On 3 August 1804, Commodore Edward Preble’s Mediterranean Squadron launched the first of a series of bombardments on the harbor of Tripoli. Designed to destroy the defending batteries and sink enemy ships, the bombardments were a part of the blockade that Preble had established in 1803. During the course of the day-long bombardment, US forces also engaged Tripolitan gunboats which were harassing the blockading squadron. In the course of the battle Lieutenant James Decatur was killed along with two other officers wounded and 10 Seamen and Marines wounded.In this painting by Dennis Malone Carter, Decatur’s famous brother Stephen is depicted in mortal combat with the Tripolitan Captain. NHHC image NH 44647-KN.

BOOK REVIEW: The Great Expedition – Sir Francis Drake on the Spanish Main, 1585-86

By Angus Konstam, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England, (2011).

Reviewed by Charles Bogart

For the past decade, Osprey Publishing has been producing high quality, well illustrated books on various military affairs. This book is part of their Raid Series and tells the story of Sir Francis Drake’s raid on Spanish possessions in the Caribbean Sea. With a force of 21 small ships and 1,800 men, Drake, in 1585, captured and plundered the cities of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) and Cartagena (Columbia). This raid was planned to show the military weakness of the Spanish colonial empire, from which the Spanish Crown drew the gold and silver it needed to fight its battles of conquest in Europe.

(read the full review here)

On 22 March 1820, Commodore Stephen Decatur, a hero of the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812, died after a duel with Captain James Barron at Bladensburg, Maryland. Barron’s career had never recovered from the surrender of USS Chesapeake to HMS Leopard in 1807, and he blamed Decatur for criticism of his leadership during that brief battle.

This 1858 engraving of Decatur was by G.R. Hall, after a painting by Alonzo Chappel. (NHHC Photo NH 50524)

On March 3 1883 - Congress authorizes 4 modern ships of steel, “A,B,C, D Ships”; three cruisers, Atlanta, Boston and Chicago, and dispatch boat Dolphin. This poster shows scenes on board Atlanta, circa 1886. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 57439.