1804 - America and the Barbary States - War with Tripoli


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 America and the Barbary States 292

sail in shore, under Tripolitan colours, standing before the wind to the eastward. The Philadelphia soon opened her fire, and continued it until 11 h. 30 m. a.m.: when, being in seven fathoms' water, and finding that he could not prevent the vessel entering Tripoli, Captain Bainbridge discontinued the pursuit. In working off from the shore under her topsails, and when about four miles and a half from the town of Tripoli, the Philadelphia struck upon a rock not laid down in the charts. A boat was immediately lowered to sound : and, the greatest depth of water appearing to be astern, the topgallantsails were set, and all the sails thrown flat aback. Three anchors also were cut from the bows, the water in the hold started, and the guns thrown overboard excepting a few abaft, to defend the ship against the attacks of the Tripolitan gun-boats then firing at her. All this, however, proved ineffectual ; as did the attempt to lighten the ship forward, by cutting away the foremast. About sunset, observing a reinforcement of gun-boats approaching from Tripoli, and having no means of defence left, the Philadelphia hauled down her colours. The Tripolitans immediately took possession of the American frigate, and made prisoners of the officers and men ; whose number, fortunately, did not at this time exceed 300. About 48 hours afterwards, by great exertions and a strong breeze in their favour, the Tripolitans got the Philadelphia afloat, and towed her into the harbour.

Before we proceed to give an account of the performances of American seamen, the introduction of a few lines, published eight years ago, and not since, to our knowledge, impugned, will render it probable, that we may yet be recording, in part, the exploits of British seamen : " It is fresh in the recollection of many officers of the British navy, how difficult it was, at this period, to keep the seamen from deserting to the Americans. The short peace of 1803 occasioned many of our ships to be paid off ; and the nature of the service upon which the Americans were engaged, held forth a strong inducement to the manly feelings of the British tar. It was not to raise his arm against his own countrymen, but against barbarians, whose foul deeds excited indignation in every generous breast. The Americans cannot deny, that the complements of their ships in the Tripolitan war consisted chiefly of British seamen, supplied by a Scotch renegado at New-York, and by numerous other crimps in the different seaport towns of the United States ; and that those complements were afterwards filled up, by similar means, at Cadiz and other ports of the Mediterranean. Was not Commodore Preble, on account of being detected in some transaction of this sort, obliged to shorten his stay at Gibraltar, and to fix Syracuse, instead of Malta, for his next rendezvous ? To such as know the facility with which, either in the ships or on the shores, of the United States, a deserter, or an emigrant, can obtain his naturalization, the term " American " requires an epithet to render it intelligible.

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