Commodore Preble

(Edward Preble)


Edward Preble
Edward Preble was born in present-day Portland, Maine, but as a young boy his home was destroyed by British Naval Commander Henry Mowatt during the burning of Falmouth. The action supposedly prompted Preble to join the American Navy, which he did in 1779 when he became an officer aboard the Protector. The ship was captured in 1781, and Edward, taken prisoner, was held for a time in the New Jersey. Upon his release, he led a party to capture a British ship off the coast of Maine, and he took to the sea despite heavy fire along the shore—a fire started, once again, by Henry Mowatt.

Following his Revolutionary War service, Preble served in the merchant service for fifteen years, after which he was appointed First Lieutenant of the U.S. Navy. In 1799, he took control of the brig Pickering and brought her to the West Indies to protect American commerce during the Quasi-War with France. That December, he commanded a different ship and sailed for the Pacific to provide similar protection for Americans involved in the East Indies trade. In 1803, Preble sailed for the Barbary coast, and by October he had established a blockade off Tripoli in the First Barbary War. While in the Mediterranean, Preble helped plan the burning of the USS Philadelphia which, had it fallen into enemy hands, would have proved disastrous for the blockade. Stephen Decatur and his brother James served to carry out the actual mission.

Over the course of his naval career, Preble proved to be a stern taskmaster who implemented many of the modern navy’s rules and regulations. His ships and his men were always ready to fight, and those serving under him who later achieved positions of distinction proudly termed themselves “Preble’s Boys” after his death. In 1804, Commodore Preble retired from the Navy due to illness and returned to the United States, where he engaged in light shipbuilding duties. Early the next year, he was given a gold medal for his conduct at Tripoli and offered the Navy Department, which he declined because of his failing health. He died of a gastrointestinal illness in August 1807.

Key events during the life of Edward Preble:

Joined the U.S. Navy and became an officer aboard the Protector.
The Protector was captured.
  After his release, captured a British ship docked at Castine, Maine.
Appointed first lieutenant of the U.S. Navy.
Sailed the Pickering to the West Indies to protect American commerce.
Sailed the Essex to the Pacific to provide the same services.
Established a blockade off Tripoli during the First Barbary War.
Planned the burning of the USS Philadelphia, which was carried out by Stephen Decatur.
  Retired from the Navy due to illness.
Died of a gastrointestinal illness.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
America and the Corsairs  in  Barbary Rovers  by  John Finnemore
Edward Preble  in  Twelve Naval Captains  by  Molly Elliot Seawell

Image Links

Edward Preble
 in Twelve Naval Captains

Short Biography
Stephen Decatur Naval Hero noted for his exploits during the war Barbary War, and also the War of 1812.
Isaac Hull American naval hero best known for commanding the U.S.S. Constitution when in took on the HMS Guerrierre during the war of 1812.
William Bainbridge American naval hero who fought against the Barbary pirates, and piloted the U.S.S. Constitution during the war of 1812.