Thomas Jefferson And The Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History Book Review

This is a story of a fledgling new nation that did not have much of a budget and saddled with war debt, that was challenged by four Muslim powers in Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, and Morocco,  The rulers had sustained their realms on the booty and ransom extracted from European and latter American merchant ships.

American merchant ships were swarmed by the Barbary pirates and the crew held captive, many remained captive for ten years under cruel conditions.  Negotiation and ransom payments were tried, which the young country could not afford.   The “Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and Tripoli” was signed in 1796, an attempt to appease the enemy.  It did not work.  The alternative was a war to stand up to intimidation and lawlessness.

Before Jefferson assumed office Congress would authorize the forming of a U.S. Navy.  Thomas Jefferson, our third president, decided to take on the Barbary powers in a war, something European powers chose not to do.  A new nation took on Muslim despots and pirates with a mixture of diplomacy enforced by naval forces.

The book begins in1785 when the American merchant ship the Dauphin was intercepted off the coast of Portugal by an Algerian ship.  The crew was captured and shipped to Algiers to spend years in slavery under the Ottomans.

Trek alongside William Eaton and an army of Marines, Navy midshipmen, Arabs, and Bedouins from Alexandria, across the Libyan Desert to Derne to Tripoli.  The first Marine hero was Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon the ‘hero of Derne’.  A well-known phrase in the opening lines of the Marines’ Hymn commemorates this time “the shores of Tripoli.”

Read about Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, the leadership of Edward Preble, Stephen Decatur and many more.  Learn of the fighting prowess of Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon and other men.  From the victory in the Barbary Wars would emerge U. S. forces, sea and land, that could fight as a unit in a war far from home against an enemy.

An action-packed easy to read history that captures the times, diplomacy and politics that led up to the Barbary Wars and the triumphant aftermath.

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger is available at Amazon.