Historic Markers Across Alabama

Barbary Coast Wars - 1801 - 1805, 1815

Marker ID:  
Location: 200 Monroe Street Northwest, Huntsville AL
County: Madison
Coordinates: N 34° 44.101    W 086° 35.314
  34.73501666    -86.58856666
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


I am Sergeant Michael Dunn of the 1st Marine Battalion. I fought in the First Barbary War, also known as the Tripolitan War, because we battled pirates off the coast of Tripoli. The Mediterranean coast of North Africa had been a hotbed of piracy for a long time. Our country and many others had to pay bribes to the rulers of the Barbary States of Morocco, Algiers, Tripoli and Tunisia to keep pirates from attacking our ships and ransoming captured sailors. We sent Navy ships in 1801-1804 to fight them and had a few victories, but in 1803 in the Tripoli harbor the Philadelphia was grounded, captured, and used as a gun station against us. The night of February 16, 1804, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a small contingent of Marines including me in a captured ketch and boarded the ship, overpowered the pirates, and set fire to her, denying her use to the enemy. The British Admiral Horatio Nelson called this"the most bold and daring act for the age.” On July 14, 1804, we fought a series of battles. Lieutenant Richard Somers sailed a fire ship packed with explosives to destroy the harbor and the enemy fleet. Unluckily, it blew up too soon killing Somers and his crew. President Thomas Jefferson finally had enough and declared, "MILLIONS FOR DEFENSE BUT NOT ONE CENT FOR TRIBUTE!” so in 1805, we went back to the Barbary Coast"sinking, burning or destroying their ships & vessels wherever we find them.” We blockaded Tripoli harbor and General William Eaton and Marine First Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon marched me, seven other Marines, and 500 Greek and Berber mercenaries across the desert from Alexandria, Egypt successfully capturing the port of Derna. This was the first time that the United States flag was raised in victory of foreign soil. Broken by the blockade and raids the Dey, the King of this area, signed a peace agreement on June 10, 1805.Our actions proved that the U.S. could fight and win far from home. Now you know why our Marine Corps Hymn has this words-"to the shores of Tripoli.”

1801 - 1805, 1815
I am Gunner's Mate Jack Jolitar assigned to the USS Guerriere, a 44-gun frigate. That's a good size ship, folks! My job is to man gun #32 as a loader. After the First Barbary War, we got into a big fracas with Great Britain again called the War of 1812.While our attention was on the British, the Barbary pirates went back to their old ways of attacking Americans, as well as Europeans ships, in the Mediterranean Sea and holding their crews and officers for ransom. On May 20, 1815, Captain Stephen Decatur set sail for the Barbary Coast again, with a squadron of 10 ships including the Guerriere as his flagship. This was the start of the Second Barbary War. We met up with and fought the Algerian flagship Meshuda off Cape Gata. I declare that below decks it was the hottest and sweatiest work I ever expect to do this side of Hades, but it paid off and we captured her! Not long afterward off Cape Palos, we also captured the Algerian brig Estedio. By the final week of June, the squadron had reached Algiers and had the Dey by the scruff of the neck. When Captain Decatur demanded compensation and threatened destruction of the city, the Dey gave in. A peace treaty was signed on Guerriere in the Bay of Algiers on 3 July 1815.


More Information:
Wikipedia - Barbary Wars
Wikipedia - Barbary pirates
Wikipedia - Slavery in the Ottoman Empire
LOC - America and the Barbary Pirates: An International Battle Against an Unconventional Foe

End of Barbary Coast Wars - 1801 - 1805, 1815