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Ian Toll Overview

born: 1967
born in: Australia
lives in: New York
Ian Toll pursued an interest in the "age of fighting sail" since reading Patrick O'Brian's series of historical novels in the early 1990's. Since that time, and in the course of researching Six Frigates, Ian has read hundreds of books on... [more]

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Excerpt from 'Six Frigates' by Ian Toll

CHAPTER ONE On October 21, 1805, an English fleet commanded by Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson hunted down and annihilated the combined fleets of France and Spain in an immense sea battle off Cape Trafalgar, near the Spanish coast. The Battle of Trafalgar, as it came to be known, crowned the British Royal Navy as undisputed sovereign of the world's oceans and confounded Napoleon's last hope of a cross-channel invasion of England. Napoleon, campaigning against the Austrians and Russians in the east, was angered and disgusted by the news. But he was hardly surprised. Since the outbreak of war in 1792, the British Royal Navy had methodically and ruthlessly burned, sunk, or captured nearly every enemy warship that had come within range of its guns. To the French and all the other European peoples who had been punished by British sea power ? the Spanish, the Russians, the Dutch, the Danes -- it seemed as if the English were inherently more skillful, more resourceful, and more in their element while at sea, in the same way that a seal or a shark is inherently a better swimmer than a horse or a bear. It would be no exaggeration to say that England's naval supremacy in the early years of the nineteenth century was unlike anything the world had ever seen before, or has since. The Romans had won complete control of the Mediterranean twenty centuries earlier, but rarely did they venture in force out into the Atlantic, and of the more distant oceans they knew nothing. In our own time, the United States might be capable of defeating all the world's other navies combined, but that claim has never been tested in war, and there are many other functioning navies afloat. But Britain, after Trafalgar, forced every other great power virtually to abandon the sea and seek refuge in its harbors. Though remnants of the French navy survived in some of her ports, they were imprisoned there by blockading squadrons of British warships that maintained a constant presence from Scheldt to Toulon. The Danish navy had ceased to exist after the British assault on Copenhagen; the Dutch navy had never recovered after being routed at Camperdown. The Russian Tsar ordered his ships not to leave their moorings in his Baltic seaports. Spain's sea power had been mortally wounded at Cape St. Vincent and put out of its misery at Trafalgar; after that her days as a global empire were numbered, and she would never fulfill her ambition of recapturing Gibraltar. Britain's gigantic fleets held sway over the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian, the Caribbean, the North Sea, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean. Her bases were far-flung, strategically located, and unassailable; she sailed out of Chatham, Sheerness, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Kinsale, Gibraltar, Port Mahon, Malta, Halifax, Bermuda, Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua, Capetown, Bombay, Calcutta, Trincomalee, Jakarta, Pelu Penang, and New South Wales. England had huge seaports and dockyard complexes on her southern and western coasts, with a large and highly developed infrastructure to build, fit out, and provision ships of every kind. She could draw upon a broad population of experienced seamen who had learned their professional skills in service on merchant ships, fishing dories, coastal traders, and men of war. Britain's far-flung colonies brought her wealth -- wealth that she in turn reinvested in defending the trade routes that linked her to them. British warships were kept constantly at sea, on convoy duty, on blockade duty, in commerce-raiding cruises, in shuttling troops and dignitaries from place to place. They put into port for short, furious bursts of work -- with little or no shore liberty for the crews, who were kept constantly busy in refitting and re-provisioning -- and then hurried back out to sea. A captain who kept his ship in port too long was diminished in the eyes of his colleagues and superiors. The long months at sea were the best possible training for officers and crew, working them into a high state of efficiency and readiness. With constant repetition and practice, every maneuver became second nature. The men learned to work together, to anticipate one another, to carry out the countless finely-timed and intricate procedures involved in sailing and handling a wooden sailing ship. Foreign naval officers who visited British warships -- or were taken aboard as prisoners of war -- were dismayed by what they saw. The contrast with their own ships was palpable and stark. British ships were simply far more trim, more highly disciplined, and better handled than their own. British naval hegemony was founded on the leadership of great commanders, and none was greater than Nelson, who is still revered as a kind of god in England. His stone likeness, three times larger than life, gazes down on Whitehall, the British Admiralty, and the Houses of Parliament from a 165 foot-high column at the geographic center of London. The third son of a country parson, he was a small, harmless-looking man who stood five feet six inches tall and weighed 130 pounds. His features were gentle and pubescent, even feminine. He was as passionate and tender as a poet in springtime, pouring his heart out to the women he loved -- most of all to Emma Hamilton, the beautiful young wife of the British ambassador to Naples, whom he loved adulterously and publicly. He wrote impassioned love letters to her, addressing her as "my dearest beloved Emma," "Fair Emma, Good Emma, Great Emma, Virtuous Emma," and "the dear friend of my bosom," and he adored their illegitimate daughter, Horatia, whom he called "my dearest angel." He was full of warmth and kindness and praise to all of his colleagues in the navy. He called them his "Band of Brothers" -- a reference to Henry V, his favorite play -- and he was gracious and thoughtful and generous to them all. He had a magnetism that drew his fellow officers to him and made them compete for his approval. But Nelson had a darker side. Behind the gracious and sensitive exterior there was a cold resolve, a ruthlessness -- even a kind of savagery. His personal courage was extreme to the point of recklessness. He had seen so much action that it is incredible, in retrospect, that he survived as long as he did. In a 1794 attack on Corsica, a shell had exploded nearby, blasting sand and dirt into his face. He had lost the sight of his right eye as a result, and for the rest of his life both the pupil and the iris had a uniformly cloudy blue tone that made his gaze unnerving, especially when he was angry. In an attack on the Canary Islands in 1797, his right elbow had been shattered by a musket ball, and his arm had to be amputated without anesthetic. He did not complain when the surgeon sawed through the bone, but he thought the use of a cold knife to cut through the flesh caused unnecessary pain, and instructed that all future amputations should be performed with a heated blade. At age 39, Nelson was required to submit to his government a memorial summarizing his service record. He wrote, in part: "Your memorialist has been in four actions with the fleets of the enemy, in three actions with frigates, in six engagements with batteries, in ten actions in boats employed in cutting out of harbors, in destroying vessels, and in the taking of three towns? He has assisted in the capture of seven sail of the line, six frigates, four corvettes, eleven privateers of different sizes, and