Roamy here. Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of the United States Marine Corps, and of course, you know the line in the Marine hymn, “to the shores of Tripoli”, referencing the First Barbary War.
Tripoli was a Berber state, nominally governed by the Ottoman Empire. In October 1803, the frigate USS Philadelphia had run aground and her crew taken prisoner. Tripoli was using it as a gun battery. The US Navy, in turn, had captured a Tripolitan ketch and rechristened it the USS Intrepid. In February 1804, it was disguised as a Maltese merchant ship for a daring raid where Lieutenant Stephen Decatur and his men recaptured the Philadelphia in 10 minutes. Unable to move her, they then burned the Philadelphia.
The Intrepid would return to Tripoli that September as a fire ship, intended to take out as many of the corsairs as possible. Unfortunately, it exploded prematurely, killing Master Commandant Richard Somers and his crew. Eight of the 13 sailors are buried beneath Green Square (aka Martyrs Square) in Tripoli, with the other five buried in a nearby cemetery normally used for diplomats. Several politicians have been involved in trying to transfer the crew’s remains back home, now that Gaddafi is gone.
Your thoughts, dear reader, on whether they should be brought home, or if Tripoli is their final resting place?
The Tripoli Monument at Annapolis honors three of the men killed in the Intrepid explosion – Somers, Henry Wadsworth (uncle to the poet Longfellow), and Joseph Israel. It also honors James Decatur (younger brother of Stephen), James Caldwell, and John Dorsey, who were killed during the bombardment of Tripoli in August 1804.
There are so many people who serve who aren’t remembered in Italian marble or Wikipedia. I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the veterans who have served our country – Happy Veterans Day to all of you.