1804 - America and the Barbary States - Capture of the Philadelphia, Bombardment of Tripoli


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 America and the Barbary States 294

permitted to be made fast to the frigate's fore chains, by which the Intrepid hauled herself alongside.

Lieutenant Decatur and his party now gallantly sprang, on board, and, rushing upon the alarmed Tripolitans, killed about 20, and quickly subdued the remainder. Having thus, in a much easier manner than could have been anticipated, got possession of the Philadelphia, Lieutenant Decatur directed her to be set on fire ; which was done so promptly and effectively, that the Intrepid herself was nearly involved in the flames. A fine wind from the land, however, at that moment sprang up ; and the ketch, profiting by it, soon ran out of the harbour with the gallant party who had so fully executed the bold and perilous service intrusted to them. Although, as soon as the Tripolitans on shore had ascertained that the Philadelphia was in their enemy's possession, the forts and surrounding vessels opened a fire upon her, the Americans were so fortunate as to escape with only four men wounded.

In the course of the summer, at two or three different period the American squadron, assisted by some Neapolitan gun-boats and bomb-vessels, bombarded the town and batteries of Tripoli ; and lieutenant, or rather captain (for he then had been deservedly promoted), Decatur, who commanded a gun-boat again greatly distinguished himself. " Captain Decatur, " says Mr. Clark, having grappled a Tripolitan boat and boarded her with only 15 Americans ; in 10 minutes her decks were cleared and she was captured. Three Americans were wounded. At this moment Captain Decatur was informed that the gun-boat commanded by his brother (Lieutenant James Decatur), had captured a boat belonging to the enemy; but that his brother as he was stepping on board was treacherously shot by the Tripolitan commander, who made off with his boat. Captain Decatur immediately pursued the murderer, who was retreating within the lines ; having succeeded in coming alongside, he boarded with only 11 men. A doubtful contest of 20 minutes ensued. Decatur immediately attacked the Tripolitan commander, who was armed with a spear and cutlass. In parrying the Turk's spear, Decatur broke his sword close to the hilt, and received a slight wound in the right arm and breast; but, having seized the spear, he closed ; and after a violent struggle, both fell, Decatur uppermost. The Turk then drew a dagger from his belt ; but Decatur caught hold of his arm, drew a pistol from his pocket, and shot him."

An exploit fully equal to this is recorded of another American officer. " Lieutenant Trippe boarded one of the enemy's large boats, with only a midshipman, Mr. Jonathan Henley, and nine men, his boat falling off before any more could join him. He was thus left either to perish, or to conquer 36 men with only 11. Though at first the victory seemed doubtful, yet, in a few minutes, the Tripolitans were subdued ; 14 of them were killed,

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