taken and destroyed near fifty sail of merchantmen. [He] has been actually engaged against the enemy upwards of one hundred and twenty times, [and he] has lost his right eye and arm, and been severely wounded and bruised in his body?" This he had written in 1797, when his three greatest sea battles ? Aboukir Bay, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar -- had not yet been fought. Nelson's approach to war at sea was simple, effective, and brutal. He had little regard for clever maneuvering, and no patience for complicated battle tactics. He thought it a waste of time to try to outsail an opponent in the hope of winning an advantageous position, and he thought it a waste of ammunition to fire at an enemy from long range. Nelson chose to take his ships directly and quickly into close-range action, where they would pulverize the enemy with broadside after broadside from his main weapons, the "great guns" or heavy cannon. His notion of how a naval action should be fought, which he put into practice at Trafalgar, was to fight the enemy "yardarm to yardarm," to position his ships parallel to those of the enemy -- so close that their hulls were literally touching -- and order his gun crews to fire and reload and fire again as quickly as they possibly could. "The best and only mode I have found of hitting the enemy afloat," he told a colleague, "is to get so close that whether the gun is pointed upwards or downwards, forward or aft, it must strike its opponent." His officers could not fail to understand his wishes. On the eve of Trafalgar he wrote them: "In case signals can neither be seen nor perfectly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy." And in case that wasn't clear enough, once the battle was joined he flew his trademark signal from the flagship Victory's masthead: Engage the enemy more closely. Warships of this era were armed with a battery of so-called "great guns," colossal iron weapons with barrels nine or ten feet long, each weighing two tons or more. The caliber of a gun was based on the weight of the round shot it fired. Battleships and frigates carried 18- or 24-pounders, weapons three and four times heavier and more destructive than the standard 6-pounder field-piece used by the army during the same period. On firing, the gun bellowed with a noise that was "like some awfully tremendous thunder-storm, whose deafening roar is attended by incessant streaks of lightning." It discharged enormous billowing clouds of white, acrid smoke, and recoiled with a force that would kill a man who was caught in its way. As the gun came to rest at the end of its breaching-tackle, the gun crew -- as many as ten or twelve men to a weapon -- began a rapid and precisely-timed series of movements to reload and fire again. The bore hole was sponged out with a swab; the gun powder, bound in a cloth cartridge, rammed down into the muzzle; a wad was rammed in on top of the power; and then the cannon ball and another wad were rammed down on top of that. The cloth of the cartridge was pierced and some priming-powder poured into the touch-hole; the gun crew ran the monstrous weapon out through its port by heaving in unison on the gun-tackle; the captain of the gun adjusted his aim and gave the order to fire. A match was touched to the primer. The gun roared, recoiled, and the process began again. The British were happy to trade blows at point blank range, to fight "ball for ball," because their gunnery was superior to that of their enemies. The potency of British gunnery owed nothing to the weapons themselves, for the French and Spanish ships were armed in much the same way. Nor was it the aim of the British gun crews, for even when their aim was superior it was rarely decisive. The single most important factor was the rate of fire. A British warship would fire three broadsides to every two fired by an enemy ship -- if that enemy ship was particularly well-manned, well-led, and well-practiced. More often, the British would get off two or three broadsides to the enemy's one, and the ratio would continuously improve in their favor as the battle wore on toward its inevitable conclusion. The Royal Navy owed its advantage in gunnery to its commitment to intensive training. The gun crews drilled and drilled endlessly as their officers timed them with stopwatches and corrected their mistakes. Crew was pitted against crew in competition. Wagers were placed. Rewards were offered -- double rum rations or light duty assignments. The men strove to improve and took pride in perfecting their skills. Practice and team spirit transformed the British gun crews into well-oiled fighting machines. When English and French warships met in battle, the French ships commonly suffered much greater casualties, even when the ships were evenly matched. Remarkable discrepancies in the number of killed and wounded were common. One example of such a rout -- and there are many -- was the single ship action between the Monmouth and the Foudroyant off Cartagena in 1758, when the French enjoyed 2.6 to 1 advantage in combined weight of ordnance, but surrendered with losses of four and a half Frenchmen dead for every one Briton killed. During the long period of war from 1793 to 1815, the British lost 17 frigates to the French (nine of which were subsequently recaptured), while in the same period the French lost 229 frigates to the British. The heavy round shot was the standard ammunition, and its main advantage was its ability to concentrate the force of the weapon on a single point. It was useful for smashing a hole in the enemy's hull at the waterline, for example; this might cause sea water to pour in, slowing the ship down, impairing her ability to maneuver, drawing her men away from the fight to man the pumps, and eventually even sinking her. If aimed high it might cause a mast to fall, or knock away a few yards, bringing down the enemy's sails and preventing her from running away. But the British were generally content to simply fire on the level, directly at the opposing ship's gun deck, where her gun crews worked. The heavy iron shot might pierce the hull and maul the men working on the other side. When fired on a lighter ship, a shot might penetrate "through and through," passing all the way through both hulls of the ship and disappearing into the ocean on the far side. If the enemy's hull was strong enough to stop the ball, an eruption of splinters on the inside wall would mutilate any men working within a ten- or fifteen-foot radius. So great was the force of the big naval guns that surgeons swore they had seen men killed by the wind of a passing shot. On examination their corpses were found to be completely unmarked. But when a cannon scored a direct hit on a man, it did not leave a pretty picture. It was not at all uncommon for a ball to blow a man's head off, splattering his mates with blood and brains and tiny fragments of bone and tissue. Men had their hands or arms taken cleanly off by passing balls. One sailor recalled seeing the top half of another man's head cut off by a round shot. He was surprised at how neat and symmetrical the wound was, as if someone had swung a very sharp broadax in a wide horizontal arc and struck the unlucky man on the bridge of his nose. Both earlobes had been left on his lower cheeks. Abovedecks, the British ships were armed with carronades, named for the town of Carron, Scotland, where they were first cast. The carronade was a kind of snub-nose cannon, shorter and lighter than the long gun. Because it was lighter, it could be carried high above the waterline and fired and reloaded more rapidly. The carronade was not effective at long range, but in the close action favored by the British captains it was deadly. The French, who bore the brunt of their immense destructive power, called them "devil guns." The largest carronades were bored for enormous 68-pound balls that required five and a half-pound cartridges of gunpowder to fire. But they were most