To the Shores of Tripoli: The Birth of the U.S. Navy and Marines

A. B. C. Whipple, Author William Morrow & Company $23 (357p) ISBN 978-0-688-08781-4
For centuries, Barbary Coast pirates had been terrorizing merchant shippers and forcing their governments to pay tribute--until the frigate Philadelphia was captured in 1803 and President Thomas Jefferson decided to put an end to the extortion. Whipple ( The Challenge ) shows how the Barbary War in the early 19th century included the first major challenge to U.S. foreign policy, America's first hostage crisis and the first subversive plot to overthrow the head of an unfriendly government (the war also served as the first proving ground of the U.S. Navy and Marines). Jefferson sent four successive naval squadrons against Tripoli. All failed to gain the release of the Philadelphia 's crew. Finally, an Army captain named William Eaton (``one of the lost heroes of U.S. history'') led a handful of Marines and a polyglot mercenary mob on a 500-mile epic journey across the Libyan desert. Their capture of the city of Derna led indirectly to the release of the prisoners and a treaty (1805), but did not end the threat of piracy to U.S. shipping. Whipple's vigorous you-are-there style brings to life all the color and drama of this neglected period in American history. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1991
Release date: 07/01/1991
Paperback - 360 pages - 978-1-55750-966-6
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