For this Freedom Friday I will highlight the fact that Americans fought radical/extremist Arabs/Muslims from before the Revolutionary War until after the War of 1812. This war against Islam lasted more than three decades before the
finally beat back the threat. United States was free of attacks from pirates for nearly 200 years before they started attacking Americans again in recent years. America
For hundreds of years, probably from the time of the Crusades, North African pirates - also known as Barbary pirates, Barbary corsairs, Ottoman corsairs, Barbary privateers, and Mohammedan pirates - operated off the coast of North Africa in the Atlantic Ocean and also in the
Mediterranean Sea. The term "Barbary" was a derogatory term derived from the word "barbarians" and reflected how Europeans and Americans viewed Muslim in the areas of the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa.
Legend has it that the pirates traveled as far as
to attack ports, seize captives for slaves, and plunder merchant ships. By the late 1700s or the early 1800s, many seafaring nations found it to be easier and cheaper to pay tribute to the pirates for safe passage through the Iceland Mediterranean Sea than to go to war with them. Arab leaders of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli - known as the Barbary powers of North Africa - were sponsoring pirates by the early 1800s. These nations were part of the Ottoman Empire, also a beneficiary of the tributes. The pirates and privateers took millions of dollars from Americans and Europeans as well as hundreds of hostages to enslave, kill, or release later.
The first documented conflict between Americans and the Barbary pirates took place in 1625 when pirates believed to be from
attacked merchant ships with home ports in the North American colonies. Twenty years later in 1645 an assault by Algerian pirates was repelled by seamen from Morocco . In 1678, 14 ships from Cambridge, Massachusetts Massachusetts (1) and (13) were seized by Algerian pirates. Virginia
More than one hundred years later in September 1783, American ships on the way home from peace negotiations with
were harassed by Algerian pirates. Americans were convinced that the pirates were being paid by Britain . In October 1784, a 300-ton ship from Britain Boston was sailing in waters 100 miles from Africa's western (Atlantic) coast. Sailors from the Betsy were captured, put in chains, and taken to slave markets in . In January 1785 Algerian pirates captured the Dauphin and the Maria; the 21 sailors aboard were taken in chains and jeered by crowds on the way to the leader of Morocco - who spit on them. Algeria
United States battled Barbary pirates through the administrations of four Presidents - Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. The Constitution of the was adopted on September 17, 1887. George Washington was inaugurated as our first President in early 1789. In December 1790, Thomas Jefferson, serving as the Secretary of State under United States , recommended that Congress declare war on the pirates. The Senate rejected the proposition and authorized $140,000 for ransom payments. Before the end of his administration, the Washington was paying 16 percent of the federal budget to keep Muslims from attacking Americans. United States
The Washington Administration grew tired of paying tribute and asked Congress to authorize and fund the establishment of a navy to protect American interests abroad. Congress passed the Naval Act of 1794, and
signed a bill on March 27, 1794, authorizing $688,888.82 to be spent on building six frigates. Construction soon began on the ships: USS United States, President, Constellation, Washington , Congress, and Constitution. Chesapeake
Not long after the bill was passed, Congress authorized $800,000 for a treaty with
and to ransom the captives. If peace was declared, an amendment would be attached to the Naval Act to halt construction on the ships. Three ships were authorized to be completed: USS Constitution, Constellation, and Algeria . The ships were completed during the administration of President John Adams. It appears that the war with the United States Barbary pirates led to the birth of U.S. Navy.
In September 1800, the frigate George Washington, under the command of William Bainbridge, was ordered to take $500,000 as tribute to
. It became the first U.S. Navy ship to enter the Algiers Mediterranean Sea. The Navy's Sixth Fleet is permanently posted in the Mediterranean now.
