Archive for April, 2013
[Republished from 13 June 2011] A little bit over a month ago, at his home blog Information Dissemination, Galrahn noted that the 27th of April marked an important day in the history of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, the anniversary of the Battle of Dernah. In his post Galrahn drew a connection between the First Barbary War and Operation Odyssey Dawn and the current operations that are being conducted under Operation Unified Protector. It can certainly be said that the success of Hamet Karamali’s insurgent army, led in reality by Naval Agent William Eaton and Marine Corps First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannnon, played a central role in the conclusion of the First Barbary War for the United States of America. In 1805 boots on the ground mattered after nearly four years of naval operations which had experienced little success driving the Tripolitan Pasha Jousef Karamali to the negotiating table. However, the history of Eaton, O’Bannon, and Hamet in Dernah offers a great deal more to consider than a simple lesson about the effectiveness of land forces.
The March to Dernah
Hamet Karamali had been the crown prince of Tripoli, but was deposed by his brother Jousef after their father’s death. It was Jousef who had declared war on the United States in 1801. When Eaton found him in Alexandria and offered to build him an army, and to help him lead it to Tripoli to reclaim his throne, Hamet jumped at the chance. Eaton, a former U.S. Army officer and previous U.S. consul to Tunis, had at his disposal twenty thousand dollars and a small detachment of United States Marines led by O’Bannon.
On the third of March, 1805 a rag tag army set out from Alexandria, Egypt to cross the desert toward the Tripolitan region of Bomba. About six hundred fighters strong, the force that Eaton organized marched for many different reasons. Some were Greek mercenaries (frequently referred to in the dispatches of the American officers involved as “the Christians”) who were in it for the money that Eaton promised them. Some were tribal loyalists to Hamet. Others were members of local desert tribes who’s Sheiks had been bribed, cajoled, or promised positions of power to join the insurgency. Eaton lamented the “ungovernable temper of this marauding malitia [sic],” which traveled with their families and flocks and offered constant leadership challenges and two mutinies as they crossed the desert.
When they arrived near the coastal city of Dernah on the 24th of April the army was twenty five days since their last meat and fifteen days since their bread ran out, mainly subsisting on rice and water. Eaton’s force rendezvoused with USS Argus and USS Hornet. Under the orders of Master Commandant Isaac Hull, the Sloops of War offloaded as much food, supplies, and ammunition as they could spare which reanimated the insurgent army. They moved forward and took position on a hill south of the town.
On the 26th Eaton sent a letter to the Governor of Dernah and made him an offer to join the insurgency. By allowing Hamet’s army to resupply and pass unmolested he would be permitted to retain his position when Hamet took the throne. Eaton closed the letter saying “I shall see you to morrow, in a way of your choice…” The Governor responded that evening: ”My head or yours.”
On the morning of the 27th Hull’s Sailors moved a field piece ashore, hoisting it up a twenty foot beach front cliff to Eaton and his men. Joined by USS Nautilus, the three Sloops moved to positions off the fortress that protected the town with a battery of eight cannon that faced the sea. Hornet’s skipper, Lieutenant Evans, brought his ship within one hundred yards of the fortress and anchored by setting spring lines. Argus and Nautilus took up positions on either side. It was about two in the afternoon when Hamet’s tribesmen and the mercenaries were in position and the assault began. Eaton later reported that “The fire became general in all quarters.” All three ships opened fire on the fortress and battery, decimating the eight cannon that opposed them. The bombardment lasted about an hour while Hamet led his tribesmen into the southern end of the city. Eaton and O’Bannon led the Marines and the mercenaries around the town and assaulted the fortress along the beach. Hull wrote in his report that “about half past three we had the satisfaction to see Lieut. O’Bannon and Mr. Mann, Midshipman of the Argus, with a few brave fellows with them, enter the fort, haul down the Enemy’s flag, and plant the American Ensign on the Walls of the Battery.” By four o’clock the insurgents had taken control of the town.
