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Transcript of Barbary Pirates
The Barbary Coast consisted of nearly the whole of the Northern African coastline. As a result, the countries could effectively control shipping in the Mediterranean Sea, especially at the Straits of Gibraltar.
Due to their location on the coast, nearness to the major shipping lines and lack of resources within their countries, the Barbary Coast was a good position to launch pirate attacks.
With all the rich European ships sailing by laden with treasures, the Barbary States saw it as an opportunity to obtain money.
Piracy in the Barbary Coast was sanctioned by the local rulers as they saw it as a easy way to gather revenue.
The four countries along the Barbary Coast
The local rulers called Pasha, Dey or Bey, completely supported piracy and would actively run several fleets with the purpose of raiding ships for treasure.
Contrary to what you may think, pirates were not always white men with scruffy beards. Especially not the Barbary Pirates, who were mostly from the Northern African region, were dark skinned and bore the lavish styles of the Ottoman Empire. People from the region were called Berbers.
...However, treasure was not always what they were after...
While treasure was what the pirates everlastingly lusted after, it was not their primary source of income... people were.
The Barbary Pirates would go out in their ships, called corsairs, and raid towns, ships and ports looking for slaves to capture.
These who were captured were brought back to the capital cities of Algiers, Tripoli, Tunis and Sale.
What is a corsair? It often is used as another meaning for pirate, particularly those from the Barbary Coast, however it is also used to describe a class of small and swift pirate ships, typically of Barbary origins. These small ships were also powered by a gallery of slaves rowing the boat.
Notice something different?
The slaves are all white. Shocked? Slavery is and has always been colorblind. The Barbary Pirates mostly preyed on white Christians due to one fact- the pirates were Muslims. It was against their religion to hold one of their own as slaves and they viewed Christians as the enemy so it was warranted for the pirates to capture non-Muslims for slavery.
If you were caught by the pirates you were absolutely screwed.
Being a slave was generally no fun, but being a slave for the Barbary States was not exactly a picnic. As a slave, you could expect to be:
Sold to people across the Ottoman Empire
Work like a dog, from sunrise to sunset
Receive a small loaf of sour bread, cup of vinegar and a cup of water for your daily meals
You could be working the quarries, building ships or actually rowing ships (never setting foot on land for years)
IF you were a woman, you were usually sold to a harem or sold for housework
Occasionally if you were young enough, good looking and lucky, you could work as eunuch which fetched high prices on the market
The Barbary States, initially, had been under absolute control of the Ottoman Empire. However as time passed, the Empire slowly grew weak and weaker, particularly in their ability to regulate the seas and far off land such as the Barbary States. As the Empire's grip weakened, piracy along the coast started to increase.
Interestedly enough, as opposed to the black slave industry in the Americas, if you were held as a slave by the Muslims, you could be freed at any time...if your family loved you enough. So, in a way, you always had a small shimmer of hope that you could be set free.
Most of the slave owners/traders' goals were to ultimately ransom their slaves off, so if you came from a family that could collect enough money to pay your ransom, you could be set free. However, this was no quick process and it usually took years to raise the money needed. Occasionally, your family might get lucky and get support from one of the many "charities" run by the church to fund raise money for the purpose of freeing the unlucky slaves in the "faraway lands".
On the other hand, if you were a poor and simple man/woman, then you really had very little hope of being freed. You would be considered, for the most parts, disposable and depending on your owners, you would probably be worked to death. That's what the lucky ones got to look forward to. The not so lucky ones were usually tortured for the amusement of the owners. The Barbary slave trade lasted for nearly roughly 300 years, by comparison, the Untied States had slavery for about 150 years.
The Barbary pirates did not discriminate and would take anybody who was not a Muslim slaves, oftentimes they would go on raids, reaching as far as Ireland, to capture people for their slave trade.
The pirates were a real
scourge of the seas during the time and many coastal towns lived in fear of these raids.
Many countries tried in vain to address the pirate problem, many started setting up fortifications along their coast to protect their lands from the pirates. Italy, for one, established over 90 watch towers on the island of Corsica. 90 TOWERS. Such defenses proved to be largely unsuccessful.
The only countries that had the abilities to defend their property were the European superpowers such as England, France and Spain. Even then, England was the only country that had the real ability to constantly rebuff the Barbary States into peace treaties.