pernicious when loaded with shrapnel-like types of ammunition such as grape or canister shot. Grape shot were fist-sized iron balls bound in canvas bags that blew apart when fired. Canister shot were cylindrical cases containing pistol balls that became a kind of airborne Claymore mine as they were fired. There was also chain shot and bar shot, both designed to cut up the enemy's rigging, but both equally capable of cutting a man in half. Before being fired, they were sometimes heated in the galley fires until they glowed bright orange. In the tops, the platforms positioned high on the masts, the marines would fire down onto the enemy decks with their smooth-bored rifles and muskets. Their objective was to kill the officers -- to break down the command structure and send their crews into confusion. If a ship did not surrender after being battered by the British long guns, carronades, and snipers, the officers gave the order to "board and carry her." A swarm of seaman, often with their faces blackened with soot to horrify the enemy, leapt across to the enemy deck armed with cutlasses, boarding pikes, axes, swords, and pistols, and slaughtered any man who dared to resist. The point-blank engagements favored by Nelson and his fellow officers were horribly destructive, but they left Britain's enemies -- and France especially -- not only beaten on the sea, but utterly demoralized. England held her enemies under a spell of invincibility that seemed to preordain the result of every battle. In the days before Trafalgar, the French and Spanish officers in the combined fleet were gloomy and pessimistic. Many favored remaining in the safety of the harbor at Cadiz, where at least the fleet would be preserved. They put to sea because they had no choice. In August, Napoleon had demanded that his fleet win command of the English Channel long enough for France's armies to mount an invasion of England. His orders were direct and unambiguous: "Sail; do not lose a moment; enter the Channel with my assembled squadrons; England is ours." When they hesitated, the emperor came close to calling his admirals a pack of traitors and cowards. Their goal was not even to win, but to lose honorably, to prove to themselves and the world that they could still fight bravely. They sailed into a desperate battle against a more powerful foe, knowing they would be not only beaten but annihilated. The battle was fought exactly as Nelson had wished. His flagship, Victory, engaged the French flagship so closely that when the guns were run out they came into contact with the enemy hull. Victory's officers were concerned that the fire from their guns would engulf both ships in flames. To prevent this, a man at each gun threw buckets of water into the holes made in the enemy's side by each shot. One officer aboard the Victory recalled the scene: "There was fire from above, fire from below? the guns recoiling with violence, reports louder than thunder, the decks heaving and the sides straining. I fancied myself in the infernal regions, where every man appeared a devil. Lips might move, but orders and hearing were out of the question: everything was done by signs." A sailor stationed on the lower decks of the 110-gun Royal Sovereign told his "Honoured Father" that he felt fortunate in having lost only three fingers in the battle. "How my fingers got knocked overboard I don't know," he confessed; "but off they are, and I never missed them till I wanted them." The victory of the British fleet at Trafalgar was perhaps the most decisive in naval history. Eighteen French and Spanish ships were captured or destroyed. Six thousand French and Spanish sailors were killed or wounded, and 20,000 taken prisoner. British causalities amounted to 1,700; and the Royal Navy did not lose a single ship. Napoleon, after Trafalgar, was forced to admit that he could never hope to lead an invasion of England. He turned his energies to the east, to military conquest by land, a path that would eventually end with his disastrous invasion of Russia and his final defeat a decade later at Waterloo. Nelson's officers urged him not to wear his medals and orders and full dress admiral's uniform while exposed on the Victory's quarterdeck. He turned a deaf ear to their pleas. Almost at the same moment Victory broke the enemy line, he was shot through the chest by an enemy sniper. When the doctor rushed to his side, Nelson declared the wound to be mortal and rejected any further medical attention. He asked his flag captain to kiss him as he lay dying. He asked to be remembered to Emma and Horatia. "I have done my duty," he said at last, "thank God for that." In England, news of the British victory and the death of Nelson arrived simultaneously. Joy over the victory was swamped by the outpouring of mass grieving at the loss of the beloved admiral. "The only signs of a great victory," remarked a Londoner, "are endless posters saying ?alas, poor Nelson.'" A foreign visitor wrote: "It was as if a great calamity had befallen the land." The sailors of the navy were "useless for duty for days," wrote one seaman. "Chaps that fought like the devil sat down and cried like wenches." For three days, Nelson lay in state at Greenwich, in a casket carved from the mainmast of the French battleship Orient, viewed by 30,000 mourners who passed in long, hushed queues. On January 8, the body was taken up the Thames on a funeral barge, followed by a procession of vessels two miles long, to Whitehall Stairs in London. A vast funeral pageant carried him into the whispering chamber at St. Paul's, where the great dome overhead was lit by the spectral glow of several thousand candles. Forty-eight sailors from the Victory carried the flagship's ensign. A scuffle broke out between them at the cathedral door; the flag was torn to pieces and each man ran off with a fragment of red, white or blue. Before the slain hero was lowered into the crypt and sealed in his sarcophagus, the mourners sang the patriotic anthem that was always sung on such occasions -- "Rule, Britannia." And what did Britannia, that "Blest Isle, with matchless beauty crown'd," rule? "Britannia rules the waves," answered the refrain, and therefore, "Britons never, never will be slaves." Though the words had been written before he was born, "Rule Britannia" was Nelson's song -- or rather, he had made it his own. The words that had once been merely rhetorical had now been made literally true by the man they were laying to rest. The Ann Alexander, an American square-rigged merchantman with a cargo of flour, tobacco, salt fish, and apples, was eighteen days out of New York when she met the British fleet off Trafalgar a few hours after its victory. That there had been an enormously destructive battle was apparent from the sea-litter floating across many miles of the ocean. Bobbing on the surface were huge sections of spars and rigging, torn pieces of sailcloth, and dead seamen who would soon slip beneath the waves. Nelson was already dead and embalmed. His head had been shorn, his arms and legs folded in a fetal position, and his body sealed head-down in a cask of brandy, camphor, and myrrh. Most of the British ships were still too battered to sail, and their uninjured crews were working to repair the damage while also caring for hundreds of wounded British sailors and thousands of wounded French and Spanish prisoners. A boat from the Victory came across to the Ann to inquire if any stores could be purchased to aid in the repair work. As luck would have it, Ann was carrying a deck load of lumber, which her master was happy to sell, along with some flour and apples. He received a fair price and was paid in English gold. It was a minor footnote to the battle of Trafalgar, and not a significant event in itself. But it was typical of the presence of the Americans on the sea in those years. Merchant vessels sailing under the stars and stripes were ubiquitous on the high seas, but rarely was an American warship ever