A City Under Siege
The Battle of Dernah, however, is just the beginning of this story. The great Mark Twain once said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. It is after the battle that we begin to pick up the rhythm that reminds us of today’s challenges on the North coast of Africa.
Eaton immediately set about shoring up the defenses of the city. The guns of the fortress’ battery were turned inward toward the desert and Hull and the skippers of the other Sloops landed Sailors to help move supplies ashore and work on the city’s defenses. After helping the Marines and mercenaries reinforce their defenses the Sailors embarked on their ships. Hull, unsure of Commodore Barron’s orders with regard to the occupation of the city, began cycling the Sloops back to Malta to resupply and inquire about orders. Hornet was sent first, while Argus and Nautilus remained with three weeks of provisions each. Hornet would return with fresh stores and ammunition for the city.
Hull sent a report to Barron detailing his thoughts on the occupation, and what it would take to move the insurgency forward. He felt that holding the city itself would not necessarily be a difficult task and could be completed by the force on the ground as long as it was provided proper supplies from the sea and that at least one warship was kept on station to provide fire support against any attempt by the regime to retake the city. In order to push forward toward Tripoli, however, it would have required a different approach in the young Master Commandant’s mind. He wrote “I am clearly of the opinion that three or four hundred Christians, with additional supplies, will be necessary to pursue the expedition to Bengaze and Tripoli.” It was a significant increase in support, and an escalation from the American reliance on sea power.
Eaton came up with a plan that was slightly different. Pointing out that, with the proper funding, Hamet could recruit local Sheiks as he moved west, Eaton thought the insurgent army would grow. He recognized that loyalty that was purchased was suspect as a motivator for fighters. To counter that he suggested that as the force encountered difficult or entrenched enemies he would need detachments of Marines or regular soldiers to be landed by the American squadron. This support by amphibious forces would “aid and give effect to such operations as require energy.” After each amphibious raid the forces could embark aboard ship and continue to patrol the coast awaiting the next call.
It wasn’t long after the insurgents victory at Dernah that an army from Tripoli arrived. Initially they took up position on the hill south of town where Eaton and Hamet had planned their own assault. The regime forces laid siege to the city. Attacks or probes were made several times a week. During some of the heavier attacks the regime forces penetrated through the defenders outer lines and into the city. Brutal house to house urban combat was conducted by the insurgents and, with fire support from the Sloops sitting in the harbor; they were able to drive their attackers back to their positions outside the city. In a few instances Eaton lead his Marines and mercenaries out to face the irregular cavalry and undisciplined infantry that opposed them, each time having minor successes but never driving away the Pasha’s army.
While Eaton and Hull endeavored to keep the siege lines away from Dernah, and the regime’s forces at bay, the American Naval and Diplomatic leadership began to listen to Jousef’s new attempts at negotiation. Whether it was the deteriorating situation in his own country, the poor harvest that year, lack of popular support for the war with the Americans (all of which appeared to be true), or whether it was the threat posed by his brother’s foothold in Dernah, the Pasha made an overture for peace.
As the diplomats worked their negotiations the regime’s forces continued to attack and probe at Dernah. Eaton reported that spies had heard dispatches received with orders from Tripoli. The Pasha intended to conclude a peace with the United States and once it was complete he would be able to “dispose of his internal enemies.” Eaton warned Commodore Barron not to accept terms of peace too hastily, and pointed out that consideration of Hamet’s position could result in a true ally on the coast rather than a suspect treaty. He pushed hard, commenting that the honor of the United States required that they not simply abandon Hamet on the shores of Dernah. Cooperation between the United States and Hamet would, according to Eaton’s reasoning, “very probably be a death blow to the Barbary System” of piracy and hostage taking.
