A Pirate’s Tale

A little known fact is that for three centuries Muslim pirates from North Africa raided European territory and shipping to capture and enslave tens if not hundreds of thousands of European (and later American) men, women and children. Those who were wealthy might be ransomed but most of the captives were doomed to a short life of forced labor or the worse fate of galley slaves who rowed the pirates’ ships until they died.  European nations, however, were able to pay off the North African leaders. When the Americans were captured and enslaved, the Americans attacked the pirate stronghold twice. Stephen Decatur was famous leading these assaults. The pirates learned the hard way not to attack Americans.  Please check out the story about brave Americans who wouldn’t stand for oppression and pass it on.  (ps I’m surviving Nano – barely.) Rita Bay

USS Philadelphia

NEARLY a hundred years have passed since the ship “Philadelphia” was burned. But the brave sailors who did it will never be forgotten. The people of Tripoli in Africa were pirates. They took the ships of other nations at sea. They made slaves of their prisoners. The friends of these slaves sometimes sent money to buy their freedom. Some countries paid money to these pirates to let their ships go safe.

Our country had trouble with the pirates. This trouble brought on a war. Our ships were sent to fight against Tripoli. One of the ships fighting against the pirates was called the “Philadelphia.” One day she was chasing a ship of Tripoli. The “Philadelphia” ran on the rocks. The sailors could not get her off. The pirates came and fought her as she lay on the rocks. They took her men prisoners. Then they went to work to get her off. After a long time they got her into deep water. They took her to Tripoli. Our ships could not go there after her, because there were so many great cannons on the shore near the ship.

Stephen Decatur

The pirates got the “Philadelphia” ready to go to sea. They loaded her cannons. They meant to slip out past our ships of war. Then they would take a great many smaller American ships. But the Americans laid a plan to burn the “Philadelphia.” It was a very dangerous thing to try to do. The pirates had ships of war near the “Philadelphia.” They had great guns on the shore. There was no way to do it in the day-time. It could only be done by stealing into the Bay of Tripoli at night.

The Americans had taken a little vessel from the pirates. She was of the kind that is called a ketch. She had sails. She also had long oars. When there was no wind to sail with, the sailors could row her with the oars. This little ketch was sent one night to burn the “Philadelphia.” The captain of this boat was Stephen Decatur. He was a young man, and very brave.Decaturmade his men lie down, so that the pirates would not know how many men he had on his ketch. Only about ten men were in sight. The rest were lying hidden on the boat.

Battle with Pirates

They came near to the “Philadelphia.” It was about ten o’clock at night. The pirates called to them. The pilot of the ketch told them that he was from Malta. He told them that he had come to sell things to the people of Tripoli. He said that the ketch had lost her anchor. He asked them to let him tie her to the big ship till morning. The pirates sent out a rope to them. But when the ketch came nearer, the pirates saw that they had been fooled. They cried out,” Americans, Americans !

Then the Americans lying down took hold of the rope and pulled with all their might, and drew the ketch close to the ship. They were so close, that the ship’s cannons were over their heads. The pirates could not fire at them.

The men who had been lying still now rose up. There were eighty of them. In a minute they were scrambling up the sides of the big ship. Some went in one way, some another. They did not shoot. They fought with swords and pikes, or short spears. Soon they drove the pirates to one side of the ship. Then they could hear the pirates jumping over into the water. In a few minutes the pirates had all gone.

But the Americans could not stay long. They must burn the ship before the pirates on the shore should find out what they were doing. They had brought a lot of kindling on the ketch. They built fires in all parts of the ship. The fire ran so fast, that some of the men had trouble to get off the ship. When the Americans got back on the ketch, they could not untie the rope that held the ketch to the ship. The big ship was bursting into flames. The ketch would soon take fire.They took swords and hacked the big rope in two. Then they pushed hard to get away from  the fire. The ketch began to move. The sailors took the large oars and rowed. They were soon safe from the fire. All this they had done without any noise. But, now that they had got away, they looked back. The fire was shooting up toward the sky. The men stopped rowing, and they gave three cheers. They were so glad, that they could not help it.

By this time the pirates on shore had waked up. They began to fire great cannon balls at the little ketch. One of the balls went through her sails. Ah! how the sailors rowed. The whole sky was now lighted up by the fire. The pirates’ cannons were thundering. The can­non balls were splashing the water all round the ketch. But the Americans got away. At last they were safe in their own ships. 

SOURCE:  Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans                                                      By Samuel Eggleston                                                                                                           American Book Co  1893                                                                                                       Digitized by Google                                                                                                                 Available for free download from Google Books

Tomorrow, Don’t Give Up the Ship  Rita Bay

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