Second Barbary War: Wikis


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Second Barbary War
Part of Barbary Wars
Decatur's Squadron off Algiers
Date 1815
Location Mediterranean sea, Barbary states
Result American victory
 United States
 United Kingdom
 United Kingdom of the Netherlands
Ottoman Empire Algiers
United States Stephen Decatur, Jr.
United States William Bainbridge
Ottoman EmpireDey of Algeria
10 United States Ships Numerous ships of the Barbary Pirates
Casualties and losses
United States:
4 killed
10 wounded
United Kingdom:
818 killed or wounded
7,000 killed
500 captured

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 Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunis, known collectively as the Barbary States. The war would effectively be ended the following year, but then not by the United States, rather Great Britain and the Netherlands. The war brought to an end to the American practice of paying tribute to the pirate states and was one of the events marking the beginning of the end of the age 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.



After its victory in the First Barbary War (1801–1805), the attention of the United States was diverted to its worsening relationship with the United Kingdom over trade with France, which culminated into 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.

War between USA and Algiers began in 1815. The war would effectively be ended the following year, but then not by the USA, rather Great Britain and the Netherlands. This was a second war after the First Barbary War, which ended 10 years earlier. The background for the war was the continued attacks from Barbary pirates on US vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, and disagreements as to the level of tribute to be paid to the pirates.


Paying ransom

Unable to devote military resources and political will to the situation, the United States quietly recommenced paying ransom for return of the prisoners. At the same time, the major European powers were still involved in the Napoleonic Wars which did not fully end until 1815.

Declaration of War

The expulsion of American vessels from the Mediterranean during the War of 1812 by the British navy further emboldened the pirate nations in their attacks on US flagged vessels. Umar ben Muhammad, Dey of Algiers, the "Omar Bashaw" of the 1815 treaty, expelled the US consul general Tobias Lear and declared war on the United States for failing to pay its required tribute.[citation needed]

United States' response

At the conclusion of the War of 1812, however, America could once again turn its sights on North Africa. On March 3, 1815, the US Congress authorized deployment of naval power against Algiers, and a force of ten ships was dispatched under the command of Commodores Stephen Decatur, Jr. and William Bainbridge, both veterans of the First Barbary War. Decatur's squadron departed for the Mediterranean on May 20, 1815. Bainbridge's command was still assembling, and did not depart until July 1, thereby missing the military and diplomatic initiatives which Decatur swiftly and decisively handled.[citation needed]


Shortly after departing Gibraltar en route to Algiers, Decatur's squadron encountered the Algerian flagship Meshuda, and, after a sharp action, captured it. Not long afterward, the American squadron likewise captured the Algerian brig Estedio. By the final week of June, the squadron had reached Algiers and had initiated negotiations with the Dey. After persistent demands for recompensation 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 while the Algerians returned all American captives, estimated to be about ten, and a significant proportion of European captives were exchanged for about five hundred subjects of the Dey[1] along with $10,000 in payment for seized shipping. The treaty guaranteed no further tributes[2] and granted the United States full shipping rights.


Shortly after Decatur set off for Tunis to negotiate a similar agreement with the Dey of Tunis and enforce prior agreements with the Pasha of Tripoli, the Dey repudiated the treaty.

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 the Christian slaves. The Deys 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 managed to negotiate a treaty to stop the slavery of Christians and returned to England. However, due to confused orders, Algerian troops massacred 200 Corsican, Sicilian and Sardinian fishermen who were under British protection just after the treaty was signed. 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 smaller frigates, later reinforced by a small flotilla of 6 Dutch ships.

On the August 27 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 & shore batteries, coercing him into accepting a peace offer of the same terms as he had presented the day before. He warned that if they were not accepted that he would continue the action. The Dey accepted the terms, not realising that they were a bluff as the fleet had already fired off all of its ammunition.

A treaty was signed on September 24, 1816. 1,083 Christian slaves and the British Consul were freed and the US ransom money repaid.

Unlike after the First Barbary War, in which the European nations were engaged in warfare with one another (and the US with the British) there was no general European war after the Second Barbary War. Consequently the age of colonization and imperialism allowed the Europeans to build up their resources and challenge Barbary power in the Mediterranean without distraction.

Over the following century, Algiers and Tunis became colonies of France in 1830 and 1881 respectively, while Tripoli returned to the control of the Ottoman Empire in 1835. In 1911, taking advantage of the power vacuum left by the fading Ottoman Empire, Italy assumed control of the colony. Europeans remained in control of the government in eastern North Africa until the mid-twentieth 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.

See also


  1. ^ "the United States according to the usages of civilized nations requiring no ransom for the excess of prisoners in their favor." Article3.
  2. ^ "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.

External links


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