One issue that did not help was that many of the European countries were actively encouraging the pirates to attack competing countries. For this reason, the Barbary pirates were never truly dealt with and even with various peace treaties the pirates continued to break them, proving to be a thorn for many countries.
However, there was another way to avoid all this unpleasant business of slave catching, looting treasure and capturing ships. If your state could and was willing, you just needed to pay a tribute to the Barbary states, this fee would, for the most parts, guarantee you safe passage, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea.
Therefore, some countries resorted to paying the Barbary States tributes every year to keep their people safe from the pirates. However, many countries refused to pay the tributes, for reasons such as religion, monetary or pride.
They became fair game.
Keep in mind that while the Europeans did practice torturing, they had outlawed it by the height of the Barbary States and such actions were seen as repulsive and barbaric.
One of those unfortunate countries was the newly minted nation of America. In the past they had been under the protection of the English and by flying the flag of the Union Jack they had been relativity safe from pirate attacks.
That changed after the American Revolution.
Yes, the meek nation that had thrown the yoke off from their mighty rulers could not even battle the Barbary terror. Without the protection of the powerful English navy, the American merchant ships became easy prey for the Barbary Pirates.
Just as soon as America had became free, they were quickly bullied into submission by the Barbary States. Without an actual standing navy, since the Congress sold most of their warships after the Revolution War, America had no way of defending themselves and were forced to pay the tribute to ensure their people stayed free.
America was forced to pay an annual tribute of about $60,000 which would be worth close to $800,000 today and that was just to Algiers, they still had to pay the three other states. The total would come out to cost America 1.25 million a year, roughly 1/5th of their annual nation budget! Even so, the Barbary States were still known for capturing the occasional American ship to hold their crew ransom.
Many Americans were humiliated of the fact that they had to pay tributes to a group of countries that they viewed as barbaric and tyrannical. However, they did not have much of a choice due to their lack of a standing navy.
The tribute payments started under George Washington's term and lasted well until the start of Thomas Jefferson's presidency (over twenty years). Thomas Jefferson had been sent to negotiate the tribute amount with the Barbary States under Washington's presidency and even though he worked on the tribute agreement, he was vehemently against the concept of paying pirates money for safe passage. Still, Jefferson was able to secure a treaty with Morocco which is still honored today and is considered the longest unbroken treaty with United States.
However, the new country of America did recognize the need for a real navy and instead of purchasing ships as they did during the Revolution, Washington and the Congress approved the construction of six new frigates...
Before the Naval Act of 1794 that approved the construction of new ships, the U.S. was relying on one ship to protect their waters. Many in the Congress could not justify spending money on a navy and were afraid that having a navy might led the men to become pirates or wield too much power. Yet so, with the Barbary threat very real and already harassing American ships, the Congress had to establish a navy to face the various threats that were looming.
Along with the official creation of the United States Navy, six frigates were to be built-
The Constitution, Constellation, President, Congress, United States and Chesapeake
At that time, America had a huge advantage. They possessed some of the world's best timbers, several shipbuilding yards and some of the best skilled ship designers.
Live Oak trees were used as the frames and proved to be the best material for building ships with.
The pine forests of the northeast had ample timbers for the tall masts that manned the ships
All the six ships were build at various shipyards across the United States
Although pauses and delays in construction of the ships caused the deadline to be pushed back further, three of the ships were ready by 1797 and the rest were launched in 1799
The six frigates were designed and built in a way that exceeded most of the abilities of similar ships of the European superpowers. The American ships were faster, bigger, heavier and could withstand plenty of damage.
When Thomas Jefferson became the third president in 1801, America had just won the Quasi-War (a year long undeclared war/conflict with France) with their new Navy. One of the first things Jefferson did was refuse to pay the Pasha of Tripoli the tribute that they demanded of $225,000 (again, remember that this was only one of the States) and, with that said, the Barbary States declared war on the United States of America. So begun the First Barbary War.
One of the first battles was between the schooner USS Enterprise and the corsair Tripoli which the Enterprise won after much fighting.
The Enterprise was slightly smaller and had just a little less firepower than the Tripoli, however, the crew of the Enterprise were already battle tested and had superior gunnery skills.
Yes, but not the starship!