seen. The first three American presidents -- Washington, Adams and Jefferson -- had gone to great lengths to stay out of the conflict raging in Europe. The only exception had been a brief, undeclared naval war with France in the Caribbean a few years earlier, but that was a small-scale, regional conflict, fought more against French privateers than against the French navy, and it had come to a quick, negotiated end. The truth was that America did not want war, least of all a sea war, because its merchant marine was making money hand over fist in the "carrying trade," a role it could continue to exploit only so long as its government remained neutral. In 1805, the United States was not much more than a narrow strip of sparsely populated beachfront real estate. In time the west would open up, and its receding frontier would lure millions away from the coast. But in the opening decade of the 19th century, the lands beyond the Appalachians were remote, little known, poor, and dangerous. Half of the country's six million inhabitants lived within a day's journey of the vast, gray, tumultuous ocean to the east -- an ocean that served both as a defensive barrier against the rest of the world and a highway to it. Centers of population were strung out along the coastline like a chain of islands, enclosed on one side by the sea, and on the other by a sea of woods. Roads were roads only in name -- they were tentative wagon tracks through a seemingly interminable wilderness, and when not awash in mud they were everywhere obstructed by stumps and fallen trees. Coach and wagon drivers were constantly stopping and descending from the driver's seat, ax in hand. Every stream crossing was an adventure; every river was impassable when the ferryman was drunk or in bed. Travelers were happy to put twenty miles behind them without losing their way in the woods. The biggest American towns -- Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore -- were all Atlantic seaports, with large communities of professional seamen and with all the essential supporting industries needed to build, fit out, provision and repair ships. In every town, the waterfront was a maze of warehouses, ropewalks, boat-builders' sheds, counting houses and sail lofts. The shipyards drew from a broad pool of expert laborers and master craftsmen, including carpenters, caulkers, joiners, painters, sparmakers, woodcarvers, coopers, ropemakers, smiths, and sailmakers. Shipwrights used crude hand tools and manually operated wooden lathes to turn out masts, spars, bowsprits, tops, and blocks. Planking was sawed, steamed, shaped and fitted by skilled craftsmen using adzes, broadaxes and planes. No precision instruments then existed, but a skilled hewer could lift a broadaxe and split a piece of timber precisely along a pencil line. Shipyard workers worked from sunrise to sunset, six days a week, and were paid the same daily wage in the long days of June as they were during the shorter days of the fall and winter months. All day long, the yards were filled with the sounds of saw, adze, broadaxe, and caulking mallet sawing and chipping and tapping away at the timbers. Day after day, all up and down the coast, newly-built ships rumbled down the ways and plunged into the sea. Every launch of a new ship made room on the stocks for a new keel to be laid. Fast little fore and aft-rigged Baltimore schooners ran the English blockades into French, Dutch and German ports, carrying grain, flour, kiln-dried corn in barrels, dried fish, salted meats, rice, cheese, and other foodstuffs to feed the war-torn continent. Big square-rigged blue water sailors out of Salem and Boston rounded the Cape of Good Hope bound for the East Indies, or chanced the grueling passage round Cape Horn to the South Pacific and on to Whampoa Roads and the burgeoning China trade. American ships were seen taking on pepper in Sumatra; tea, coffee, silks and spices in China; ivory and sandalwood and strange, beautiful lacquer boxes in Malaysia. Weather-beaten whaling ships out of Nantucket and New Bedford were seen north of the Arctic Circle and deep in the heart of the South Pacific. The sailing stockyards of New England and Pennsylvania shipped cargoes of oxen, sheep, cattle, horses, and swine along with an abundant supply of shovels. In a gale the terrified animals were apt to be injured or killed and would have to be swayed up through the hatchways and heaved over the side. New York merchantmen rode every tide down the Narrows, outbound for Caribbean destinations, laden with flour, salmon, brandy, dried hams, barrels of salted pork and beef, peas, candles, soap, pots of butter, herring, claret, glassware, oil, juniper berries, cheese, indigo, spruce and hickory hoops. They might return home with rum, coffee, sugar, pimento, molasses and muscovado; or they might continue on the long, stormy transatlantic run to Europe. Drab little sloops, brigs, snows, cutters, ketches and other rigs for the coastal trade sailed out of Portsmouth, Newburyport, Ipswich, Bristol, New London, Baltimore, Charleston, and a hundred other seaports. They were laden with sugar, flour, cotton, rice, corn, tea, sausages, almonds, sweetmeats, earthenware, varnish, pig iron, oak staves, liquor, shoes, tanned leather, looking-glasses, playing cards, books, perfumes, hair powder and a thousand other cargoes. A Marylander marveled at the number of American ships and sailors he encountered in the West Indies, where Europe's sugar colonies subsisted largely on foodstuffs imported from the United States. "When I see our numerous fleets constantly passing these islands, it looks as if our vessels sprung out of the forests, ready equipped," he remarked -- "and? like Cadmus's soldiers, the men seem to spring up out of the ocean instead of the earth." From the American merchantman's point of view, Napoleon's world war made the seas far more hazardous, but at the same time rendered them far more lucrative. So long as the United States avoided being dragged into the war, its merchant marine would reap windfall profits. The disparities between prices of goods in different ports widened; a barrel of flour that cost $8 in New York might be sold for $18 in Amsterdam; a bale of cotton that cost $11 in Savanna might fetch $23 in Brest. The wider the price spreads, the more fantastic the profits. With every other major maritime nation at war, competition fell off drastically. Ships sailing under the colors of the warring nations were subject to immediate capture by their enemies, and neutral ships became the safest means of importing and exporting goods that might otherwise never reach their destinations. American neutrality was big business -- it set off an explosion in American exports, shipping tonnage, and overseas commerce. As Napoleon made his bid for mastery of the old world, the good times were rolling in the new one. Merchants, ship owners, and sea captains found that it was easier to make money than ever before. A 250-ton merchantman -- a ship with the capacity of about 6 modern ocean cargo containers ? would cost $15,000 to $20,000 to build, fit out, and provision. One successful voyage in the war years would clear that much in profit for the owners. When a single six-month voyage would pay for an asset with a useful life of 20 years, the economic incentives driving men to trade on the sea were irresistible. Merchants built handsome columned Georgian mansions, comfortable and airy but not ostentatious, their grounds demarcated by discreet black wrought iron fences. Their offices were in counting houses near the wharves, second-story rooms whose windows were blocked with heavy drapes; rooms with deep, musty chairs and couches that smelled of brandy and cigars; they surrounded themselves with charts, globes, oil paintings, model ships, and curiosities from distant parts of the world. Their heavy walnut desks were piled with paperwork and their shelves lined with ledger books. If they had wished, these men