Eaton realized, as time went on and the regime’s army was reinforced, that Hamet was being used as a bargaining chip. He received a report that a pair of women had come into the city with orders to poison him and he began spending more time aboard Argus or Hornet, Nautilus having been dispatched for more supplies. On the 4th of June Hull received orders to return to Syracuse with Argus and Hornet and sent word for Eaton and the Americans to join him. Eaton confided to Hull that he was sure that his position in Dernah was playing an important role in the negotiation and he didn’t feel that he could leave until he knew that the negotiation had been completed. Hull prepared to send Hornet to Syracuse as ordered, but remained off Dernah aboard Argus, unwilling to abandon his countrymen.
Neither man knew that on the 3rd of June a peace treaty was signed by Jousef and Tobias Lear who was the State Department’s lead negotiator. The crew of the captured USS Philadelphia, held since the fall of 1803, were freed and sailed for Malta aboard USS Constitution. Lear wrote to Eaton that he had tried to secure some consolation for Hamet, however he decided based on his negotiations that it was “impracticable.” Lear agreed that the United States would remove all support from the insurgent army at Dernah, and also promised the Pasha that he could keep Hamet’s wife and daughters as hostages to ensure that his brother left the country.
The news was slow to spread, and on the 9th and 10th of June the regime’s army launched assaults on the city which were repelled through vicious fighting. The Sloops moved close to the shore and their guns were brought into action, “keeping up a brisk fire” according to Hull’s journal. The Pasha’s army was pushed back yet again and Hull landed more powder for the fortress’ guns.
As the sun reached toward the western horizon on the 11th of June USS Constellation arrived off Dernah, with orders for Eaton and the Americans to embark and withdraw from the assistance of the insurgent army. The withdrawal would be tricky business, and Eaton would not leave Hamet in the lurch. He consulted with the insurgent ruler and they concocted a ruse to have Hamet’s people prepare for an attack on the enemy. After dark on the 13th the Arabs and Tripolitans prepared themselves for their attack while the boats of Constellation rowed to the seawall and began taking off the Greek mercenaries. Once the Greeks were aboard word was sent to Hamet that Eaton wanted a meeting and the leader and his court slipped into the fortress and aboard Constellation’s boats. Eaton, O’Bannon, and the Marines were the last to embark, quietly covering the amphibious withdrawal. By two in the morning the force had been embarked and the insurgent army abandoned. Constellation, Argus, and Hornet sailed into the Mediterranean as Hamet’s tribesmen and the Arabs who had joined him attempted to slip away into the mountains and desert before the regime’s forces could corner them.
The victory of the United State Navy in its first conflict on a foreign shore is something that we continue to celebrate. However, few know these details of the “success.” Many of Hamet’s supporters were able to escape, a small number were captured and executed. Based on their agreement with the Pasha, a representative of the regime was landed by the Americans just before they left and he immediately began demanding loyalty oaths from anyone in the city. The United States paid Jousef sixty thousand dollars and all the Americans held in Tripoli’s slave camps were freed.
The peace held for less than a decade. Once the Barbary powers learned of the American’s war with the British in 1812 they began falling upon American merchants as their Navy fought in the Atlantic. Americans again began to fill the slave camps on the Tripolitan coast. It would take another conflict and two squadrons of battle hardened naval veterans after the end of the War of 1812 to pacify the Barbary Coast again. The Second Barbary War was considered another successful conflict for the early U.S. Navy. However, piracy and slavery on the Barbary Coast didn’t end until several years later when the Royal Navy finally decided to stamp it out.
The study of history does not provide us checklists for success. It doesn’t describe equations which will give military or government leaders a perfect answer every time. However, it can certainly help illuminate the questions that should be asked, and the possible effects of the answers to those questions. April 27th is an important anniversary in the history of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, but so is the 13th of June, when USS Constellation departed the harbor of a besieged city on the Barbary Coast. Eaton, O’Bannon, and Hull slipped away from a besieged insurgency, which had been resupplied and defended from the sea, and which relied on Western support for survival.
