Front Matter The Beginning of the U.S Franklin's Return Troubles After the War The Constitution The First President Washington's Troubles A Wonderful Invention Death of Washington The U.S. Buys Land War With African Pirates Death of Somers The First Steamboat The Gerrymander The War of 1812 "Don't Give Up the Ship" The Star-Spangled Banner Clinton's "Big Ditch" More Land Bought Jackson Stories Jackson's Presidency New Inventions Whitman's Ride The Mormons The First Telegraph The Mexican War The Slavery Quarrel Daniel Webster's Youth Webster's Speeches Early Times in California Discovery of El Dorado Rush to California The Underground Railroad The First World's Fair John Brown's Raid Lincoln's Youth The First Shot The Call to Arms The President's Decision Admiral Farragut The Monitor and Merrimac The Penninsular Campaign Barbara Frietchie Lincoln's Vow The Battle of Gettysburg The Taking of Vicksburg Riots, Raids, and Battles The Burning of Atlanta The March to the Sea Sheridan's Ride The Doings of the Fleet Lee's Surrender Decoration Day Lincoln Stories Lincoln's Rebukes A President's Son A Noble Southerner Hard Times in the South The Atlantic Cable Best Way to Settle Quarrels Our One Hundredth Birthday Gold for Greenbacks A Clever Engineer Death of Garfield The Celebration at Yorktown The Great Statue A Terrible Flood Lynch Law The Great White City The Explosion of the Maine The Battle of Manila Hobson's Brave Deed Surrender of Santiago The Hawaiian Islands The Annexation of Hawaii The Philippine War Assassination of McKinley The Panama Canal Roosevelt's Administration Two Presidents German Views The World War Since the World War

Story of the Great Republic - Helene Guerber

Death of Somers

Knowing that the Tripolitans were short of powder, Richard Somers, an intimate friend of Decatur's, next suggested a plan to destroy the Tripolitan shipping by means of a floating mine. This idea was warmly welcomed, and great stores of powder, shot, and iron were placed on board Decatur's boat, the Intrepid. Then Somers solemnly warned the few men who were to go with him that he would blow up the boat, and all on board, rather than let the powder fall into the enemy's hands.

In spite of this warning, many brave men volunteered, and one boy, rather than miss the honor of sharing the danger of the picked crew, hid himself on board the floating mine. At dusk, the Intrepid, manned by thirteen American heroes, entered the harbor of Tripoli.

Meanwhile, the other Americans anxiously watched and listened to find out what would happen. When it was quite dark, and while they were hanging over the railing of the ships, they suddenly saw a little light flit about, as if carried by some one who was moving rapidly.

A moment later there was a dazzling flash, which lighted up the whole harbor. It was quickly followed by a loud explosion, which shook all the houses in Tripoli and the vessels both in and out of the harbor. That was all; and although the Americans peered anxiously into the darkness, waiting for the return of their men, they never came back.

On the next day, thirteen blackened bodies were washed up on shore, but no one has ever known exactly what happened. Some say the explosion was an accident, but others declare that Somers, seeing he was discovered before he could fulfill his object, blew up the vessel with his own hand.. His heroic deed has always been greatly admired, and a monument has been erected in his honor on the western side of the Capitol at Washington.

Somers's attempt to set fire to their ships, lack of ammunition, and the fact that, there was some trouble in the city, finally induced the Tripolitans to make a treaty of peace with the Americans in 18o5. All through the war our navy had behaved so well that the pope declared that the United States, although only thirty years old, had done more in two years to put an end to piracy than all the European states together in nearly three centuries.

During the next seven years American shipping was left alone; but after the War of 1812, about which you will soon hear, the Barbary pirates, thinking the British had destroyed our navy, again began to attack our ships. They also ordered the American consul to leave Algiers, and he saved himself and family from slavery only by paying the dey twenty-seven thousand dollars.

Once more the dey demanded tribute of our country, and as it was not paid as he wished, he declared war upon the United States in 1815. In reply to this declaration, Decatur, the hero of the war with, Tripoli, was again sent to the Mediterranean. He boldly forced his way into the bay of Algiers, where he threatened to shell the town if the dey did not surrender all his prisoners, pay for the damage he had done to American shipping, give up all future claim to tribute, and come in person on board the American flagship to sign a treaty.

The dey tried for a while to get better terms, even hinting that he would gladly accept a tribute of powder instead of money. But although Decatur had only four sloops, four brigs, and one schooner wherewith to meet the pirates' strong navy, he firmly answered: "If you insist upon receiving powder as a tribute, you must expect to receive balls with it."

This threat proved enough: The dey was forced to yield, and, coming aboard the flagship, he surrendered his prisoners and signed a treaty in 1815. To end the trouble with the Barbary pirates once for all, Decatur next visited Tunis and Tripoli, where, in less than two months' time, he forced the rulers to release their prisoners and promise never to harm Americans again. By this time the pirates had learned not to trifle any more with our country, nor have they dared to touch any of our ships since then.