Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

U.S. was alone in 1812 against Barbary pirates
Washington Times ^ | 3-9-03 | Thomas V. DiBacco

Posted on 03/09/2003 9:27:20 AM PST by SJackson

Edited on 07/12/2004 4:01:23 PM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]

If diplomacy does not create a unified military front against Iraq's Saddam Hussein and the United States goes to war to disarm him, it won't be the nation's first solo expedition against terrorist regimes.

Much of America's early military history was set against the background of fighting terrorist regimes without the no-shows from other nations. The terrorist regimes were located in the Mediterranean, and as part of a British colony, Americans saw the mother country begin the policy of paying tribute to the so-called Barbary nations there

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government
KEYWORDS: 1812; barbarywars; marinehymn; presleyobannon; tripoli; usmc; warlist
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-26 next last

1 posted on 03/09/2003 9:27:20 AM PST by SJackson
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SJackson
If Decatur were alive today, the EU would charge him with war crimes for extinguishing the poor peace-loving Barbary pirates.
2 posted on 03/09/2003 9:32:05 AM PST by Democratshavenobrains
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SJackson
Britain might dispute that ALONE statement
3 posted on 03/09/2003 9:35:07 AM PST by uncbob ( building tomorrow)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SJackson
Two hundred years later and little has changed. The Europeans still want to appease the terrorists and America is left alone to do the right thing. (Well, at least England is on the right side this time around.)
4 posted on 03/09/2003 9:36:52 AM PST by SamAdams76 (California wine tastes better - boycott French wine!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Comment #5 Removed by Moderator

To: SJackson; *war_list; W.O.T.; 11th_VA; Libertarianize the GOP; Free the USA; knak; MadIvan; ...
Excellent post!


6 posted on 03/09/2003 9:48:45 AM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (The voices of the 30s are echoing through 2003 - Alistair Cooke)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SJackson
There isn't really much difference between pirating ships and highjacking airplanes.
7 posted on 03/09/2003 9:49:02 AM PST by Paleo Conservative (This space left intentionally blank.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Democratshavenobrains
Great screen name and comment:
If Decatur were alive today, the EU would charge him with war crimes for extinguishing the poor peace-loving Barbary pirates.

8 posted on 03/09/2003 9:52:11 AM PST by GOPJ
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: SJackson
"Millions for defense, not a penny for tribute." - T. Jefferson, on the Barbary pirates.

The same goes for Iraq, Al Queda, et al.
9 posted on 03/09/2003 10:03:01 AM PST by EvilOverlord (Body armor goes well with ANY outfit)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Democratshavenobrains
Since when is the USA going alone to rid the world of the Saddam Hussein regime? There are many nations in support of this and backing this just action. It must be thought that since France, Russia, Germany and China have been successfully bought off by Saddam, this means the USA is going it alone. They have cost American lives. With every day's delay the American casalities will be increased. Go Pres. Bush! Go Gen. Franks! Saddam's scientists have 8 more days of round the clock cramming on the bomb!
10 posted on 03/09/2003 10:25:03 AM PST by HankReardon
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: HankReardon
That should have said "the French, Russians, Germans and Chinese have BEEN successfully bought off by Saddam. We all know this, even Pres. Bush knows this, that would have been his answer Thurs. night when asked why these nations did not support this action, if he chose to answer it.
11 posted on 03/09/2003 10:30:30 AM PST by HankReardon
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: sphinx; Toirdhealbheach Beucail; curmudgeonII; roderick; Notforprophet; river rat; csvset; ...
US vs Barbary Pirates ping

If you want on or off the Western Civilization Military History ping list, let me know.
12 posted on 03/09/2003 10:37:51 AM PST by Sparta (ANSWER, the new Communist conspiracy for the twenty-first century)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Sparta
Thanks for the ping, Sparta.
13 posted on 03/09/2003 10:41:10 AM PST by SAMWolf (We do not bargain with terrorists, we stalk them, corner them , take aim and kill them)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: SJackson
I dont think that is exactly true, when Pressley O'Bannon and His Marines and Sailors stormed Tripoli, they had some locals with them, it was a multinational effort...LEAD BY THE US
14 posted on 03/09/2003 10:49:07 AM PST by RaceBannon
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SJackson

To the Shores of Tripoli
by H. Lee Munson

Here is ‘the rest of the story’ to Lt Presley O’Bannon’s achievements at Tripoli.

