Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The Barbary Wars
Tripoli Harbour during the Tripolitan War
In the early part of the 19th century, the regency at Tripoli, owing to its piratical practices, was twice involved in war with the United States. In May 1801, the pasha demanded an increase in the tribute ($83,000) which the US government had been paying since 1796 for the protection of their commerce from piracy under the 1796 Treaty with Tripoli. The demand was refused, and a naval force was sent from the United States to blockade Tripoli.
The First Barbary War dragged on for four years. In 1803, Tripolitan fighters captured the US frigate Philadelphia and took its commander, Captain William Bainbridge, and the entire crew as prisoners. The Philadelphia was turned against the Americans and anchored in Tripoli Harbour as a gun battery. The following year, US Navy Lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a failed nighttime raid to retake the ship. Decatur’s men set fire to thePhiladelphia and escaped.
The most colorful incident in the war was the expedition undertaken by William Eaton with the object of replacing the pasha with an elder brother living in exile, who had promised to accede to all the wishes of the United States. Eaton, at the head of a motley crew of 500 US Marines, Greek, Arab and Turkish Mercenaries, marched across the desert from Alexandria, Egypt and with the aid of American ships, succeeded in capturing Derna. Soon afterward, on June 3, 1805, peace was concluded. The pasha ended his demands and received $60,000 as ransom for the Philadelphia prisoners under the 1805 Treaty with Tripoli.
In 1815, in consequence of further outrages and due to the humiliation of the earlier defeat, Captains Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur, at the head of an American squadron, again visited Tripoli and forced the pasha to comply with the demands of the United States. See Second Barbary War.