Stephen Decatur - Second Barbary War

Second Barbary War

Now that war with Britain was over, the United States could concentrate on pressing matters in the Mediterranean, at Algiers. As had occurred during the First Barbary War American merchant ships and crews were once again being seized and held for large ransoms. On February 23, 1815, President Madison urged Congress to declare war. Congress approved the act and on March 2 declared war against Algiers. Madison had chosen Benjamin Williams Crowninshield as the new Secretary of the Navy, replacing William Jones.

Two squadrons were then assembled, one at New York, under the command of Stephen Decatur, and one at Boston, under the command of Commodore William Bainbridge. Decatur's squadron of ten ships was ready first and set sail for Algiers on May 20. At this time it was the largest US fleet ever assembled. Decatur was in command of the flagship USS Guerriere. Aboard was William Shaler who had just been appointed by Madison as the consul-general for the Barbary States, acting as joint commissioner with Commodores Decatur and Bainbridge. Shaler was in possession of a letter authorizing them to negotiate terms of peace with the Algerian government. Because of Decatur's great successes in the War of 1812 and for his knowledge of and past experience at the Algerian port, Crowninshield chose him to command the lead ship in the naval squadron to Algiers.

The US was demanding the release of Americans held captive as slaves, an end of annual payments of tribute, and finally to procure favorable prize agreements. Decatur was prepared to negotiate peace or resort to military measures. Eager to know the Bey's decision, Decatur dispatched the president's letter which ultimately prompted the Bey to abandon his practice of piracy and kidnapping and come to terms with the United States.

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