Carry All By The Sword: Stephen Decatur Burns The “Philadelphia”

We have noted elsewhere that the young United States went to war against the Barbary principalities of northern Africa in 1801.  President Jefferson found the continued payment of tribute to these piratical opportunists to be obnoxious, and resolved to punish the corsairs militarily.  Tripoli returned the favor by declaring war on the Americans.  Sword and bullet would now settle the matter. 

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Stephen Decatur Personally Fights And Kills An Enemy Captain

Stephen Decatur ranks as one of the greatest of America’s early naval commanders.  His only equal in bravery and fighting prowess was John Paul Jones.  He was the kind of man who could not sit by the sidelines and watch a fight play out; he had to be in the thick of the action, issuing commands, and inhaling the sulphurous smoke of battle.  Yet he was no rash hothead; his decisions, while bold and daring, were always based on a sound consideration of military realities. 

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Memory Of The Fallen: The Work Of Fabian Ware

Continental Europe is dotted with serene and beautiful cemeteries from the First and Second World Wars.  They are also found in the Dardanelles, holding the fallen of the Gallipoli campaign.  They are ordered, serene, well-kept, and dignified with the solemnity that supreme sacrifice confers.  Tourists now visit them frequently, strolling among the chiseled headstones that sprout like white flowers amid seas of green.  

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A Chivalric Duel Transcending Death: The “Constitution” Clashes With The “Java”

William Bainbridge ranks among the very greatest of the early American naval commanders.  Born in Princeton, New Jersey in 1774 to a father who was a prominent physician, he was apprenticed to the sea at the ripe age of fifteen.  Even as a teenager, his actions and deportment marked him as fated for great things. 

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The “Constitution” Escapes Certain Capture

The fabled USS Constitution is still the oldest commissioned vessel in the US Navy.  Just the sight of her in Charlestown drydock is enough to quicken the pulse of any man entranced by feats of heroism and valor.  A relic from an era when warships circled each other at sea like snarling dogs, she tallied an extraordinary list of accomplishments during her active service life.  We will here relate the tale of her escape from almost certain capture by a squadron of British ships during the War of 1812.    

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Perry Captures The British Fleet At Lake Erie

A glance at a map of Lake Erie quickly reveals its strategic importance to the belligerents of the War of 1812.  The lake sits atop what was then the western boundary of the United States.  The British were in control of Canada; with the waters of Lake Erie at their disposal, they would be able to ferry armies into positions allowing them to launch attacks on western Pennsylvania and New York, and proceed from there to America’s east coast cities. 

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The Defense Of The “General Armstrong”

Samuel Chester Reid was born in 1783 and first went to sea at the age of eleven.  Various adventures, including time as a captured prisoner of the French at Basse-terre in the Carribbean, honed his resourceful instincts; and privateering seemed a logical choice of career.  Upon the outbreak of the War of 1812, Reid assumed command of the brig General Armstrong.  She sailed from New York with a crew of about ninety men, composed of the expected assortment of adventurers, rogues, and merchant sailors. 

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A Well-Timed Ruse: The “Peacock” Captures The “Epervier”

The naval actions of the War of 1812 are instructive for several reasons.  These derive from the particular circumstances of the war, and from the nature of armed conflict in general.  In the War of 1812, the United States was at a significant disadvantage to her British adversary; the British navy was the best in the world, able to project power across the world in a way that the US Navy could not.  British officers were in general better trained and equipped, and often could rely on numerical superiority in engagements at sea. 

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The Strength Of Organized And Cumulative Effort

When studying the history of the exploration of the African continent, one is struck by the relative recentness of our acquisition of its geographic details.  Ancient man undoubtedly mounted expeditions here and there, but none of them has left a lasting modern mark.  Egyptians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and Romans eventually contented themselves with an awareness of the continent’s general contours.  Its interior they count not penetrate; deserts, mountains, rain forests, disease, heat, and hostile native peoples proved too forbidding.    

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