could have gone out and thrown fistfuls of gold coins into the street. Money washed into port as predictably and relentlessly as the incoming tide. Every returning ship brought another payday, and at the height of the season, in summer and early fall, 250 ships entered American seaports every day. No one had any illusions. Business was booming because Europe was at war, and for no other reason. Peace would bring an end to the boom; so would an end to American neutrality. One New York merchant had shown his hand in 1787, two years before the French revolution and five years before war had broken out in Europe. He had written to a West Indian business partner: "Should a war (0, horrid war!) take place between Great Britain and France, will not your ports be open to us, and our commerce with you as neutrals be an object of consideration?" From the outbreak of war in 1792 to 1807, two years after Trafalgar, American exports (and re-exports) more than quintupled, to $108 million per year. They would not touch that level again until 1835, when the nation's population had more than doubled. In the same fifteen year period the size of America's merchant marine nearly tripled to well over a million metric tons -- more than 10,000 vessels, manned by about 69,000 seamen. This did not include the untold numbers of "tramp traders" -- American vessels that plied the waters between foreign ports without ever returning home. Flour exports alone would fill four hundred ships a year. In active tonnage and cargoes, the United States ? a small country, and isolated ? had surpassed every other maritime power save Great Britain. And if the trend held, as it might, the United States ? with no colonial empire and no navy to speak of ? would overtake Britain as the nation with the largest merchant shipping fleet in the world. American naval history had begun thirty years earlier, with the American Revolution. It was not a proud beginning. General George Washington and the Continental Army endured and eventually prevailed. The Continental Navy, with few exceptions, was a wasteful and humiliating fiasco. In 1775, the Continental Congress, assembled at Philadelphia, appointed a "Marine Committee" and charged its seven members with the task of organizing a navy. The committee met each evening in a private chamber on the second floor of the City Tavern, a block from the Philadelphia waterfront. Huddled in front of a fire, with the noise of a boisterous taproom rising through the floorboards, this handful of audacious neophytes invented the American navy. John Adams, a 39 year-old delegate from Massachusetts, later remembered these meetings as "the pleasantest part of my Labours for the four Years I spent in Congress," but he was also painfully aware of the committee's collective inexperience, not least his own. "It is very odd that I, who have? never thought much of the old ocean, or the dominion of it, should be necessitated to make such inquiries," he told Elbridge Gerry. "But it is my fate and my duty, and therefore I must attempt it." From the outset, the committee struggled to reach consensus on the most basic strategic and tactical questions. Would the navy be used to defend the nation's shores? For convoys? For commerce raiding? To deliver diplomatic ministers to Europe? What kind of ships? Should they be bought or built? How should they be armed and manned? Officer's commissions were dealt out according to a spoils system in which political influence was more important than seamanship or other pertinent qualifications. Only time and experience would expose the officer who was inept, cowardly, corrupt, or insubordinate, and many of the earliest American naval officers combined several of these qualities. On some ships, drunkenness and desertion were as common among the officers as among the enlisted men. Wardrooms were fractured by rivalries and personal enmity. Lieutenants and midshipmen feuded and dueled and pilfered one another's personal possessions. European officers who had been cast off from other navies arrived in America and finagled commissions. Influential men lobbied their congressional delegates to take unruly sons and nephews off their hands. Officers feuded publicly, even publishing broadsides against their rivals in the newspapers. Adams remarked that Congress was besieged by officers who were "scrambling for rank and pay like apes for nuts." The first men-of-war to sail under American colors were converted merchant vessels, weakly constructed and easily overwhelmed in action. In late 1775, the committee authorized the construction of thirteen light frigates, based upon designs proposed by Philadelphia shipwrights John Wharton and Joshua Humpreys. Because Britain had also forbidden the construction of warships in the colonies, American shipbuilders generally lacked relevant experience, and they made costly and time-consuming mistakes. None of the Continental frigates was completed on time, but as it turned out the construction delays did not really matter. Once the ships were launched, they all lay at anchor or dockside for a year or more, awaiting ordnance, rigging, provisions, and crews. Arming them posed a serious problem. Britain had forbidden the manufacture of heavy cannon in the colonies, and there were no domestic foundries capable of smelting, refining, and casting big naval guns. The Continental frigates that did get to sea were often so poorly fitted out that they were quickly forced back into port for repairs. Many were stepped with rotten masts that snapped in a gale. Fine imported English or Russian sailcloth was in short supply, and the Navy resorted to hemp and jute-blended sails derisively labeled "Hessians," which were too heavy to provide driving power in light breezes. Critics pointed out that the revolutionary cause would be better served by having no frigates than by having half-completed or damaged frigates lying idle in American harbors. A port-bound frigate had to be guarded against attack by British raiding parties. Washington was exasperated by constant requests for troops to guard the Continental warships. He believed, not unreasonably, that the navy should exist to support the army, and not the reverse. In July of 1777, when a British invasion force was advancing toward Philadelphia, he urged that the frigates lying in the Delaware River be scuttled to prevent capture. Congress could not bring itself to swallow such a bitter pill, but the issue was settled when enemy cruisers and gunboats attacked up the Delaware and the Continental Navy's entire force on the river was destroyed, either by the British or by their own crews. Of the thirteen American frigates built during the revolution, seven were captured and taken into the Royal Navy, and another four were destroyed to prevent their falling into enemy hands. Only in Europe did the rebel navy achieve any degree of success. When France entered the war in 1778, her channel ports were thrown open to American warships and privateers, providing good bases within a day's sail of England's busiest sea lanes. Benjamin Franklin, serving as American envoy in Paris, pledged to "insult the coasts of the Lords of the Ocean with our little cruisers." The best-remembered naval hero of the American Revolution was a Scotsman, John Paul Jones, who captained two successful hit-and-run cruises in British coastal waters in 1778 and 1779. Raiding isolated seaports in England and Scotland, taking dozens of prizes, defying the Royal Navy cruisers dispatched to hunt him down, Jones robbed the British people of their sense of peace and security at home. "Paul Jones resembles a Jack O'Lantern, to mislead our marines and terrify our coasts," said the London Morning Post: "He is no sooner seen than lost." He was branded a "desperado," "a daring pirate," a "vile fellow." Jones's reputation was capped by a truly remarkable naval victory on September 23, 1779. As captain of a converted French Indiaman, the 40-gun Bonhomme