James Barron, 1768–1851, U.S. naval officer, b. Hampton, Va. Of a seafaring family, he served in the Virginia navy in the Revolution, entered the U.S. navy as a lieutenant in 1798, and held commands in the Mediterranean at the time of the Tripolitan War. Promoted to commodore in 1807, he had just left Norfolk, Va., when his flagship, the Chesapeake, was halted and then bombarded by the British warship Leopard on June 22, 1807. The incident, notable in the troubles over the right of the British to search American vessels, aroused American anger. Barron was court-martialed, found guilty of "neglecting, on the probability of an engagement, to clear his ship for action" and suspended (1808) from duty for five years. Later, embittered and convinced (perhaps with justice) that Stephen Decatur was barring his return to honorable standing in the navy, Barron challenged him to a duel, in which Decatur was mortally wounded (Mar. 22, 1820). Though reinstated to duty (1821) Barron never regained his earlier status. He retired in 1848.
See biography by W. O. Stevens (1969).