The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines & the Secret Mission of 1805 by Richard Zacks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s European shipping and that of the nation called the USA were being harassed by pirates in the Mediterranean Seas. There bases of operation were located in the Northern Coast of Africa nominally under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Tripoli, Tunis and Algeria were the main pirate ports. In the late 1700’s the Pirates attacked the island of Sardinia and made everyone who they captured into slave. Of course in the Ottoman Empire if you were a Muslim would automatically be redeemed. One of the people captured was a young girl called Anna Porcine. Her fate would have been marrying some minor sultan unless she could be ransomed. No one came to her aid and her father a small time diplomat did not have the fund. One brave American soul stepped up to the plate and got a loan for 5,000 dollars. The young girl was redeemed but he was in dept. The Turk that he bought her from would later jack the dept up to 40 thousand dollars. Eaton would later return to the states as a minor disgrace.
Years later in the 1790’s the pirates would continue their merciless plunder and the US under president Jefferson had decided it appropriate to take military action. So the Navy was sent. One ship in particular engaged the Tripoli navy only to end up getting beached upon a reef outside of Tripoli. 300 Navy men were captured and 7 officers. The Navy men were put into, fed meager rations and worked like slave. The officers were taken to Pasha Yuseff’s apartment and were fed with fine foods and drink. Their captivity would last four years.
The man who volunteered for the job of rescuing the imprisoned Americans was William Eaton. Along with 7 other Marines his job was to find Pasha Hemet Bey the rightful ruler and with an army of irregulars he would lead a ground assault against Tripoli and put Hemet in power. Hemet would not condone piracy and would not make the Americans or anyone else pay tribute.
William Eaton had quite an adventure. The United States government was less then truthful. Various officer would tie up the delivery of needed fund . The irregulars would often balk and try to skim for higher wages then what was originally bargained for. The irregulars consisted of Muslims and Middle Eastern Christians an these two groups did not get along. The US pursued a diplomatic tact and a military one. The two would sort of cancel each other out.
Eaton became a hero for a while and Jefferson was temporarily noted for being soft. Eaton would later be bitter at the American weakness and end up turning into an alcoholic. But seriously read the book it has juicy details.
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