adele (1813-1849) married Isaac Everett, and started the Kentucky branch of Barney descendants. Everett (1803-1873) was from a family of pioneers. He worked as a dry goods merchant. He then partnered with Avis Throckmorton and ran the Galt House, a Louisville hotel, which hosted meetings of Union generals during the Civil War. They had two children, Joshua Barney and Harriet.

Harriet Everett (1840-1906) married John C. Bonnycastle (1826-1884), the son of Charles and Anne Mason Tutt Bonnycastle, in 1857. Charles Bonnycastle, an Englishman, was invited by Thomas Jefferson to teach mathematics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where John C. was born. After attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, Bonnycastle fought in the Mexican-American War and was later stationed in California and other Western territories. He attained the rank of captain before retiring from the military at the outbreak of the Civil War. With his military career finished, he worked in insurance in Louisville. He and Harriet had nine children.

Mary Shaw Bonnycastle (1860-1930), John C. and Harriet’s daughter, married Richard Tubb Yoe (1860-1943), the son of Rhodeham and Elizabeth Tubb in 1891. Yoe worked as a physician and served in World War I as a contract surgeon. He owned his own medical practice. Yoe also owned a significant amount of land in Oklahoma which he used to sell the oil, mineral, and timber rights. Mary and Richard had two children, Richard Rhodeham and Adele Everett.


4.17 Linear Feet (10 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection is divided into nine series by family and/or material type. The series are Barney Family, Bonnycastle Family, Everett Family, Yoe Family, Other Families, Land Documents, Miscellaneous, Bound Volumes, and Oversized. These series are then organized by person.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the grandchildren of Arthur C. Bonnycastle, Descendants of Joshua Barney, December 30, 2014.

Related Materials

PP310, Barney-Bonnycastle Family Photograph Collection

MS2312, Rossie Logbook, September 15-October 22, 1815

MS 2062, Enoch Pratt Free Library Collection, 1735-1926

Scope and Contents

The collection contains the papers of Joshua Barney and his descendants. This includes correspondence, financial documents, land records, business papers, military service records, and more. The collection is divided into nine series by family and/or material type. The series are Barney Family, Bonnycastle Family, Everett Family, Yoe Family, Other Families, Land Documents, Miscellaneous, Bound Volumes, and Oversized. These series are then organized by person.

The Barney family material provides a wealth of information about the commodore’s personal life and military service. Letters from Barney to his wife Harriet written during the War of 1812 are a particular highlight of the collection. He wrote home about his day-to-day experiences and successes on the Chesapeake Bay against the British. Barney’s personal letterbook, also included in the collection, contains copies of reports sent to Secretary of the Navy William Jones from April to June, 1814. A large portion of the records are related to land purchases made by Barney in Maryland and elsewhere, including deeds and surveys. The papers of Harriet Barney date from after Barney’s death and include letters and documents regarding her efforts to secure a widow’s pension. Several letters between her and her stepson Louis which discuss family and political matters are also included.

The Bonnycastle papers primarily contain the records of John C. Bonnycastle and is mostly correspondence. These letters discuss business matters, including several regarding the digging of an oil well. An 1856 letter written to Bonnycastle written from Fort Vancouver gives an account of the Cascades Massacre, in which Wasco tribe members attacked white settlers and soldiers along the Columbia River. His military records are also included in the collection. These documents relate to his day-to-day duties, including copies of official orders and supply purchase receipts, as well as his promotion to captain.

The business interests of Isaac Everett are also well represented in the collection. A majority of the correspondence discusses his dry good company and the purchase of land and insurance. Papers related to Everett’s company with Avis Throckmorton are also included. These records represent his work as proprietor of the Galt House and land and slaves purchased on behalf of Throckmorton and Everett. The firm owned several slaves, and the collection contains rosters including value and family of each slave, as well as manumission records. The series also holds the correspondence of Adele Barney Everett, including poems written to her by an unidentified friend, Everett’s letter proposing marriage in 1835, and her brother’s congratulations on the engagement.

The Yoe family series is the largest in the collection. It contains the personal papers of Dr. Richard Tubb Yoe, Mary Shaw Bonnycastle Yoe, and their children Adele Everett Yoe and Richard Rhodeham Yoe. Dr. Yoe purchased a substantial amount of land in Oklahoma from the Department of the Interior during the 1910s to 1930s. Deeds, tax records, and plat maps of this property, mostly in Latimer County are included. Correspondence related to the purchases show that the Yoe family did not live on the land but drilled for oil and sold the mineral and timber rights. Dr. Yoe’s military service as a contract surgeon at Camp Zachary Taylor during World War I is also reflected in the collection. The records include purchase order, official orders, and his discharge papers. Dr. Yoe’s son Richard’s National Guard service records are also included, as well as his payment receipts for War Risk Insurance.

There are also land documents for other related families in the collection, including that of the Coale and Ridgely families. These properties were passed to family members or sold over the years.

Guide to the Commodore Joshua Barney manuscript collection
Under Revision
Lara Westwood
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2020-04-09: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States