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   Barbary Wars    Book by  Brian Kilmeade
     Tripoli Muslim Pirates Declared War On The United States


Summer, 1801

The U.S. Frigates President, Philadelphia and Sloop Enterprise were sent to the Barbary coasts by Jefferson under the command of Commodore Dale to ascertain if a state of War existed between the Muslim Pirate State Tripoli and the United States. He had detailed orders and rules of engagement from Jefferson before actual confirmation of war but, all expecting it. 


Commodore Dale found from the dey of Tripoli that indeed Tripoli had declared war on the United States of America and would capture or sink all U.S. ships. He had his orders from his Commander in Chief. Blockade Tripoli harbor.


While the President and Enterprise blockaded Tripoli they quickly needed stores and water to continue. The Enterprise sprinted North toward Malta under orders from Commodore Dale to utilize deception by sailing under a British flag.


Battle Stations

Sure enough, Enterprise's errand, under command of Lieutenant Andrew Sterett, 23 and a veteran of the USS Constellation's gun crew, and no novice to the fight, is about to be interrupted.


The enemy ship, "Tripoli", seeing the British flag, made no moves as his country was at peace with Britain. As the ships moved close, hailing distance, Lt. Sterett hailed the Captain, asking the object of his cruise. Thinking he had no quarrel with this ship, the master of the Tripolian warship "Tripoli" spoke the truth. He had come out to cruise after the Americans.


Before Sterett could reply, the Tripolian captain complained he had yet to find any Americans to fight. He should have been more careful about what he wished for.


Acting instantly, Sterett ordered the British flag lowered as Jefferson had instructed Commodore Dale to engage in combat only while flying the American flag. As his colors went up, Sterett in full voice issued the order to fire. The crackle of muskets in the hands of the Marines that knew how to use them filled the air.


The Tripolians, who had at least some of their guns primed, returned scattered fire. The first shots fired in anger to our Muslim Pirate enemies rang out over the water.


A Man Made Thunderstorm

Within seconds, the Enterprise's canons produced a deafening roar. Along with the cannon balls, streaks of lightning seemed to strikeout from the cannon muzzles, so close to the enemy ship. The crashing sound of solid shot striking the Tripoli followed a heartbeat later. At this close range, few shots missed their mark.


Aboard the Tripoli masts splintered, crashing to the deck. The Rigging sagged and ropes whipped back and forth as the ship rocked; holes appeared in the ship's hull above the waterline.


The first volley over, the American gunners raced to reload, swabbing, powdering, ramming, firing again. The well-drilled and skilled men didn't miss their target.


Less adept with their guns, the pirates managed to return fire only sporadically. Unaccustomed to relying entirely upon artillery, Tripolian Admiral Mahomet Rous ordered his men to maneuver their vessel alongside the Enterprise. They would board this American adversary and swarm over her sides, knives and pistols in hand. They would fight as they preferred, hand-to-hand, man-to-man. That was the pirate way.


But, the small Marine Corps detachment of the Enterprise was ready. At the order of Marine Lieutenant Enoch Lane, the deadly Marine musket fire repulsed the approaching pirates, dropping many to the decks before they had a chance to swing their swords.


The Tripoli moved off and seeming to surrender, the "Tripolians lowered their flag. Seeing this this signal of capitulation, the men of the Enterprise naively assembled on deck and let loose with the traditional three cheers as a mark of victory. Within moments the cheers were drowned out by the sound of gunfire. The pirates, disregarding the rules of war, had hoisted their flag and were firing on the exposed Americans, who ran to their stations.


The battle quickly resumed and the hellish American fire brought the Tripolians to surrender a second time - - - and then a third - - - only to see the enemy's flag twice lowered and rise again.


Finally, seething at this treachery, Sterett ordered his gunners to fire until they were sure the Tripoli would sink beneath the waves. The cry of "Sink the Villains" echoed aboard the Enterprise. In the long minutes that followed, the pirates fire grew progressively weaker, but the sustained American cannonade did not cease until Admiral Mahomet Rous called for mercy. The wounded Rous, standing at his gunwale bowed deeply in genuine supplication and surrender. This time throwing his flag into the sea.


Admiral Mahomet lost half of his men dead, a third wounded. Ship totally wrecked. We stripped it, all weapons to the sea. Sterett had orders not to take anything for prize or keep prisoners. The Tripoli was left with small sail to make headway for home.


The Enterprise had no dead an no one seriously injured.


 **  Seems this was America's first war taken to an Islamic Muslim enemy's shore because they believed we would pay rather than fight. America was in revolt against Islamic piracy as supported and dictated by their Koran. From this first post revolution American Navy battle and subsequent battles and engagements, including our flag over a foreign country, Tripoli, to protect American maritime commerce, the word found it's way around the World. Beware, don't try American ships, they'll fight, they'll kill you.


Most above from "Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates". ~ Brian Kilmeade


Seems vessels of the name :"Enterprise" will be famous for years to come. Next was Captain Henry Miller Shreve's "Enterprise". See "Prelude to the Texas Revolution".


~ Bob Hutchinson