Final Wars of 1815

Following the Tripolitan War and the Mellimelli mission, the United States had a tenuous peace with the Barbary pirates.  Tensions with Britain (especially over impressment) took center stage in foreign affairs and ultimately led to the War of 1812.  During this conflict, Algiers captured an American merchant ship (the Edwin) and enslaved the captain and ten crewmembers.  Algiers also seized an American travelling in a Spanish vessel.  The Dey correctly surmised that the U.S. Navy could not retaliate while fighting Britain.  Following the end of the War of 1812, however, Congress declared war against Algiers and President James Madison dispatched two formidable squadrons to the Mediterranean (the first commanded by Stephen Decatur and the second by William Bainbridge).

Decatur’s fleet arrived in the Mediterranean in June 1815 and quickly defeated two Algerine ships, killing the admiral in battle and taking nearly five-hundred prisoners.  Upon arriving in Algiers, Decatur dictated the terms of a new treaty in which the United States would no longer pay tribute and would receive the remaining ten hostages (two had been ransomed earlier).

 

Captain Steven Decatur, Jr.; reproduced from an original portrait by Rembrandt Peale held by the New York Historical Society.

Captain Steven Decatur, Jr.; reproduced from an original portrait by Rembrandt Peale held by the New York Historical Society.

Decatur then went to Tunis and demanded financial compensation from the Bey for his having permitted a British brig to seize two American prize ships from Tunis’s harbor.  The Bey readily paid $46,000.  Next, Decatur sailed to Tripoli (still ruled by Yusuf Karamanli) and demanded $30,000 for the bashaw having allowed a British vessel to take two American prize ships from Tripoli’s harbor.  Decatur settled for $25,000 since Yusuf agreed to liberate ten European slaves (including a man who had aided the Philadelphia captives during the Tripolitan War).

 

Thus, the powerful U.S. Navy permanently ended America’s troubles with the Barbary States.  European powers soon emulated America’s example—a joint British and Dutch fleet heavily bombarded Algiers in 1816 and forced to Dey to free all of his European slaves.  France’s invasion of Algiers in 1830 marked the end of Barbary piracy.

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