The U.S. Navy has actually had 8
ships bearing the very name,
USS Enterprise. The ninth- another aircraft carrier is currently being built
After the first major engagement, the war started to degrade into blockades and mostly small skirmishes between the American and Barbary ships. The timeline of the war could, in effect, be broken up in four main categories- according to the squadrons deployed.
The first squadron(1801-02) was mostly assigned to establishing the blockage of Tripoli, preventing corsairs from escaping to attack American ships. This proved to be somewhat successful, however as the blockage soon learned, the shores of Tripoli were mostly shallow and while some of the corsairs could effectively sail in these areas, most American deep knelled ships could not, rendering the blockage partly ineffective.
The second squadron (1802-03) sent to relieve the first squadron, proved to be disastrous. The commodore of the fleet, Richard Morris, managed to do the following-
Waste his time on social engagements with Royal Navy officers
Made several stops to French, Italian and Spanish ports
Managed to get captured by the Bey of Tunis (costing $34,000 to release him)
All the above caused Morris to not arrive in Tripoli until nearly a year after leaving the U.S.
Also abandoned the blockade in favor of simply escorting American merchant ships
Tried to assume the role of a diplomat by negotiating a monetary amount for peace, which failed
When news of Morris' miscues arrived at Washington, public outcry and the congressional backlash led to Morris being relieved of his duties.
However, the third squadron (1803-1804) who was led by Commodore Edward Preble, would prove to be much much effective than the previous two outings.
Preble had, under him, the command of the USS Constitution along with formidable ships such as the Philadelphia, Enterprise and Nautilus. Along with these mighty ships, the Navy also had an abundance of competent men- many who served under Preble and would be known as "Preble's Boys", they were-
William Bainbridge- He once quashed a mutiny all on his own, and threw the ringleader in irons. When he was 18.
Richard Somers- while on leave ashore, he took on five pirates and killed one of them. With their own sword.
Stephen Decatur- would later become one of the most celebrated hero of the U.S. Navy for his actions in the Barbary Wars
With such a formidable fleet, they made quick headway to Tripoli to resume the blockade. Preble ordered that all corsairs that made it through the blockade would be chased and taken down by American ships. Jefferson also ordered several small gunboats, which could navigate the shallow waters, send to join the fleet.
The First Barbary War
The war would be American's first official war since becoming an independent country.
Years of unchecked piracy in the seas of the Mediterranean and a sense of freedom finally drove America to buck the norm and fight for their right to commerce.
Many of the smaller countries, such as Sicily, Italy, Sweden and Portugal would support the American effort in the war as many of them were tired of paying tributes and lacked effective and strong navies needed to protect their ships.
Under the command of Commodore Preble, the fleet was able to mostly neuter the Tripoli fleet, however disaster soon followed...
In late October, Captain Bainbridge of the USS Philadelphia was chasing two Barbary corsairs when the ship ran aground on an uncharted reef. When the tide went out the ship lisped to the side, rendering it's guns useless to the advancing Tripoli corsairs, forcing Bainbridge to surrender the ship and it's crew of 307 men.
This was a worse case scenario. The Philadelphia was one of the two frigates assigned to the squadron (the other being the USS Constitution) and the pirates now had a 36-gun ship that they could use against the Americans.
This was like losing a battleship in nowadays's term
The pirates were able to retrieve the USS Philadelphia at high tide and anchor it in the heart of the Tripoli harbor. The pirates set her up as a battery with the intention to refit her for sea at a later time.
Commodore Preble, furious at the loss of a frigate, immediately began making plans to strike back and take the Philadelphia from the pirates. He made orders for volunteers to make way to the Tripoli harbor at night and burn the USS Philadelphia, rendering the ship useless to the enemy. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur offered himself for the command of this dangerous mission.
Stephen Decatur happened to have just captured a Tripoli corsair and renamed it to the USS Intrepid. However, he kept the rigging true to the Mediterranean style allowing for the ship to be easily disregarded as a native ship.
This would led to one of the greatest and most daring military acts in America's history.
In the dark of the February night, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur and his men made way to Tripoli in their ship the Intrepid, with the intention of boarding the Philadelphia which was anchored in the harbor.
When the pirates had captured and brought the USS Philadelphia to Tripoli, this boosted the pirates' morale and simultaneously made them less vigilant, which gave an advantage to Decatur and his men.
The Intrepid was able to actually sail right to the port side of the Philadelphia unchallenged and the pirates were taken by surprise!
