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T O T H E WA L L S O F

DERNE

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T O T H E WA L L S O F

DERNE
WILLIAM EATON, THE TRIPOLI COUP
AND THE END OF THE FIRST BARBARY WAR

ts CHIPP REID st

NAVAL INSTITUTE PRESS


Annapolis, Maryland

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Publicity Manager: Jacqline Barnes; jbarnes@usni.org; 410-295-1028
This book has been brought to publication with the
generous assistance of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest.

Naval Institute Press


291 Wood Road
Annapolis, MD 21402

2017 by Chipp Reid


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying
and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the publisher.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Names: Reid, Chipp, author.
Title: To the walls of Derne : William Eaton, the Tripoli Coup, and the end
of the First Barbary War / Chipp Reid.
Description: Annapolis, Maryland : Naval Institute Press, 2017. | Includes
bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2017025946 | ISBN 9781612518138 (alk. paper) |
ISBN 9781612518145 (epdf) | ISBN 9781612518145 (mobi)
Subjects: LCSH: United StatesHistoryTripolitan War, 18011805
Biography. | United StatesHistoryTripolitan War, 18011805
Campaigns. | Eaton, William, 1764-1811. | Yusuf Basha
al-Qaramanli, Ruler of Tripoli, 1838. | Darnah (Libya)History,
Military19th century.
Classification: LCC E335 .R453 2017 | DDC 973.4/7dc23 LC
record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017025946

Print editions meet the requirements of ANSI/NISO z39.481992


(Permanence of Paper). Printed in the United States of America.

25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
First printing

Maps were created by Chris Robinson.

Copyright U.S. Naval Institute. Not for distribution.


Publicity Manager: Jacqline Barnes; jbarnes@usni.org; 410-295-1028
To my Uncles
Carmine Braccia and Nicholas Braccia

I have no words but thank you.


xyx

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Publicity Manager: Jacqline Barnes; jbarnes@usni.org; 410-295-1028
CONTENTS
ttstt

Preface - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ix

1 Shores of Tripoli- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -1
2 The General - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7
3 Brotherly Love - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 20
4 To Chastise the Bashaw - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 38
5 Dungeons and Diplomacy - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 51
6 Gathering Storm- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 67
7 Planning Stage - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 84
8 Washington Insider - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 96
9 Backroom Politics - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 109
10 Plans in Motion- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 122
11 Into Egypt- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 134
12 Waiting Game - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 148
13 Fears of the Unknown - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 161
14 A Few Good Men - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 175
15 An Army Grows in the Desert- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 189
16 The Road to Derne - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 202
17 Marches, Mutinies, and U.S. Marines- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 215
18 Battles for Derne- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 231
19 Duplicity and Deals - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 246
20 A Sad Truth - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 262
Epilogue- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 275

Notes - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 287
Bibliography - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 325
Index - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 335

g vii h

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stts 11
INTO EGYPT

The U.S. brig of war ARGUS looked tiny compared to the other
warships tied up in Alexandria harbor. There was a massive Turkish ship of
the line, four Turkish frigates, a French frigate, and a Spanish frigate. The
Turkish vessels had all rendered the correct honors to Master Comman-
dant Isaac Hull when the Argus entered the harbor on November 26,
although the French and Spanish ships had not. Hull didnt care. A pilot
who worked for the British consul had helped guide the Argus through the
tricky waters that led to the anchorage, and now Hull was waiting for word
as to when he would see the officials whom Malta governor Alexander Ball
had arranged for him and Eaton to meet.1
William Eaton keenly observed the Argus crew at work. He noted in
his journal the salutes the Argus rendered and received (he counted eigh-
teen guns from the Turks, not seventeen as Hull reported) and also noted
the slow going in the harbor.2 What he didnt record were his thoughts
as the American brig of war carried him closer to realizing his goal. Hull
soon welcomed Samuel Briggs on board. Briggs was the British consul in
Alexandria, and he offered to set up meetings with the Turkish officials in
the city.
Briggs was a polite, upright merchant engaged in what was then a new
venture, Egyptian cotton. When he read the letter of introduction from

g 134 h

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Publicity Manager: Jacqline Barnes; jbarnes@usni.org; 410-295-1028
Into Egypt n 135

Alexander Ball, Briggs was only too happy to aid the Americans. The con-
sul, however, had no idea of Eatons mission and sent Hull that evening
a note suggesting that Eaton come ashore at Admirals Wharf the next
morning. He promised to do what he could to help: I beg my compliments
to Mr. Eaton, and renew my assurances to both, that it will give me much
pleasure in my public, as well as private capacity to render you any service
in my power.3
Briggs was at the wharf at 9:30 a.m. the next day. He met Eaton, who
wore civilian clothes, and Hull, who was in full-dress uniform. He accom-
panied them to the home of the Turkish governor of the city, who was with
the Turkish squadron commander, an admiral. The Turks treated the Amer-
icans to an elaborate and long ceremony, aimed mostly at Hull, who was
the first American naval officer to pay an official visit to Alexandria. For
Eaton, perpetually in a rush, the ceremony was a necessary evil. He noted
in his diary merely that the Turks most hospitably received them.4 The
niceties over, Eaton quickly got down to business, steering the conversation
to Hamet. He asked if anyone knew the whereabouts of the deposed
bashaw of Tripoli. The Turks said nothing. Briggs told Eaton he had heard
that Hamet was somewhere well south of Cairo, where he had allegedly
joined a band of rebelling Mamelukes. Eaton thanked Briggs and the Turk-
ish officials for their hospitality and began making plans to go to Cairo.
He saw in Briggs an ally, and he wanted his country to benefit from the
Englishmans abilities. Eaton and Hull asked Briggs to become the U.S.
Navy agent in Alexandria. Briggs accepted, and Eaton duly notified Sec-
retary Smith of the offer, urging him to accept Briggs into U.S. service.5
The gateway to Cairo was the small port of Rosetta, where the Nile
emptied into the Mediterranean, and that was Eatons next destination.
He arranged with Hull to take with him several officers from the Argus
Lieutenant Joshua Blake, Midshipmen George Mann and Eli Danielson
(Eatons stepson), and First Lieutenant Presley OBannon, commander of
the brigs Marines. Eaton also brought Richard Farquhar, a Janissary inter-
preter named Selim, a servant named Ali, and six bodyguards. They
embarked for Rosetta on a small sloop on the twenty-eighth, but contrary
winds kept them in Alexandria. The next day the weather cleared, and Eaton