Was it the right decision? The expensive war being fought on the other side of the globe was certainly running the American treasury into the red. The infant American democracy struggled with the political challenges of an undeclared war on foreign soil. American casualties were few, the number of Americans taken hostage also dropped, and the reasons to keep fighting seemed small. What of the aftermath? The payment to the Pasha was arguably the very ransom that the Americans did not want to pay. The result of the diplomacy was neither a supportive local government nor a successful treaty of peace. Americans had to risk their lives on the Barbary shore again, many of them the same Sailors who started their career there.
For those who study strategy or who make policy, the story of Dernah may be history worth considering.
Sources: Dudley Knox, Ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers: Naval Operations Including Diplomatic Background From 1785 to 1807, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1939-1944). Volumes 5 and 6 contain the original letters and reports related to the Battle of Dernah and the siege of the city.
|U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jan Shultis/Released|
Join us this Sunday, 28 April 2013 at 5pm Eastern U.S., for Midrats Episode 173: Back to the Littorals with Milan Vego :
If the requirement is to be able to operate, fight, and win in the Littorals – is the Littoral Combat Ship the answer?
Other nations have the same requirement – yet have come up with different answers.
Are we defining our requirements properly in face of larger Fleet needs and the threats we expect?
What platforms and systems need to be looked at closer if we are to have the best mix of capabilities to meet our requirements?
Using his article in Armed Forces Journal, Go smaller: Time for the Navy to get serious about the littorals, as a stepping off place, our guest for the full hour will be Milan Vego, PhD, Professor of Joint Military Operations at the US Naval War College.
Join us live (or, if you can’t listen live, listen later) by clicking here.
“Gentlemen, we have run out of money. Now we have to think.”
– Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister
While the details of the budget cuts are still being debated, one thing is clear: the Department of Defense will face significant fiscal austerity. Accordingly, the Navy will face drastic cuts that mandate a reexamination of the way we do business.
Viewed another way, however, we are being presented with the opportunity to rethink the standard business rules governing the way we train, fight and prepare for future challenges – we should examine the best, most innovative ways to accomplish our strategic objectives. Given the tough budget and strategic challenges we are facing, “business as usual” just won’t work any more.
The surface fleet will be particularly hard hit. Surface ships will almost certainly see underway time for training and readiness cut. Deployments to engage in regions such as Central and South America are being curtailed. These decisions risk sending the message to our allies that we are no longer forward and present in the Central and South American region where we have provided a maritime presence for well over a century.
By Mark Tempest
Join us at 5 pm (Eastern U.S.) on 21 April 2013 for our Episode 173: The War Returns to CONUS:
The events of the last week in Boston has brought back to the front of the national consciousness what, for the lack of a better description, is known as The Long War.
The threats we face are both domestic, foreign, and increasingly a mixture of both. Communication and transportation has created a breed of transnational threats that are not new, and whose causes, resources, and threat vectors are not as opaque as some may try to make them.
Starting out and working in, what are the lessons we should emphasize to mitigate the ongoing threat? As we continue in the second decade after 9/11/2013, what are we doing correctly, what still needs to be done – and what things are we wasting time and money on for little gain?
To discuss, our guest for the full hour will be Steven Bucci, Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
Listen live at 5pm (or you can listen later) by clicking here.
As stories of a massive manhunt through Boston and of the still-unfolding drama surrounding Monday’s events capture the attention of every news network, I am struck by our collective reaction to Monday’s attacks. Yesterday morning, the Washington Post’s editorial page carried a number of letters to the editor concerning the Boston Marathon bombing. One letter in particular jumped out: the author worried that Americans feel too safe these days and have grown too complacent, and as a result are less vigilant; she concluded that what this country needs is heightened security and additional precautions, since our current system didn’t prevent the attacks from happening.
In a similar vein, I got hit with an unexpected question Monday night: am I still planning to run the Marine Corps Marathon this fall? The question gave me pause. I’ve run Marine Corps as often over the years as deployments and children allowed, and ran Boston once some years ago (I remember that finish line spectacularly well, mostly because I barely crossed it). The family often comes out to watch, and the team I run Marine Corps with has accumulated a strong cheering squad and support group at the finish. But what would the reverberations of Monday’s events be? Would people want their families to be there after what happened in Boston? Would I? And would I feel safe running it?