The next time you hear the patriotic words of “The Marines’ Hymn” and they reach the phrase “to the shores of Tripoli,” stop, and let yourself be reminded that those five words commemorate one of the most extraordinary adventures in the annals of American history.

The Barbary pirates of North Africa had played havoc with Mediterranean shipping for years. European powers had developed a policy of payoffs, bribery, and appeasements rather than confrontation with the pirates. Having wrested freedom from England, the United States was in no position, financially or militarily, to start an open war in North Africa. It wasn’t long before we were signing the same kinds of treaties with Algiers, Tunis, Morocco, and Tripoli as those of the Europeans. Like those formed by Europe’s diplomats, our treaties, too, were soon broken. As soon as one demand was met, another was made. In spite of the oft-quoted statement of Charles Cotesworth Pinkney that we could pay “millions for defense but not one cent for tribute, “the “treaties” became increasingly expensive bribes.

In 1786 Morocco was paid approximately $40,000 for a treaty guaranteeing no future presents or tributes. Nine years later they were paid the same sum plus field pieces, presents, firearms, and gunpowder for renewing the treaty! In 1793 Algeria got nearly a million dollars. In 1797 they demanded and got the 36-gun frigate Crescent. A year later the Handullah was delivered along with $8,000 in lieu of promised stores. The extortionists of Tunis were probably the most imaginative. They signed a treaty in 1798 giving them $107,000 plus one barrel of gunpowder for each salute they fired for incoming American ships. Needless to say, Tunisian sloops and shore batterys showered the Americans with salutes in order to build their stores of gunpowder as every single shot invested returned a barrel of powder to Tunisian storerooms.

Into this pirate’s lair the U.S. Government sent a man whose qualifications were questionable. He was an acid-tongued diplomat with no prior experience in foreign affairs. His military background had been scarred with charges of insubordination and unbecoming conduct. His contempt for the Deys and Beys of North Africa was monumental. His name was William Eaton, and while that name may not be high on the list of recognizably American heros, his achievements were unique in American history.

When he first reached the shores of North Africa in 1799, Eaton was 35 years old. He had been born in Woodstock, CT, joined the state militia at 16, served in the Revolution, and studied at Dartmouth College. He returned to Army life and advanced as far as captain while serving with GEN “Mad Anthony” Wayne in Ohio. Unable to resign himself to the disciplines of Army life, he ran afoul of his superiors on a number of occasions. A fellow New Englander, Timothy Pickering, who was then Secretary of State under John Adams, took a gamble with far-reaching consequences and appointed him as Consul to Tunis.

Initially, Eaton’s diplomatic mission was to placate the Bey of Tunis and reduce his demands for tribute. However, the atmosphere of his entire tenure in Africa was formed the day he first set foot on the dark continent’s soil. Arriving first at Algiers on his way to Tunis, he was taken to the palace of the Dey and, there, was granted an audience with the man who had seven kings of Europe, two republics, and a continent paying tribute to him. As Eaton later wrote:

Here we took off our shoes; and, entering the cave, (for so it seemed) . . . we were shown to a huge, shaggy beast, sitting on his rump, upon a low bench, covered with a cushion of embroidered velvet, with his hind legs gathered up like a taylor, or a bear. On our approach to him, he reached out a forepaw as if to receive something to eat. Our guide exclaimed ‘Kiss the Dey’s hand!’ . . . The animal seemed at that moment to be in a harmless mode: he grinned several times; but made very little noise.

Such contempt could not be hidden for long. Few diplomats in all of history would dare to put such words on paper, but Eaton vented his wrath at fellow Americans as readily as he did at Barbary’s rulers. It is amazing that he lasted as long as he did as Consul to Tunis. Scathing letters came forth from his pen to Secretaries Jefferson and Pickering. That these “wretched hordes of sea robbers” could rule the sea and extort tribute from the great nations of the world infuriated him. Time and again he advocated military force to put an end to the pirating, but to no avail.

