JFK+50: Volume 6, No. 1861LT. STEPHEN DECATUR LEADS ATTACK IN TRIPOLI HARBOR
Tripoli, Libya (JFK+50) Two hundred twelve years ago this evening, February 16, 1804, Lt. Stephen Decatur* led a force of 74 men on a mission in Tripoli harbor in the First War with the "Barbary Pirates."
The objective of the mission was to destroy the captured frigate USS Philadelphia so that the Pirates would not be able to use it against US forces.
The American ship had run aground on October 31, 1803 when on duty as part of a blockade directed by Commodore Edward Prebles.
The USS Philadelphia was captured and thereafter used as a gun battery by the Pirates. Disguised as Maltese sailors, Decatur's Marines captured or killed the Pirates on board the ship and set it on fire.
British Admiral Horatio Nelson called the action "the most bold and daring act of the age."
On July 14, 1804, Commodore Prebles launched an attack on Tripoli which proved indecisive, but in September, after Commodore Samuel Barron assumed command, success was achieved.
*Lt. Stephen Decatur, Jr. (1779-1820) was born in Sinepuvent, MD. His father served in the US Navy during the Revolution. SD grew up in Philadelphia. He attended the Protestant Episcopal Academy and the University of Pennsylvania.
SD joined the US Navy & was promoted to the rank of Lt. by President John Adams. He became an immediate national hero after his exploits in the First War with the Barbary Pirates. SD later commanded the USS Constitution & the USS United States.
Serving as Naval Commission he owned a home in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. SD was killed in a duel by Commodore James Barron on March 22, 1820.