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Tripoli, War with

In the autumn of 1800, the ruler of Tripoli, learning that the United States had paid larger gross sums to his neighbors (see Algiers) than to himself, demanded an annual tribute, and threatened war in case it was refused. In May, 1801, he caused the flag-staff of the American consulate to be cut down. and proclaimed war June 10. In anticipation of this event, the American government had sent Commodore Richard Dale with a squadron to the Mediterranean. His flag-ship was the President. He sailed from Hampton Roads, reached Gibraltar July 1, and soon after the Bey had declared war he appeared before Tripoli, having captured a Tripolitan corsair on the way. The Bey was astonished, and the little American squadron cruising in the Mediterranean made the Barbary States more circumspect. Recognizing the existence of war with Tripoli, the United States government ordered a squadron, under Commodore Richard V. Morris, to relieve Dale. the Chesapeake was the commodore's flag-ship. The vessels did not go in a body, but proceeded one after another, between February (1801) and September. Early in May, the Boston, after taking the United States minister (R. R. Livingston) to France, blockaded the port of Tripoli. There she was joined by the frigate Constellation, while the Essex blockaded two Tripolitan corsairs at Gibraltar. the Constellation, left alone, had a severe contest not long afterwards with seventeen Tripolitan gunboats and some land batteries, which were severely handled.

Another naval expedition was sent to the Mediterranean in 1803, under the command of Com. Edward Preble, whose flagship was the Constitution. The other vessels were the Philadelphia, Argus, Siren, Nautilus, Vixen, and Enterprise. The Philadelphia, Captain Bainbridge, sailed in July, and captured a Moorish corsair off Tangier, holding an American merchant vessel. Preble arrived in August, and, going to Tangier, demanded an explanation of the Emperor of Morocco, who disclaimed the act and made a suitable apology. Then he proceeded to bring Tripoli to terms. Soon afterwards the Philadelphia fell into the hands of the Tripolitans. Little further of much interest occurred until early in 1804, when the boldness of the Americans in destroying the Philadelphia in the harbor of Tripoli greatly alarmed the Bey (see Philadelphia, the). For a while Preble blockaded his port; and in July, 1804, he entered the. harbor (whose protection lay in heavy batteries mounting 115 guns) with his squadron. The Tripolitans also had in the harbor nineteen gunboats, a brig, two schooners, and some galleys, with 25,000 soldiers on the land. A sheltering reef [125] afforded further protection. These formidable obstacles did not dismay Preble. On Aug. 3 he opened a heavy cannonade and bombardment from his gunboats, which

A Street scene in Tripoli.

alone could get near enough for effective service. A severe conflict ensued. Finally, Lieutenant Decatur laid his vessel (the gunboat Number Four) alongside the largest of those of the enemy, and boarded and captured her after a fierce struggle.

After the Americans had sunk or captured six of the Tripolitan vessels, and inflicted a heavy loss of life on the enemy they withdrew, but resumed the attack four days later (Aug. 7). After the loss of a gunboat and ten men, the Americans again withdrew; but renewed the attack on the 24th, without any important result. A fourth attack was made on the 28th, and, after a sharp conflict, the American squadron again withdrew, and lay at anchor off the harbor until Sept. 2, when a fifth attack was made. A floating mine, [126] sent to blow up the Tripolitan vessels in the harbor, exploded prematurely, apparently, and destroyed all of the Americans in charge of it (see intrepid, the). The stormy season approaching, Preble withdrew from the dangerous Barbary coast, leaving a small force to blockade the harbor of Tripoli. Com. Samuel Barron was sent to relieve Preble, who, with a large squadron, overawed the Moors and kept up the blockade.

Meanwhile a movement under Capt. William Eaton, American consul at Tunis, soon brought the war to a close. He joined Hamet Caramelli, the rightful Bey of Tunis, in an effort to recover his rights. Hamet had taken refuge with the Viceroy of Egypt. There Eaton joined him with a few troops composed of men of all nations, and, marching westward across Northern Africa 1,000 miles, with transportation consisting of 190 camels, on April 27, 1805, captured the Tripolitan seaport town of Derne. They fought their way successfully towards the capital, their followers continually increasing, when, to the mortification of Eaton and the extinguishment of the hopes of Caramelli, they found that Tobias Lear, the American consul-general, had made a treaty of peace (June 4, 1805) with the terrified ruler of Tripoli. So ended the war. The ruler of Tunis was yet insolent, but his pride was suddenly humbled by the appearance of a squadron of thirteen vessels under Commodore Rodgers, who succeeded Barron, and he sent an ambassador to the United States. The Barbary States now all feared the power of the Americans. and commerce in the Mediterranean Sea was relieved of great peril. Pope Pius VII. declared that the Americans had done more for Christendom against the North African pirates than all the powers of Europe united.

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