Days wore into months and months into years. Jefferson replaced Adams as President but had no more desire for a military confrontation than his predecessor. Eaton’s anger blazed forth: “There is but one language which can be held to these people, and this is terror.” But could the fledgling American military produce terror in the hearts of pirate chieftains? When the 24-gun frigate George Washington sailed into Algiers to deliver a payment of tribute, the Dey commanded CAPT William Bainbridge to raise the flag of Algiers and ferry an Algerian ambassador to Constantinople. Bainbridge strongly objected, but after days of threats and fruitless negotiations he finally capitulated. There was no other choice but open war. It was one of America’s most inglorious days. In a letter to the Secretary of the Navy on 10 October 1800, Bainbridge said, “The light that this Regency looks on the United States is exactly this, ‘You pay me tribute, by that you become my slaves’!” So much for terror!

Eaton, meanwhile, continued his efforts to mollify the Tunisian Bey. No sooner had he presented a magnificent group of gold-mounted, diamond- and emerald-studded guns and pistols to the Bey and his son when he was faced with a demand for a ship of war. “Yesterday,” Eaton wrote on 28 August 1802, “I was called to the palace. The minister formally demanded of me a frigate of 36 guns . . . I can neither yield to nor get rid of the demand.” He refused to communicate the Bey’s demand to President Jefferson which led to heated verbal exchanges and a very tense situation. Eaton, however, remained adamant, and finally the Bey sidestepped diplomatic channels and wrote an almost comical letter directly to the President. At long last Barbary was confronted with a man who would not back down! In these negotiations, Eaton’s main concern was with the lives of his countrymen. He foresaw the dangers of supplying ships, gunpowder, and firearms to the very people who would turn them against us. Over and over he protested those policies that sent military material to our enemies. “Are we not shedding the blood of our countrymen?” he asked of Pickering.

After the Bashaw of Tripoli ordered the flag at the U.S. Consulate torn down, figuratively slapping the face of Jefferson, the President sent out a squadron of three frigates and a sloop of war under the ineffectual Commodore Richard Dale. He made a halfhearted attempt at blockading Tripoli for the summer and then sailed home. Next the President sent Commodore Richard Morris who proved just as ineffectual as Dale. Eaton fumed. “We may as well send out Quaker meeting-houses to float about the sea,” he wrote to James Madison on 9 August 1802.

Finally, Eaton’s vitriolic words caught up with him; he was, after more than 4 years of frustrating diplomacy, expelled by the Bey. But he didn’t leave North Africa as a defeated man. He had used his time to study the workings of the Barbary mind, to analyze the feelings of the general populace and, through his letters home, to awaken his fellow Americans to the need for a military confrontation as well as the very real possibility of its success. Furthermore, he had a plan—bold, daring, even a bit devious, yet intriguing enough to catch the imagination of President Jefferson.

Bashaw Yosuf (Joseph), ruler of Tripoli, had ascended the throne by deposing his elder brother, Hamet. Eaton’s proposal was simply to back ex-Bashaw Hamet with military force, divide the country’s loyalties, put Hamet back in power, and create a government favorable to the United States. Eaton first mentioned his plan in a letter to James Madison dated 5 September 1801.

. . . a project in concert between the rightful Bashaw of Tripoli, now in exile in Tunis, and myself, to attack the usurper by land, while our operations are going on at sea.

He observed that the subjects in general of the reigning Bashaw were very discontented and ripe for revolt. The only element they lacked was confidence in the prospect of success. The support of the U.S. military would provide that confidence.

