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Tripoli: The United States' First War on…

Tripoli: The United States' First War on Terror

by David Smethurst

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With the shores of Tripoli in the news again, timely. Most books on the Barbary Wars cover the naval actions – which are, of course, pretty interesting. Although the naval campaign is a good part of David Smethurst’s Tripoli, I found the narrative of the land campaign more interesting. While Decatur and Bainbridge and so forth were performing various heroics offshore, U.S. Consul to Tunis William Eaton collected an army of Greek mercenaries, Arab cavalry, and a couple dozen U.S. Marines under Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon and marched overland from Alexandria to Derna with the intent of overthrowing the Bey of Tripoli, Yusuf Karamanli and replacing him with his brother Hamet.

There’s a lot of “the more things change, the more they stay the same” here. The United States of American is every bit as confused by Middle Eastern politics in 2011 as it was in 1805. Promises get broken by both sides; the rulers of Tripoli just don’t understand why the U.S. doesn’t behave the way they are used to, and vice versa; miscellaneous other world and local powers get involved in the situation, and the U.S. Marines make up in courage what they possibly lack in tactical subtlety. Eaton’s attempt to get cooperation from his Arab “allies” would be funny if it wasn’t so sad; the army he organized had a repeated tendency to wander off in random directions unless frequently bribed. The capture of Derna brought Yusuf to the negotiating table and the negotiations were successful as far as those parties were concerned; however, to Eaton’s disgust the U.S. abandoned Hamet (although he supposedly did get a pension of $200/month for life, he disappeared in 1811). The U.S. had to go back in 1815 and thump the Maghreb again; since Eaton died in 1811 he never knew.

Author Smethurst doesn’t appear to have any qualifications as a historian; his previous writing is for sports magazines. Nevertheless he does credible job; there are good references and a bibliography. This is a pocket paperback and therefore suitable as an emergency backup book to be carried around and read whenever you find yourself waiting in line or riding a bus, etc. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 31, 2017 |
Tripoli is a fascinating look into at the early 1800's and the United States involvement in the Mediterranean. In movies the pirates are usually portrayed as romantic swashbucklers out to have adventures. In reality they ruled their part of the world with an iron fist demanding "gifts" from the governments of other countries. Of course, at the time they didn't call them bribes but if the "gifts" weren't forthcoming then war was declared on the country that didn't cooperate.
William Eaton was first assigned to be the Consul in Tunis for the United States. The Bey demanded continual "gifts" which escalated in value every 6 months. Eaton tried and tried to please the Bey but the demands became outlandish. Eventually the U.S. sent a warship to the area but were they at war? The Bey had declared war but Captain Sterritt of the Enterprise had no word from his own government.
Eventually word came and the Barbary Territories and the U.S. were officially at war. It was a long war with many battles. William Eaton became a General and led his men through many battles culminating in the battle at the fort in Derna.
This is an interesting look into the time when our country was young and trying to establish itself in the world of commerce – the struggles we faced abroad - the courage and determination of the men involved.
( )
  Diane_K | Jul 14, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0891418598, Mass Market Paperback)


April 27, 1805. The impasse in the four-year war between the Barbary pirate state of Tripoli and the United States is about to be broken. William Eaton has led his ragtag army of Greeks, Arabs, and U.S. Marines across five hundred grueling miles of sun-scorched desert from Alexandria, Egypt, to Tripoli’s heavily defended port fortress of Derna. Outnumbered ten to one, the exhausted, thirsty men carry out Eaton’s daring charge on the pirate fortress–and enter the history books and anthem of the U.S. Marines.

David Smethurst vividly chronicles America’s Barbary War and the pivotal role of William Eaton–firebrand, soldier, and statesman. From the former army captain’s appointment as consul to the Barbary Coast in 1799 to the enemy’s capture of the USS Pennsylvania and her three hundred sailors to Eaton’s valiant attack and its stunning aftermath, Tripoli is a fascinating tale of polished diplomacy, raw heroism, and a man as fearless and independent as the young nation he represented.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:25 -0400)

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