Richard, Jones engaged the British 50-gun frigate Serapis off Flamborough Head on the east coast of England. After a close-action battle of four hours, in which the Serapis lost about half her crew, the Englishman surrendered. One of the Richard's midshipmen said that the surviving men in his division were wearing no more than the collar of their shirts, and that the "flesh of several of them dropped off from their bones and they died in great pain." The Richard sank before she could be brought into port; Jones transferred his crew into the Serapis and navigated her under American colors into the Texel. The American privateering war dealt a heavy blow to British trade. Privateers were privately-owned and financed ships of war that were licensed to prey on enemy shipping. Captured vessels and cargoes became the property of the owners, who awarded the officers and crew a share of the prizes taken during each cruise. The Continental Congress and the states distributed about two thousand privateering commissions during the war. A thousand were distributed in Massachusetts alone. The mania for privateering was stimulated by a blend of patriotism and greed, but the latter was understood to dominate. Most American merchants and ship-owners transferred their wartime capital into the privateering industry. Swarms of privateers attacked the British supply convoys off the American coast; others cruised the English Channel and sent captured prizes into French ports. The success of their efforts was measured in rising maritime insurance premiums paid by British mercantile interests. Americans had their French allies to thank for the decisive naval campaign of the revolutionary war. A 28-ship fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Francois DeGrasse cut off General Charles Cornwallis's escape by sea from Yorktown in September, 1781, forcing the surrender that effectively brought the war to an end. When a messenger brought Washington the news that DeGrasse's fleet had anchored in Lynnhaven Bay, off Cape Henry, the commander-in-chief leaped off his horse and waved his hat over his head in celebration. On September 5, off the Virginia Capes, DeGrasse's fleet engaged a British fleet under the command of Admiral Thomas Graves. No ships were captured or sunk on either side, but the British fleet withdrew and returned to New York, abandoning Cornwallis's army to its fate. The Battle of Virginia Capes, twenty-four years before Trafalgar, was the last time the French would ever defeat the Royal Navy in a major fleet engagement. In the first flush of independence, what little remained of the Continental Navy was taken entirely out of service. The ships were sold at auction, the officers decommissioned, and the men discharged, often without receiving the back pay they were owed. A recently-launched battleship, the largest built in America up to that time, was presented as a gift to the French. American seamen went back to their familiar peacetime pursuits on merchant vessels, coasters, and fishing dories. The country was broke and heavily in debt; Congress under the Articles of Confederation had no power to raise funds; the public was weary of war. There was a widespread fear that if the armed forces were permitted to remain intact they might be tempted to seize power and impose a military autocracy on the infant republic. If naval protection was needed, Americans reasoned, their French allies would come to the rescue once again. The very last ship in the Continental Navy was the frigate Alliance. "This ship is now a mere Bill of Costs and I do not think we have the Means to fit her out," wrote Robert Morris, the revolutionary financier who served as "superintendent of finance" in the post-war period. She was sold to a private buyer in 1785 and later abandoned on a mud bar in the Delaware River, where her sagging hulk remained until the 1920's. Adams was stung by the magnitude of the failure. "In looking over the long list of vessels belonging to the United States taken and destroyed, and recollecting the whole history of the rise and progress of our navy, it is difficult to avoid tears," he told a congressional committee in 1780. Vast funds and huge commitments of manpower had been exhausted in the construction, arming, and victualling of warships that never inflicted any serious blow against the enemy. Robert Morris said there was no use keeping a navy afloat if the American people were unwilling to bear the financial burden. "Until Revenues for the Purpose can be obtained it is but vain to talk of Navy or Army or anything else? Every good American must wish to see the United States possessed of a powerful fleet, but perhaps the best way to obtain one to make no Effort for the Purpose till the People are taught by their Feelings to call for and require it. They will now give money for Nothing." Independence was expected to open lucrative new markets for shipping and trade. Once free of British taxes and trade restrictions, revolutionary pamphleteers had promised, commerce would boom and Americans would prosper beyond their wildest dreams. In 1778, David Ramsey imagined a post-war world in which American ships would "no longer be confined by the selfish regulations of an avaricious stepdame" but would "follow wherever interest leads the way." Thomas Paine, in Common Sense, said: "Our plan is commerce, and that, well attended to, will secure us the peace and friendship of all Europe, because it is the interest of all Europe to have America a free port." American food exports, he added, "will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe." The cover of a popular 1782 almanac depicted an allegorical scene entitled "America Triumphant and Britannia in Distress." America was represented as a woman, sitting on a shore on the left side of the picture. A caption described her as "holding in one hand the Olive branch, inviting the ships of all nations to partake of her commerce; and in the other hand supporting the cap of liberty." In the harbor at her feet were ships flying the flags of France, Spain, and Holland. On the right side of the picture, sitting on the opposite shore, was Britannia. The harbor at her feet was deserted, and she was "weeping at the loss of the trade of America." These hopes were quickly dashed. American trade had always depended, above all, on access to England's West Indian colonies. The hungry Caribbean islands, with their huge slave populations and their narrow economies devoted entirely to cultivation of sugar and coffee, had once consumed more than two-thirds of American food exports. In 1783, however, a British Order in Council debarred any American ship from entering any British West Indian seaport. The measure was final, sweeping, and devastating. Cut off from their traditional markets, prices of flour, beef, pork, salted fish, naval stores, bar iron and other mainstays of the American export economy fell 30, 40, or 50 percent. By 1788, ship arrivals from the British West Indies had fallen to half of what they had been before the revolution. With Europe at peace, the vast opportunities offered by the wartime carrying trade would not be available until several years later. In the seaports, unemployed seaman and shipwrights loitered around the wharves and slept in the streets. Warehouses stood half empty. Entire families threw themselves on the mercy of the churches and poor relief rolls. Creditors foreclosed on homes and farms. A British official said that the New England merchant marine had "suffered more by the Act of Independence than any part of the Country, from the decay of their shipbuilding and the effect which the dismemberment of the Empire has produced on their oil and fish in foreign markets." With their traditional markets for salted fish cut off, boats that had once fished cod and mackerel on the Grand Banks now rotted on the beaches. An unknown number of New England fishermen emigrated to Nova Scotia, where their catch could be