The idea of dethroning an enemy and placing a friend in power greatly appealed to Eaton, not only for the peace to be gained with Tripoli, but also for the effect it would have on the other Barbary rulers. Upon his arrival back in the States, Eaton was able to convince Jefferson of the feasibility of his plan. Jefferson appointed Eaton as “naval agent to the several Barbary regencies” and ordered him to report to Commodore Samuel Baron who was now commander of naval operations in the area. Unlike Jefferson, Barron was less than enthusiastic about Eaton’s plan. He had no desire to cooperate with a civilian in a military venture and made his feelings abundantly clear by calling Eaton “Mister” at every opportunity. Circumstances forced him to give Eaton the $20,000 requested, but he would not give up the 200 Marines at his disposal. Eaton had to settle for eight Marines and the promise of two pieces of field artillery. Naval support was to consist of meetings with supply ships along the march route and a bombardment of Derne on the day of attack.

Eaton arrived in Alexandria and, after some difficulty, located Hamet in an outlying village where he was hiding in fear of his brother’s hired assassins. On 21 December 1804, Eaton hired a soldier of fortune by the name of Lettensdorfer and paid him a $50 advance. It wasn’t until 8 March 1805 that all was in readiness for the long march to Derne. On that day the “army” consisted of 9 Americans, including Lt Presley O’Bannon and Mr. Peck, a noncommissioned officer; 6 Marine privates; a company of 25 mercenary cannoniers; and a company of 38 Greeks. The Bashaws followers consisted of about 90 men. Together with a party of Arab cavalry, the entire number of troops led by Eaton was about 400 men. His accompanying caravan consisted of 107 camels and a few asses.

And so Eaton and his army set out for Bomba, 400 miles away across the desert. The civilian “general” was immediately tested; on 10 March, the motley army almost broke up in mutiny. Eaton proved his mettle and quelled the mutiny by threatening to withdraw his Christian troops and abandon Hamet. Each day brought more hardships. It was one of the most arduous campaigns in American military history. Brief notes from Eaton’s journal reveal some of his trials. March 13th:

Our foot Arabs . . . attempted to disarm and put to death the Christians who escorted the caravan; March 17th: Our Arabs refused to proceed further without money. Reconciled them with promises.

On 18 March the caravan again refused to go further without pay. The Bashaw paid them, and that night most deserted for home. “March 20: Last night the rest of the camels left us.”

This struggle with his own army continued throughout the entire journey. Troops deserted, returned, mutinied, stole provisions, refused to march, and in general acted more like an enemy than an ally. Eaton also faced shortages of food and water. Again his journal is eloquent.

March 22: All our grain for the horses exhausted. . . . April 9th: In this cistern we found two dead men; probably pilgrims murdered by Arabs. We were obliged nevertheless to use the water. April 10th: Nothing but rice and water . . . and that at half rations.

By 12 April they had exhausted all supplies. On the 13th the Bashaw slaughtered and issued one of his camels and exchanged another with the Arabs for sheep. At 4 p.m. on the 15th they reached Bomba, but Eaton was mortified to find the supply ships that were to meet him were nowhere in sight. The Arabs threatened to leave and called Eaton a liar and imposter. Eaton kept fires going throughout the night, and at 8 o’clock the next morning a sail hove into sight. CAPT Hull, aboard the Argus, had seen the smoke and once more the expedition was saved! On 23 April, after being reprovisioned, they again set their march toward Derne, the ultimate objective of the expedition and the capital of Tripoli’s richest province.

Despite the many hardships and threatened mutinies, the ragtag army had swelled its ranks by many hundreds as they crossed more than 500 miles of desert. Clearly Hamet was popular among the Tripolitan people. When they attacked Derne on 27 April Hamet’s legions numbered 2,000. Because of the rugged terrain along the shore, only one of the promised pieces of field artillery aboard the Nautilus could be brought ashore, but Eaton was determined to begin the attack as soon as possible. On the morning of the 27th, the American ships Nautilus, Argus, and Hornet stood in close to shore and began a bombardment of the city. The Bashaw seized an old castle that overlooked the town and placed his cavalry on the plains in the rear.