Within seconds the American party had scaled onto the Philadelphia and confronted the pirates on board.
Once onboard the Philadelphia, the Americans quickly overpowered the Tripolitan pirates and took possession of the Philadelphia. Their next task was to set it ablaze, with all guns loaded.
While some scholars have discussed whether Decatur could have simply sailed the Philadelphia out of the harbor, it is frequently reminded that he was under orders to burn the ship.
As the Philadelphia burned brightly in the dark night, its guns blazing, Decatur and his men were able to made escape with the help of another American ship, the USS Siren.
One thing that can be agreed on is the impact the burning ship had on the people of Tripoli. The fire had burned through the anchor cables, causing the ship to wander aimlessly into the harbor. When it was just passing the Pasha's castle, the fire reached the ship's magazine causing a massive explosion which was heard through the city of Tripoli.
Soon the world was ablaze with stories about the daring raid and burning of the Philadelphia, people could not stop talking about the upstart America and how they were standing up to the Barbary Pirates.
Lord Horatio Nelson, the greatest English sea captain stated that it was "the most bold and daring act of the age"
The pope at the time Pius VII declared that "the United States, though in their infancy, had done more to humble and humiliate the anti-Christian barbarians on the African coast in one night than all the European states had done for a long period of time."
Stephen Decatur, himself was instantly recognized as a hero and the Congress voted to promote him to the rank of Captain, becoming the youngest man to do so.
With the winds of glory at their backs, the Americans started to stage more deceive battles against the Barbary Pirates.
After the addition of gunboats, Commodore Preble was able to mount an assault upon Tripoli
While the Americans were able to inflict serious damage to the Tripoli fleet, the Pasha still refused to surrender and continued to try to convince the Americans to pay a smaller tribute to end the war.
Decatur again proved his worth while captaining one of the gunboats, capturing the enemy gunboats and taking on the pirates face to face, particularly after hi brother was killed by the pirates.
Preble would command the USS Constitution, taking out the shore batteries and putting several holes into the Pasha's castle.
With supplies running low and the Pasha refusing to back down, the fleet was forced to retreat and maintain the blockade while waiting for the fourth squadron to arrive with reinforcements.
Commodore Samuel Barron arrived with the fourth squadron and was assumed to take command of the forces with Commodore Preble acting as his second in command (due to seniority), however Preble had too much pride to allow himself to be demoted to second rank and decided to return to the United States where he would be hailed as a hero.
Commodore Barron was assigned to continue the blockade, however he also had another assignment to carry out.
William Eaton, a former captain of the army, and an counsel that had to bail out Commodore Morris earlier in the war, accompanied Barron as an "Agent of the Navy".
His task? To lead a small land force of Americans and Arabs that would capture Derne a small town East of Tripoli then take the city of Tripoli itself.
The brother of the Pasha was considered the rightful ruler and requested that Jefferson help him take his country back. In exchange he promised peace.
With a motley army of about 500 men (only 10 Americans and the rest Arabs), Eaton and his men landed in Alexandria, Egypt with the intention of marching 500 miles along the coast to Derne.
After six weeks of marching, averting starvation and stopping a mutiny, Eaton and his army arrived at the outskirts of Derne. With sea support in the form of three American ships, Eaton's army was able to surprise the garrison stationed at Derne.
Before officially starting the battle, Eaton wrote a letter to the town's Governor asking for the town. The Governor, replying, stated "My head or yours."
Needless to say, the American and Arab forces were able to quickly flank the town and fort. That along with bombardment from the American ships off shore led to Derne submitting to the American forces.
For the first time, the American flag was hoisted on foreign land...
When the Pasha of Tripoli realized how quickly and few American men had taken Derne, he opened negotiations with America for peace between Tripoli.
America offered the Pasha $60,000 for all the American prisoners and Captain Bainbridge. They also agreed to return Derne to Tripoli
Tripoli accepted and in 1805 peace was at last established between Tripoli and the United States.
While this would end the First Barbary War, it by all means, did not put a end to the problem of piracy due to the fact that America had only signed the treaty with Tripoli not the two other Barbary States.
Don't forget, America already had a treaty with Morocco.
Unfortunately, due to brewing issues in Europe- the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812, America had to shift its focus from the diminishing pirate issue to France and eventually England.