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Publicity Manager: Jacqline Barnes; jbarnes@usni.org; 410-295-1028
136 m Chapter Eleven

and his party set out. They stopped at Aboukir Bay at 4 p.m. The layover
allowed Eaton and his party to go ashore to visit the sites where the French
had fought two large land battles against the Turks and Mamelukes and
a massive naval battle against Horatio Nelsons British fleet. Everywhere
Eaton, OBannon, and the others walked, they found the ground covered
with human skeletons, ghastly monuments of the savage influence of ava-
rice and ambition on the human mind.6
Eatons party departed Aboukir the next day and arrived in Rosetta
on December 1, 1804. They raised an American flag over their craft and
waited. At two-thirty that afternoon, a barge appeared flying a large Brit-
ish flag. On board was the dragoman, or fixer, for Major Edward Missett,
the British resident in Cairo, who had lately taken refuge in Rosetta. Eaton
and Blake boarded the British barge and went ashore, where Eaton was
reunited with Dr. Francesco Mendrici, an old friend from Tunis who was
now the personal physician to the Turkish pasha in Egypt. The doctor was
sent out of [Tunis] about a year before me . . . for possessing dispositions
congenial to the interest of the Beys wife, Eaton explained to Smith.7 In
Missett Eaton seemed to find a kindred soul and he took an instant liking
to the Englishman.8 You will find in Major Missett all that can be com-
prised in the term a gentleman, with the frankness of an old soldier, we
certainly are very happy in our introductions from Governor Ball.9
Missett conducted Eatons party to his home, where he offered to help
Eaton as much as he could. He warned the Americans that travel to Cairo
might be perilous and offered to send his own secretary, a Captain Vincents,
and four armed bodyguards with them. The offer was more than Eaton
could have wished for, and in a typically rash moment he unreservedly
opened to him the object of my voyage.10 Eaton had previously covered
the real reason for his presence in Egypt by saying he and the officers were
simply sightseeing, taking in the grandeur of the ancient country. Missett
likely had advance warning of Eatons real mission from Ball, but whatever
he knew he kept to himself. As for his offers of aid, Eaton readily accepted.
He wrote Hull, I find my party increasing, and am very desirous of seeing
you here, that I may have the benefit of your advice in some measures I am
meditating, you will find the tour agreeable and I have no doubt useful.11

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Publicity Manager: Jacqline Barnes; jbarnes@usni.org; 410-295-1028
Into Egypt n 137

Missett had more information on Hamet than Briggs. Hamet was


indeed with a Mameluke sheik somewhere south of Cairo. Hamet com-
manded a small band of Tripolitan and Arab troops fighting alongside the
Mamelukes against the Turks, who were trying to restore their authority
over the country. This was good and bad news for Eaton. The good news
was he now had an idea of Hamets location. The bad news was Hamet
had been pulled into the Egyptian civil war. It put Hamet directly in con-
flict with Sultan Selim III, who would be Hamets nominal overlord if he
regained the throne in Tripoli. Eaton inquired about boats but found that
a religious chief had seized all of them, so he settled in for another
night at the home of the British consul. He took the time to prepare two
identical copies of a carefully worded message to the rightful bashaw,
informing him that Eaton was in Egypt and ready to help him regain his
throne. He also made it clear, however, he would not allow Hamets cur-
rent circumstances to draw the United States into the turmoil in Egypt
and wanted to be informed of the channel of communication with your
Excellency in such a manner as not to embroil my government with any of
the chiefs of this country.12
It was an important point, one Eaton knew he had to include if he
wanted to continue to receive support from the U.S. Navy. The United
States was already at war with a province of the Ottoman Empire, a con-
flict in which the Porte appeared content to let the Tripolitans essentially
reap what they sowed. Egypt was a very different story. There the Turks
were determined to restore their control. They wanted to reap the ben-
efits of the rich trade routes Egypt commanded, as well as the grain it
could provide to the rest of the empire. They were now somewhat at odds
with the British, who supported a restoration of Mameluke rule.13 With
Hamet literally in the middle of the battle between the Ottomans and the
Mamelukes, Eaton would have to be at his diplomatic best in Egypt.
KL

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Publicity Manager: Jacqline Barnes; jbarnes@usni.org; 410-295-1028