By 2 p.m. the battle had become general in all quarters. Most of the enemy concentrated in the area directly opposite Eaton and his small band of Marines and Greeks, sure they could split his army at this most vulnerable point. Right at this highly critical time of the battle the use of his only piece of field artillery was lost by its inexperienced crew shooting the rammer away! The troops were thrown into confusion and, for a time, it looked like all would be lost. Eaton made an extraordinarily rash decision to charge the enemy. Somehow he managed to rally his troops and lead them forward. They rushed into the enemy’s ranks, outnumbered more than 10 to 1. The brashness of the maneuver and the fury of its charge completely surprised the enemy. Their ranks broke and they fled irregularly, firing in retreat from every palm tree and partition wall. Eaton was shot through the left wrist and lost the use of that hand, but did not retire from the battle. Led on by Lt O’Bannon, the Marines passed through a hailstorm of musket fire, took possession of the enemy’s battery, planted the American flag on its ramparts, and turned its fire on the enemy.

Hamet seized the opportunity to take possession of the Bey’s palace. His cavalry flanked the fleeing enemy, and by a little after 4 p.m. they had complete possession of the city. Eaton had done what seemed impossible! His report ended on a sad note: “Of the few Christians who fought on shore, I lost 14 killed and wounded; 3 of whom are Marines, 1 dead and another dying.”

Eaton’s forces maintained possession of Derne until the middle of June. There were counterattacks by Bashaw Yusuf’s troops and forays by Eaton’s men, but the city remained securely in American hands. Eaton was incensed at the prospect of a negotiated peace. He had once said, “The Turks are a contemptible military and at sea, lubbers.” Now he was certain, and past performance bore out his confidence—with a little support he and Hamet could conquer all of Tripoli. Not only was he confident of victory, but the thought of abandoning Hamet was diametrically opposed to his Yankee sense of commitment and honor. From Derne he wrote to Commodore Barron, “. . . it seems not to be admitted that we have any obligations to Hamet Bashaw.” He firmly believed that the whole purpose of the expedition had been to strike down America’s foes, not to sacrifice a credulous friend. As he claimed, “Abandoning him cannot be reconciled to those principles which I know actuate the national breast.” He was sure that Hamet and his followers would be slaughtered to the last man if they were left to his brother’s wrath.

In spite of Eaton’s repeated protests, peace was negotiated with the reigning Bashaw. On 11 June Eaton sent word to Hamet requesting an interview. When Hamet and his retinue arrived, they were immediately ferried out to the U.S. frigate Constellation. Next, Eaton sent his Marines. When all were safely offshore Eaton followed in a small boat he had set aside for the purpose. It was an ignominous departure carried out furtively to avoid reprisals by the allies being abandoned.

The negotiated peace that caused his withdrawal resulted in the release of hundreds of Americans held prisoner by Tripoli. Among those released was CAPT William Bainbridge whose ship had run aground in 1803. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed a resolution awarding Eaton 10,000 acres of land for his heroism, but he died a forgotten man in Brimfield, MA on 1 June 1811.

Like all of the previous treaties with Barbary, this one, too, was broken. Had Eaton lived long enough he would have had a right to say, “I told you so” when, 10 years after his victory at Derne, the U.S. Government finally sent Commodore Stephen Decatur to force an end to the pirating of American ships.

>Mr. Munson, a former soldier, has written extensively on history and antique firearms since 1978. He resides in Greenlawn, NY.
15 posted on 03/09/2003 10:55:12 AM PST by RaceBannon
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: RaceBannon
Presley O'Bannon and the Marines were in Tripoli in 1805, not 1812.

16 posted on 03/09/2003 10:59:33 AM PST by SMEDLEYBUTLER
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: uncbob
Was Britain an ally of the United States in 1812?
17 posted on 03/09/2003 11:03:24 AM PST by SMEDLEYBUTLER
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

Surely you jest!
18 posted on 03/09/2003 11:34:56 AM PST by HankReardon
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: RaceBannon
Our role was clear even then. The French move in later to open coffee houses.
19 posted on 03/09/2003 12:00:09 PM PST by SJackson
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

They were back in 1815. The titles deceptive, but the author understands the sequence of events.
20 posted on 03/09/2003 12:03:01 PM PST by SJackson
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-26 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson