top of page
  • James Houser

Unknown Soldiers Episodes 7 & 8: The Shores of Tripoli - Commentary and Sources

So this wasn't meant to be a two-parter, at least not originally. But I was writing the script and I was hitting 10,000 words and I had just gotten to the later events of the war, and I wasn't happy with the description of the Philadelphia Raid, and I sat back and said..."Oh. Oh this is not one episode. This is TWO." So it was. And no, I don't count this as my first series. This isn't the Harry Potter movies. This is Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2. If you needed that analogy. Turned out to be too much of a chonker of a story to fit into one episode. And give appropriate context, to tell the story correctly, to do all of that, it ended up being two episodes. But hey, if you're here so far, you hopefully like the content. So who would be upset about MORE content? Especially if it's good content and I'm not stretching random history bits out way too far. What did I leave out this week? Well, as with every episode, I boiled a lot of things down to their fundamentals. I left out some of the smaller skirmishes and raids that took place during the Barbary Wars, along with some of the context vis-a-vis Europe and the Barbary Pirates themselves. I originally had this long section on how the Barbary Pirates came about, so on so forth. But in pretty much every episode, I lay out around 6000 words of context and end up cutting that to around 3000. I wanted to reserve plenty of space in these two episodes for the things I really wanted to talk about: Stephen Decatur's raid on the Philadelphia, William Eaton's expedition across the desert, and the weird way that the Americans and the Tripolitans essentially conducted war as a form of haggling. Price of peace and all that. (I'm worried I may have beat the "price of peace" drum too hard. Oh well, I guess we'll see.) That's pretty much all my commentary for BOTH of these episodes! See you in October for more sea-faring fun!

Handy map for the Barbary Wars, showing all the major locations.

Map of Tripoli Harbor itself, showing where the Philadelphia ran aground, where the raid took place, and more

ABOVE: Major events from Episode 7.

Left: the Enterprise vs. the Tripoli, 1801.

Center: the Philadelphia runs aground, 1803. Right: Decatur's raid burns the Philadelphia, 1804.

ABOVE: major events from Episode 8. Left: Decatur's assault on the Tripolitan gunboats, 1804. Center: Marines led by LT Presley O'Bannon assault Derna, 1805. Right: O'Bannon and the Marines raise the Stars and Stripes on the Shores of Tripoli, 1805.

American principals for Episode 7: Left: Commodore Edward Preble

Center: Captain William Bainbridge

Right: Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr.

American principals for Episode 8:

Left: Tobias Lear

Center: Captain William Eaton

Right: Captain Stephen Decatur, Jr. I included two pictures just so you guys understand how attractive everyone found him. I mean, I'm married and straight and all, but I get it.

Sadly I have no really good images of the Tripolitan main characters.


There is no truly good book on this subject. The best for the general reader is probably Wheelan, though he throws in a lot of "War on Terror" references to seem timely, even though the Barbary Wars have basically nothing in common with the War on Terror except that, uh, America was fighting Muslims or something.

Boot, Max. The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. New York: Basic Books, 2003.

Davis, Robert C. Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003.

Fremont-Barnes, Gregory. Wars of the Barbary Coast: To the Shores of Tripoli. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2006.

Lambert, Frank. The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World, New York: Hill and Wang, 2005.

London, Joshua E. Victory in Tripoli: How America's War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2005.

Toll, Ian W. Six Frigates: The Epic Story of the Founding of the U.S. Navy. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006.

Wheelan, Joseph. Jefferson's War: America's First War on Terror, 1801–1805. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2003.

34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page