February 16th is the anniversary of U.S. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur’s “Most daring act of the age” as British Admiral Horatio Nelson called it. The Muslim pirates from the Barbary states – Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripolitania, had been leading raids against U.S. flagged ships, stealing the cargo and ransoming the crew back to the U.S. at exorbitant price. After two years of minor raids, President Thomas Jefferson ordered U.S. navy vessels to the Mediterranean Sea to engage them. The U.S. frigate Philadelphia ran aground near Tripoli and was captured. On February 16th, 1804, Lt. Decatur led an expeditionary force into Tripoli harbor to destroy the captured American vessel before it could be used to the Tripolitan advantage. Seventy-four men, including nine U.S. Marines, sailed into the harbor, boarded the ship, attacked its crew, capturing or killing all but two, then set fire to the frigate and escaped without the loss of a single American. The Philadelphia subsequently exploded when its gunpowder reserve was lit by the spreading fire.
February 16th is also the birthday of Edgar John Bergen, (1903-1978) an American actor, comedian, and radio performer, best known for his proficiency in ventriloquism and his characters Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. He is also the father of actress Candice Bergen.
Today, in lieu of a feature-length article I’m posting two letters from SurvivalBlog reader ShepherdFarmerGeek. I consider them both important reading. – JWR