The Napoleonic Wars from 1803-1815 consumed most of Europe and its allies around the world. America would find itself busy from time to time getting involved in the wars particularly with the British who had a liking to capturing U.S. ships and pressing the ship and its crew into their service.
The practice of impressment would led America to use it as an excuse to declare war on England, starting the War of 1812, as a way to gain Canada.
America's success with the First Barbary War had led to them earning respect through the world and also cementing their Naval power status in the world.
At the conclusion of the War of 1812, America decided to refocus on exterminating the Barbary Pirates once for all. Tripoli had slowly reverted back to its habits of seizing American ships and the States of Algiers and Tunis had never been formally addressed with war. In 1815, Congress formally declared war on the Barbary States of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli.
So America send two fleets, one Captained by William Bainbridge and the other by Stephen Decatur, both veterans of the first war. However Bainbridge left America later due to repairs and would miss most of the action.
Decatur's fleet quickly made its way to Algiers, along the way capturing an Algerian frigate, and sinking another.
The Algerian frigate was captured with ease after their captain was torn in half with a 42lb shot fired from the cannons of the USS Constellation.
Without much fuss, Captain Stephen Decatur and his fleet arrived in Algiers.
Upon arrival in Algiers, Decatur demanded that all piracy cease and Americans being held captive be freed.
To show how serious he was, Decatur stated that any Algerian ship trying to enter or leave the harbor would promptly be sunk. He also refused to hold negotiations in town, stating that it would be held on his flagship, the Guerriere.
With such uncompromising attitude coming from Decatur, the bey of Algiers was forced to accept the peace treaty and end all aggression against America.
After securing peace at Algiers, Decatur sailed to Tunis and Tripoli, where he was able to secure treaties of peace without much fight from the Dey/Pasha of both states.
Bainbridge's fleet would soon follow behind, reaffirming the treaties and reminding the Barbary States, that America was not to be trifled with.
And, just as quickly as it had started, the Second Barbary War was over.
However, America had not freed the thousands of Christian slaves that still remained in the Barbary States.
It would fall on England and France to deliver the crushing blow that would end the reign of the Barbary Pirates once for all.
England send Lord Exmouth to Tripoli and Tunis where he was able to negotiate the release of all white slaves and cease the white slave trade without much hassle.
However, Algiers turned out to be a different story and when negotiations between Exmouth and the Dey of Algiers went south, and Exmouth left for England believing he had somehow secured a treaty. However, in confusion 200 Christian fishermen under England's protection were killed by Algerian troops.
Considerably, Britain was enraged and sent out Lord Exmouth to complete the job and punish the people of Algiers at the same time. Exmouth arrived in Algiers with a squadron of nearly 20 ships, several ships with at least 70 guns and one with 104 guns!
Lord Exmouth proceed to bombard the Port of Algiers for nine hours
The next day, the Dey of Algiers surrendered and released all the Christian slaves in Algiers along with repaying some of the ransom money.
This signaled the end of the power of the Barbary States
While piracy by large ended with the show of America and England's strength, a few stray Barbary Pirate ship would still operate in the area. However they no longer had the open support of the Barbary States and every time word came out that one of the ports were partaking in the slave trading the English or French would come out and beat them to a pulp.
Slave trading and raiding would finally completely end in 1830 when France conquered Algiers and eradicated the Barbary Pirates for good.
The Barbary Wars would go down as the first war America fought after its creation and it would also signal the ascension of their Navy which would become one of the most powerful and formidable force in the world.
America proved to the world that it could "hang with the big boys" by taking on the bully and winning.
And in the process creating some incredible stories and heroes
Burning of USS Philadelphia
March to Derne
The second line of the "Marines' Hymn" a song, refers to the Barbary War, more particularly, the March and Victory at Derne.
From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.
The Barbary Wars
George Washington was the first president of America and set the precedent for our foreign policy which was neutrality (no involvement in other nations' affairs). As a result he refused to get involved in the French Revolution.
John Adams, our second president, continued Washington's policy of neutrality. However, Adams would become stuck in a sticky issue with the "XYZ Affair" which became the Quasi-War. This was an undeclared war with France which made a mess of John Adam's policy of neutrality.
Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, tried to create a balance between being neutral and involved when needed. He saw the Barbary issues as problem that could not be ignored with neutrality.
USS Constitution- Oldest ship afloat