lawfully sold in British markets. "Our West Indies business is ten times worse than it was before the war and God only knows that was bad enough then," wrote one merchant, "Trade and commerce is almost at a stand." Merchants called in their debts to inland farmers and forced many into debtor's jails. In late 1786 in western Massachusetts, rebellious farmers united behind the leadership of Captain Daniel Shays, a veteran of the Revolution. They attacked and shut down debtor's courts in Northampton, Worcester, Concord, Taunton, and Great Barrington, and eventually stormed a federal arsenal in Springfield. Before "Shay's Rebellion" was suppressed in 1787, it left many American conservatives wondering whether democratic government was tenable. Prior to the revolution, British merchants had contracted to have their ships built in America, where timber was cheap and plentiful; they would sail for England on their maiden voyages, to be entered into British registry. After the war, British commercial regulations banned the practice. Lumbermen, draftsmen, shipwrights, yard workers, and every class of specialized craftsman who depended upon shipbuilding were thrown on hard times. A French traveler reported that in the Cape Ann town of Newburyport, three ships were launched in 1788; at the industry peak, sixteen years earlier, there had been ninety. The same traveler found Portsmouth "in ruins, women and children in rags. . . everything announces decline." In a petition to Congress, Boston shipwrights complained that the decline of shipbuilding had left "a numerous body of citizens, who were formerly employed in its various departments, deprived of their support and dependence." The Bostonians warned that agriculture would share the same fate as commerce, "as the impoverished state of our seaports will eventually lessen the demand for the produce of our lands." Enterprising merchants sought out new trading partners in exotic parts of the world. For the first time, ships sailing under the stars and stripes were seen in the Indian and Pacific oceans. In 1785, the Empress of China, a 360-ton New York merchantman, sailed round the Cape of Good Hope to Canton, and returned the following year with a cargo of silks, nankeens, teas, china plate, and cassia. The voyage turned a profit of $37,000 on an investment of $120,000. Many followed in her wake, laden with native North American ginseng for the Chinese market. The Bengali government, still independent, offered most favored nation trade status to American ships in the East India Company's outposts. New markets were found in the Baltic and the Mediterranean. Church-going Rhode Island and Massachusetts merchants, their consciences apparently untroubled, outfitted new ships with ring bolts spaced at intervals of a few inches on the lower decks. These specially constructed vessels sailed for the Guinea coast, laden with hogsheads of rum to be bartered for cargoes of human beings. A leading objective of America's post-revolutionary foreign policy was to secure access to new export markets. Trade consuls were dispatched to nineteen foreign ports. France offered the greatest hope of replacing the lost British markets, both because of the size of her economy and her colonial empire (especially the French West Indies), and because she remained America's major ally. In 1784, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and wartime Governor of Virginia, was appointed as a "Minister Plenipotentiary" and charged with negotiating new commercial treaties with European trading partners. He sailed from Boston in a packet, the Ceres, on July 5, 1784. It was his first time at sea. Jefferson was six feet two and a half inches tall, his figure bony and loose-jointed, but "well formed, indicating strength, activity, and robust health." His skin was flushed and freckled; his eyes hazel, his hair reddish-blond. Though he found the nineteen-day transatlantic voyage uncomfortable, Jefferson kept meticulous daily records of latitude and longitude, the direction and strength of the winds, the temperature, and his sightings of gannets, petrels, sheerwaters, sharks, and whales. The Ceres landed at West Cowes in England; a week later Jefferson crossed the channel to Havre in a small boat, sleeping in a cabin that he could enter only by crawling on his hands and knees under a low beam. At the court of Versailles, Jefferson acted in the role of a commercial attaché¬ promoting American exports of whale oil, furs, ships, naval stores, potash, grain, livestock, and tobacco. In return, he said, French manufactured goods could be imported into the United States, replacing those previously imported from England. Louis XVI's foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes, was sympathetic, but powerful French mercantile interests were determined to oppose any relaxation of trade barriers. When an August, 1784 decree opened the French West Indies to American ships, the competition evoked a furious response from French ship-owners. Thus torn, the Vergennes Ministry tended to vacillate. "The Ministry are disposed to be firm," Jefferson told James Monroe, but "there is a point at which they will give way." As he predicted, American privileges were soon whittled down by countervailing decrees. Some of the smaller European powers were willing to expand trade links with the new nation. New agreements were signed with the Dutch, the Swedes, and the Russians. Frederick II of Prussia signed a trade agreement with the United States in July 1785, though he privately said he did not expect the American union to last. Negotiations with Austria and Portugal dragged on for years. In any case, none of these agreements could replace the loss of the British markets. It was increasingly clear that the United States would have to grasp for concessions from its recent enemy. This responsibility fell to John Adams, who received the news that he had been appointed the first American minister to the Court of St. James in May, 1785. The London press greeted the arrival of an ambassador from the former colonies with a chorus of boos. Adams was said to be "pretty fat and flourishing," an "imposter," and a "pharisee of liberty." "An Ambassador from America!" exclaimed the Public Advertiser, "Good heavens what a sound!... This will be such a phenomenon in the Corps Diplomatique that ?tis hard to say which can excite indignation most, the insolence of those who appoint the Character, or the meanness of those who receive [him]." Incensed by the attacks on her husband, Abigail Adams vented her spleen in letters to Jefferson. She characterized one newspaper report as "false -- if it was not too rough a term for a Lady to use, I would say false as Hell, but I will substitute one not less expressive and say, false as the English." She was appalled by the boxing matches she witnessed in the streets of her neighborhood, where she had "been repeatedly shocked to see Lads not more than ten years old striped and fighting untill the Blood flowed from every part, enclosed by a circle who were clapping and applauding the conqueror, stimulating them to continue the fight, and forcing every person from the circle who attempted to prevent it." She associated the brutality of the street hooligans with the invective of the English newspapers. "Bred up with such tempers and principles, who can wonder at the licentiousness of their Manners, and the abuse of their pens?" Jefferson commiserated. "I would not give the polite, self-denying, feeling, hospitable, goodhumored people of [France] for ten such races of rich, proud, hectoring, swearing, squibbing, carnivorous animals as those among whom you are." Jefferson proposed a tongue-in-cheek explanation for this supposed difference in French and English manners: "I fancy it must be the quantity of animal food eaten by the English which renders their character insusceptible of civilization." Shortly after his arrival, Adams was escorted by the 33 year-old Lord