John Downes, born in 1786 in Canton, Massachusetts, served as acting midshipman from 9 September 1800 and was appointed midshipman 1 June 1802.

He rendered distinguished service during the War with Tripoli in 1804 in frigate Congress and, during the War of 1812, was executive officer for Captain David Porter in Essex. He later commanded Epervier, Guerriere, Ontario and Independence, and the Boston Navy Yard, and was Commodore of the Pacific and Mediterranean Squadrons.

Captain Downes died at Charlestown, Massachusetts 11 August 1854.