Originally called the Naval Monument and today known as the Tripoli Monument, this fifteen-foot marble memorial stood in the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. from 1808-1831 before being moved to the west facade of the U.S. Capitol, where it remained until 1860. Finally, in November of that year, Congress relocated it to its current location: the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
To quote from Janet Headley’s article The Monument without a Public: The Case of the Tripolitan Monument (1994), it “features a naval device known as a rostral column, flanked by a figure of Fame. Personifications of history, commerce, and America are placed on three corners of the free-stone base. The fourth corner is curiously empty. Such an ambitious fusion of architecture and sculpture obviously taxed the executive skills of its creator.”
Lieutenant David Porter, a veteran of the Tripolitan War and one of the Philadelphia hostages, commissioned the monument to honor six naval officers who died in 1804 (James Caldwell, Stephen Decatur, Thomas Dorsey, Joseph Israel, Richard Somers, and Henry Wadsworth). Porter traveled to Rome in 1806 and he hired a sculptor named Charles Micali. The monument drew upon British naval memorials such as the Monument to Captains Bayne, Blair, and Manners and the Monument to Admiral John Baker. The Tripoli Monument arrived in Boston in October 1807, packaged in fifty-one crates.
According to Headley, the monument never achieved much popularity. It had an awkward location near the Capitol, being concealed within a garden. Further, its symbols became outdated by the 1830s—viewers were confused by the Tripoli Monument. Today, the Tripoli Monument remains largely unknown to the public.
Arguably, the greatest monument to the Barbary conflicts is the six-volume collection (spanning 1785-1807) of correspondence, maps, and images compiled and published by the Office of Naval Records and Library from 1934-1938, under the supervision of Captain Dudley W. Knox. In the forward to the first volume, President Franklin Roosevelt underscores the importance of the Barbary conflict to understanding America’s diplomatic, economic, legal, naval and political history.
Anyone with internet access can access the collection for free at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/ 000367640
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