Carmarthen, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to be presented to King George III at St. James Palace. Observing protocol, Adams bowed once upon entering the court chamber, a second time as he reached the middle of the room, and a third time as he stood directly before the King. Adams delivered a short speech, declaring it a "distinguished honor [to] stand in your Majesty's presence in a diplomatic character" and said he hoped his mission would restore the "old good nature and the old good humor between people who, though separated by an ocean and under different governments, have the same language, a similar religion, and kindred blood." The King was visibly emotional, and the meeting was "as gracious and agreeable as the reception given to the Ministers of any other foreign powers." But Adams soon learned that the government of 24-year old Prime Minister William Pitt had no intention of letting America back into the British trading system. In one of his early meetings at 10 Downing Street, Adams pressed into Lord Carmarthen's reluctant hands a proposed "Treaty of Commerce," which would have established reciprocal rights of access for British and American ships. The ministers did not refuse the proposal outright. They stalled, and seemed content to go on stalling indefinitely. Adams began to suspect a conspiracy to reassert British sovereignty over the former colonies. "There is a strong propensity in this people to believe that America is weary of her independence;" he wrote in August, "that she wishes to come back; that the states are in confusion; Congress has lost its authority; the governments of the states have no influence; no laws, no order, poverty, distress, ruin, and wretchedness? This they love to believe." But England's trade restrictions were founded on something more than spite. They were founded on a cogent understanding of sea power, and its contribution to the prosperity and security of the British Empire. A vast maritime trading establishment ? British-built ships manned by British seamen engaged in the overseas "carrying trade"? was understood to be the wellspring from which England's naval power was drawn. Strict exclusion of foreign ships from British ports, argued Lord Sheffield in one of his many essays on the subject, was the "basis of our great power at sea? if we alter that act, by permitting any state to trade with our islands? we sacrifice the marine of England." Even Adam Smith, the free market visionary, accepted the principle of commercial exclusion in The Wealth of Nations: "The defence of Great Britain depends very much on the number of its sailors and shipping." The British carrying trade, Adams realized, was the priority that trumped all others at Whitehall. "The words ?Ship and Sailor' still turn the Heads of this People," he told Jefferson. "They grudge to every other People a single ship and a single seaman? They seem at present to dread American Ships and Seamen more than any other." British resistance to free trade measures, he told Massachusetts Governor James Bowdoin, was founded on military rather than economic considerations: "Seamen, the navy, the power to strike an awful blow to their enemies at sea, on the first breaking out of a war, are the ideas that prevail above all others." Peace with Britain had removed the threat posed by the Royal Navy to American merchant ships, but it had also left them without the umbrella of protection the Royal Navy had provided before 1776. For the first time the stars and stripes were seen on the high seas and in foreign seaports -- but the flag was seen flying only on richly-laden and defenseless merchant vessels, never on ships of war. Greedy eyes studied the ships of this new nation the way wolves study sheep. The British let it be known that the Americans no longer enjoyed their protection. The wolves were hungry; the sheep were fat, numerous, and slow; and there was not a shepherd in sight. The first attacks were in the Mediterranean, where piracy had been practiced since the beginning of recorded history. The pirates in this case were the Barbary corsairs, who operated out of four ancient seaports along the North African coast: Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, and Morocco. Since the Islamic conquest of North Africa in the 8th century, these dusty, sun-drenched little city-states had pledged nominal allegiance to the Sultan of Turkey, but they were largely autonomous. Nested on the edge of the Mediterranean, with their backs to the North African desert, the Barbary States had little agriculture or industry to sustain them. Their traditional livelihood was piracy, and their traditional victims were the foreign merchant vessels that plied the Mediterranean trade routes close to their shores. Captured crew members were transported back into port in chains, where they were imprisoned, put to hard labor, or sold at slave markets. Women faced the prospect of being raped or sold into private harems. Prisoners who disobeyed or attempted to escape might be burned alive or impaled. That sub-Saharan Africans were subjected to the same cruelties by white masters in America did not prevent the news of such attacks from creating a sensation in the United States, where they inspired a genre of lurid fiction and plays. Because the Barbary societies worshipped Allah and prayed to Mecca five times per day, and because the corsairs often claimed to be at war with all infidels, the conflict was often cast in religious terms. But the real impetus behind Barbary piracy was not religious or political, but economic. The Bashaw of Tripoli freely admitted as much. If he forbid slave-raiding, he told an American diplomat, his people would be ruined and he would most likely lose his head. "I do not fear war," he declared. "It is my trade." By the late 18th century, the major European powers could have snuffed out piracy in the Mediterranean without much trouble. Even acting alone, Britain could have put all four Barbary States out of business with two or three powerful naval squadrons combined with the threat of invasion by land. But the Barbary States and their corsairs were tolerated, perhaps even encouraged. From the mid-17th century, a protection racket had evolved, whereby the nations that wished to ensure safe passage for their ships paid annual tribute to each Barbary ruler. In most cases, the decision to pay simply reflected a cold calculation that tribute was cheaper than the cost of constantly defending the vital Mediterranean trade routes. But Britain was playing a more devious game. She saw the ever-present threat of Barbary piracy as a check against the growth of economic competition from smaller maritime rivals. A British statesman laid bare the impetus behind this policy: "If the Barbary powers had not existed, it would have been necessary for England to invent them." By the mid-1780's, a hundred American ships and twelve hundred American sailors carried twenty thousand tons of sugar, flour rice, salted fish, and lumber to ports in the Mediterranean every year, returning with cargoes of wine, lemons, oranges, figs, opium, and olive oil. In July, 1785, two American ships, the Maria and the Dauphin, were seized by Algerian corsairs. Twenty-two crewmen were transported to Algiers and thrown into dungeons among the slaves of other nations. They were dressed in coarse cloths, given a single dirty blanket each, and fed a daily ration of 15 ounces of bread. Most were set to work as ship riggers, longshoremen, porters, and draft animals. Some were forced to carry rocks and timber along a nine-mile path into the hills outside the city, dragging their chains and manacles behind them on the ground. They were often beaten or whipped, and always in fear for their lives. American leaders came under pressure to strike back at the pirates, to rescue their enslaved countrymen, and to prevent further attacks. More at:


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