Second Barbary War

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The Second Barbary War (1815), also known as the Algerine or Algerian War, was the second of two wars fought between the United States and the Ottoman Empire's North African regencies of Tripoli, Tunis, and Algeria, known collectively as the Barbary states. The war between the Barbary states and the U.S. ended in 1815; the international dispute would effectively be ended the following year by Great Britain and the Netherlands.

After the end of the war, the United States and European nations stopped their practice of paying tribute to the pirate states to forestall attacks on their shipping. It helped mark the beginning of the end of piracy in that region, which had been rampant in the days of Ottoman domination (16th–18th centuries). Within decades, European powers built ever more sophisticated and expensive ships which the Barbary pirates could not match in numbers or technology.[1]


After the First Barbary War (1801–1805), the U.S. found its attention diverted to its worsening relationship with Great Britain over trade with France, which culminated in the War of 1812. The Barbary pirate states took this opportunity to return to their practice of attacking American and European merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea and holding their crews and officers for ransom.

At the same time, the major European powers were still involved in the Napoleonic Wars, which did not fully end until 1815.

United States' response

At the conclusion of the War of 1812, however, the United States returned to the problem of Barbary piracy. On 3 March 1815, the U.S. Congress authorized deployment of naval power against Algiers, and two squadrons were assembled and readied for war. The squadron under the command of Commodore William Bainbridge was ported in Boston, Massachusetts while Commodore Stephen Decatur's squadron was at New York. Decatur's squadron was ready to set sail first and departed 20 May 1815. It comprised the frigates USS Guerriere, the flagship with 44 guns, commanded by Captain William Lewis; Constellation with 36 guns, commanded by Captain Charles Gordon; and Macedonia with 38 guns, under the command of Captain Jacob Jones; the sloops-of-war HMS Epervier (1812), commanded by Captain John Downes, and Ontario with 16 guns, commanded by Captain Jesse D. Elliott; the brigs Firefly, Spark and Flambeau, each with 14 guns, commanded by Lieutenants George W. Kodgers, Thomas Gamble, and John B. Nicholson; and the schooners Torch and Spitfire, both with 12 guns, commanded by Lieutenants Wolcott Chauncey and Alexander J. Dallas. Mr. William Shaler.[2]

Bainbridge's command was still assembling, and did not depart until 1 July, missing the actions.[3]


Shortly after departing Gibraltar en route to Algiers, Decatur's squadron encountered the Algerian flagship Meshuda, and, in the Battle off Cape Gata, captured it. Not long afterward, the American squadron likewise captured the Algerian brig Estedio off Cape Palos. By the final week of June, the squadron had reached Algiers and had initiated negotiations with the Dey. After the United States made persistent demands for compensation, mingled with threats of destruction, the Dey capitulated. By terms of the treaty signed aboard the Guerriere in the Bay of Algiers, 3 July 1815, Decatur agreed to return the captured Meshuda and Estedio. The Algerians returned all American captives, estimated to be about 10, and a significant number of European captives[citation needed] were exchanged for about 500 subjects of the Dey.[4] Algeria also paid $10,000 for seized shipping. The treaty guaranteed no further tributes by the United States[5] and granted the United States full shipping rights in the Mediterranean Sea.


In early 1816, Britain undertook a diplomatic mission, backed by a small squadron of ships of the line, to Tunis, Tripoli, and Algiers to convince the Deys to stop their piracy and free enslaved European Christians. The Beys of Tunis and Tripoli agreed without any resistance, but the Dey of Algiers was more recalcitrant, and the negotiations were stormy. The leader of the diplomatic mission, Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth, believed that he had negotiated a treaty to stop the slavery of Christians and returned to England. However, due to confused orders, just after the treaty was signed, Algerian troops massacred 200 Corsican, Sicilian and Sardinian fishermen who had been classified as under British protection. This caused outrage in Britain and Europe, and Exmouth's negotiations were seen as a failure.

As a result, Exmouth was ordered to sea again to complete the job and punish the Algerians. He gathered a squadron of five ships of the line, reinforced by a number of frigates, later reinforced by a flotilla of six Dutch ships. On 27 August 1816, following a round of failed negotiations, the fleet delivered a punishing nine-hour bombardment of Algiers. The attack immobilized many of the Dey's corsairs and shore batteries, forcing him to accept a peace offer of the same terms as he had rejected the day before. Exmouth warned that if these terms were not accepted, he would continue the action. The Dey accepted the terms, but Exmouth had been bluffing; his fleet had already spent all its ammunition.

A treaty was signed on 24 September 1816. The British Consul and 1,083 other Christian slaves were freed, and the U.S. ransom money repaid.[citation needed]

After the First Barbary War, the European nations had been engaged in warfare with one another (and the U.S. with the British). However, in the years immediately following the Second Barbary War, there was no general European war. This allowed the Europeans to build up their resources and challenge Barbary power in the Mediterranean without distraction. Over the following century, Algiers and Tunis were colonized by France in 1830 and 1881, respectively. In 1835, Tripoli returned to the control of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1911, taking advantage of the power vacuum left by the fading Ottoman Empire, Italy assumed control of Tripoli. Europeans remained in control of colonial governments in eastern North Africa until the mid-20th century. By then the iron-clad warships of the late 19th century and dreadnoughts of the early 20th century ensured European dominance of the Mediterranean sea.[citation needed]

See also

Further reading

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  4. "the United States according to the usages of civilized nations requiring no ransom for the excess of prisoners in their favor." Article3.
  5. "It is distinctly understood between the Contracting parties, that no tribute either as biennial presents, or under any other form or name whatever, shall ever be required by the Dey and Regency of Algiers from the United States of America on any pretext whatever." Article 2.
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External links