When Thomas Jefferson became President, the pirates were demanding approximately 20 percent of the federal budget. Jefferson decided that the
would no longer pay tribute to pirates. In May 1801, United States Tripoli declared war on the for refusing to pay more money by chopping down the flag in front of the American Embassy. The First Barbary War began when Jefferson dispatched four warships - later expanded to six ships - to the United States Middle East. Even though Jefferson sent the U.S. Navy to North Africa without waiting for congressional action, Congress later - probably in 1802 -passed the Act for Protection of Commerce and Seamen of the against Tripolitan Corsairs, which was basically a declaration of war. United States
USS Philadelphia, captained by William Bainbridge, foundered on a reef close to
on October 31, 1803. The 307 sailors aboard were forced to surrender. Tripoli took the ship and made it a part of its own navy as The Gift of Allah. A few months later at 7:00 p.m. on February 16, 1804, the USS Intrepid, disguised as a Maltese merchant ship and flying British colors, entered Tripoli harbor where The Gift of Allah was anchored. Captain Stephen Decatur claimed that the Intrepid's anchors were lost in the storm and asked permission to tie up alongside The Gift of Allah. As the two ships came together, Decatur and sixty men stormed aboard the former Tripoli . After "fighting with swords and pikes," the Americans took control of the ship and prepared it to be burned. Philadelphia was the last person to leave the ship because he waited long enough to make sure that it would burn. The Intrepid evaded fire from the harbor's defenses and escaped to the open sea. Decatur
Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson called
's achievement "the most bold and daring act of the age." Twenty-five year old Decatur was promoted to captain in recognition of his successful raid, making him the youngest to hold the rank. For the rest of the war, Decatur commanded the frigates Constitution and Congress and went on to command other ships. Decatur
Tripoli in 1805 and captured the city of Derna; after five years of war with the pirates, the Marines planted the flag over a foreign conquest for the very first time. This act convinced the U.S. Barbary rulers to sign peace treaties.
Tensions increased with
Great Britain, and the United States was forced to reduce the number of U.S. Navy ships patroling the Mediterranean. took advantage of the situation and sacked the Sally, enslaving 15 crewmembers. Other attacks on American ships followed while the Algiers United States and were engaged in the War of 1812. Great Britain
When the War of 1812 ended, President James Madison urged Congress in April 1815 to declare war on the
. The Second Barbary War started when naval hero, Stephen Decatur, left Barbary states on May 15, 1815, with both Navy sailors and Marines on board. He was leading an armada of approximately ten ships with orders to suppress the New York Barbary pirates. He was to threaten the Barbary pirate regimes of North Africa with "serious disaster" unless they agreed to a "just and lasting peace."
By June 28, 1815,
Decatur's armada was off the coast of North Africa where they began their naval campaign. The Americans captured the pirates' principal ships, entered the , and dictated a treaty to the humbled ruler. They then sailed to Bay of Algiers Tunis and , where the pirates pledged good conduct from then on. President James Madison told Congress in his State of the Union message on December 5, 1815, that the Tripoli United States had won its first war in the Middle East. To date, it is the only war we have won outright in the Middle East.
Thus ended more than three decades of battle with
Barbary pirates - until April 9, 2009 when history began to repeat itself.
The next time you hear the "Marines Hymn," the official hymn of the United States Marine Corps, you should have better understanding for the words "to the shores of
." The "Marines Hymn" is the oldest official song in the Tripoli military and is typically sung at the position of attention as a gesture of respect. The third verse, however, is often used as a toast during formal events, such as the birthday ball and other ceremonies. United States
From the Halls of Montezuma,
To the shores of
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
Marine. United States
Our flag's unfurled to every breeze
From dawn to settling sun;
We have fought in every clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off Northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job
Marines. United States
Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we've fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven's scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
Marines. United States
Information came from articles by Robert McNamara ("The United States Fought Wars Against North African Pirates in the Early1800s,", "The Wars Against the Barbary Pirates," , "To the Shores of Tripoli," and "The Barbary Pirates");
Kennedy Hickman ("War of 1812: Commodore Stephen Decatur"
Wikipedia ("Marines Hymn").