The answer is an unequivocal yes. Yes, yes, and again, yes. Absolutely, I’ll run the Marine Corps Marathon, as will thousands of others. We will run it with pride, anger, and disgust, directed at those who spread fear within our borders. What happened Monday is exceedingly rare here, and in that we are beyond fortunate; Boston should remind us of that. What happened is abnormal, horrific, and yet so often, in so many places that are not America, people are numb to it. Not here. Our defenses and security measures are imperfect; we cannot see and catch all. But when a bad apple gets through and inflicts harm upon fellow Americans, we react. We abhor. And we bear witness. Monday’s events had news outlets tripping over each other trying to get the facts out; four days later we can still see the same ubiquitous slow-motion video clip of the explosions everywhere we look. The analysis is too much, perhaps even voyeuristic, sensationalistic. But that’s far better than the alternative, and it keeps us aware.
My immediate reaction to the letter I initially described was primarily an instinctive hatred for the unwelcome image of this nation gripped by fear. We should always be improving security, and we should always be alert. We should embrace our families, and fear for their safety. Yet part of what makes this country amazing is that there will still be marathons, and there will still be spectators at the finish line. We will continue to fly, to travel, and to gather in large numbers in public places. We will continue to be shocked when terrorists attack here, obsessive in the aftermath, and naïve in our beliefs that we can really keep terrorism out of our borders. What scares me most of all is the image of an America where those things cease to happen.
In recent speeches to the Atlantic Council, the United States Coast Guard Academy, and the AFCEA and USNI WEST Conference, both the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have emphasized a new paradigm to determine how best to employ Department of Defense resources. It relies heavily on assessing risks to vital national security interests, and then applying adequate resources to protect them. Those interests (derived from the National Security Strategy) are: the survival of the nation; the security of the global economic system; prevention of catastrophic attacks on our nation; secure, confident, and reliable allies and partners; protection of American citizens abroad; and protection and, where possible extension of universal values. When considering this new paradigm in the light of the current budget uncertainties, it is helpful to remember that even before the United States was a nation, the Navy proved its worth to such a degree that it was consistently spared the proverbial budget axe: “If congressmen needed a better argument, they only had to look to the prosperous Mediterranean trade made possible by the U.S. Navy…” noted Jefferson’s War author Joseph Wheelan. Thus, I would like to quickly outline what the modern United States Navy does every day – what it is capable of doing every day – to defend these vital national security interests.
No non-state actors currently possess the capability to threaten the survival of our Nation, and it seems that the nations that do possess the capability have today neither the desire nor incentive to do so. Nevertheless, the Navy provides a ready force, both forward stationed and rotationally deployed, to promote stability, prevent crises, and combat terrorism. As Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert has made abundantly clear, we must be where it matters and ready when it matters.
Join us at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) Sunday, 14 April 2013 for Midrats Episode 171: The State of Naval Supremacy with Seth Cropsey:
What are the initial, second and third order effects of the decreasing presence of the US Navy.
Is it permanent, relative, or can fewer numbers be made up in other ways?
Join Sal from CDR Salamander and EagleOne of EagleSpeak in a wide ranging discussion along with their guest Seth Cropsey, Senior Fellow from The Hudson Institute and author of the new book, Mayday: The Decline of American Naval Supremacy.
You can listen live or listen later here.
One year. That’s how long it’s been since the Coast Guard lost two more if its Shipmates. However, this loss seemed a little more tragic than most. As opposed to losing members of our Coast Guard family to a mishap of equipment or an operational mission they were taken by other means.
ET1 James Hopkins and BMC Richard Belisle (Ret.) lost their lives one year ago today as the result of a heinous crime. Without trying to reopen old wounds it would suffice to say they were murdered. After months of speculation and rumors there was finally a break in the case bringing the entire Coast Guard family within grasp of an end. Now it’s a waiting game.
