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The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805
Synopses & Reviews
A real-life thriller from acclaimed historian and author of The Pirate Hunter, Richard Zacks — the true story of the unheralded American who brought the Barbary Pirates to their knees.
In an attempt to stop the legendary Barbary Pirates of North Africa from hijacking American ships, William Eaton set out in 1805 on a secret mission to overthrow the government of Tripoli. The operation was sanctioned by President Thomas Jefferson, but at the last moment he grew wary of "intermeddling" in a foreign government, and Eaton set off without proper national support.
Short on supplies, given very little money and only a few men, Eaton and his mission seemed doomed from the start. But against all odds, he improbably triumphed, recruiting a band of European mercenaries in Alexandria, along with some Arab cavalry and Bedouin fighters, and leading them on a march across the Libyan Desert. Once in Tripoli, the ragtag army defeated the local troops and successfully captured Derne, laying the groundwork for the demise of the Barbary Pirates. The success of the event is immortalized in the Marines' Hymn, but Jefferson never allowed Eaton the fame he craved. Now, Richard Zacks brings this important story from our nation's history to life.
"The author of The Pirate Hunter,which made Captain Kidd come to life, focuses here more broadly on a piracy hot spot. Resolved to stop the enslavement of American merchant sailors by North African nations, Jefferson deployed most of the infant U.S. Navy to the Mediterranean and sent a column of troops overland from Egypt to place the pasha of Tripoli's brother Hamet on the throne in 1801. The leader of that motley array of mercenaries, Muslim tribesmen, Hamet's retainers and a handful of U.S. Marines was the colorful and combative William Eaton, who led them more than 500 miles across the desert to 'the shores of Tripoli.' By the time he arrived, peace negotiations were underway, in the hands of one Tobias Deane, who was neither honest nor competent. Eaton had to abandon Hamet and was in turn virtually abandoned by the Jefferson administration, leaving him with a mountain of debt and a drinking problem that eventually killed him at 47. There has been a dearth of good material on the Barbary War and particularly on Eaton's trek; Zacks has researched thoroughly, writes entertainingly and shows a knack for sea stories and characterization. This is the book that Captain Eaton has long deserved. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Richard Zacks specializes in offbeat history. He is the author of The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd, chosen by Time as one of the five best non-fiction books of the year; the bestselling History Laid Bare; and the perennial book club favorite An Underground Education.
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History and Social Science » Military » Naval History