‘Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History’12/16/2015
“From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli” are the beginning words of the Marine Corps Hymn. These words make little sense until you read about the first Barbary war. It is called the Forgotten War because that is what it is — seldom referred to in the classroom or mentioned anywhere else. But it is anything but an unimportant footnote.
The United States had just fought a long war of independence and had substantial debts to repay. The source of funds to repay these debts lay in trade with the nations of Europe. However, four nations on the northern shore of Africa were capturing American ships and enslaving the crews and passengers. The way to avoid this was to pay bribes to these nations, something the young United States was unable and unwilling to do. When Jefferson became president, fighting this piracy was one of the first orders of business. This was the first war the United States instigated on the sea.
There were blockades, sea battles, ships lost and captured, heroes and villains. The president and people of the United States were months behind in hearing of the activities off the coast of Africa.
The end result of both Barbary Wars was the restoration of free trade and the establishment of the United States as a true world power on the deep blue seas. CV
Harriet Leitch retired to enjoy her grandchildren, garden, dogs, flute and to return to her love of books.