Despite the fact that the ordeal is almost closed we can’t forget that we lost two members of our family. We won’t forget; we’ll always Remember.
Yesterday President Obama released his proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget to Congress with the intent of adding to the reduction of the federal deficit to the tune of $4 trillion. However, to achieve this the government will make further cuts to the spending habits of past and rethink when and where the spending should be done in the future.
However, as I’m a proponent for the Coast Guard I went into the proposed budget looking for what might be heading our way in terms of cuts (or additions?). We’re currently already in the midst of sequestration which slashed funding across the board as a means to save the government funds. What else could there be?
Overall the reduction to funding, though not directly established for the Coast Guard, has been proposed for DHS at large. The proposal calls for a decrease of 1.5 percent, or $615 million, below the 2012 enacted level. In the grand plan that’s not all that much. On the same note the budget cites a $1.8 billion savings across the entire department.
The Coast Guard is only mentioned a measly two time in the cuts and savings plan. I look at this as a good thing. Here they are:
- It seems a little soon for people to forget that the Coast Guard, among others, recently undertook the massive response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; however, in reading, it seems some may have.In a proposed cut to the EPA (CUTS: SUPERFUND SUPPORT TO OTHER FEDERAL AGENCIES Environmental Protection Agency) it’s requested to drop an annual $6 million transfer of funds to their Hazardous Substance Superfund account. From that inject the Coast Guard annually receives $4.5 million. These are the fund that the Coast Guard uses to respond to oil drums and substances of an unknown type (excluding known oil spills and the like- those use the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund).
Reading further into the justification you’ll see “…impacts to USCG, NOAA, and DOI should be minimal due to mission-specific funding within those agencies and the continued ability to enter into interagency agreements to fund specific support taskings.” Though I’m not up-n-up on all the legal mumbo-jumbo I wonder how this would work. The Coast Guard, by law, uses different funding streams for different incidents (or potential incidents) thus if the funding for the Superfund is cut it begs the question to who will fund it. I suppose that the Coast Guard could inject their own funding but then we’re adding another $4.5 million to operational spending that we currently don’t budget for annually.
- This is a cost saving measure as opposed to a drop in funding; nonetheless, it seems like it wasn’t thought through all the way. Though in theory the proposal of SAVINGS: SHARING EXCESS AVIATION EQUIPMENT seems like a good idea I question the long-term benefits.The measure calls for the CG and CPB to share equipment in the aviation sector as it pertains to the CG’s HU-25 Falcons and the CBP’s MX-15 sensor packages. In short, as we decommission our Falcons (17 of them in 2015) we’ll be giving CBP the radar systems (they already use them) and we’re going to use the already established maintenance system from CBP on our MX-15 sensors. It’s supposed to save $20 million between now and 2016.
The issue I have, though it won’t really mean anything to the Coast Guard, is that the systems we’ll be giving to CBP will be (are?) obsolete by the time they’ll get to use them in 2016. But, that’s just my opinion.
Do you have anything to say on the subject?
ANNAPOLIS, MD – The U.S. Naval Institute announces with distinct pleasure that Admiral James G. Stavridis, U.S. Navy, accepted the appointment as the U.S. Naval Institute’s Chair of the Board of Directors. Admiral Stavridis’ appointment will take effect following his anticipated retirement from active duty in mid- summer 2013.
Admiral Stavridis anticipates departing his current duties this summer as combatant commander for all U.S. forces in Europe; as Commander, European Command; and as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, posts he has held since early summer 2009. In his role as Supreme Allied Commander, he has directed the NATO efforts in Afghanistan, commanded the NATO operations in Libya in 2011, led security in the Balkans, developed a successful counter- piracy campaign off the coast of East Africa, implemented an improved missile-defense posture for Europe and successfully expanded alliance partnerships throughout the world.