The following is from the January, 1972 issue of Proceedings.
For 112 years, the Tripoli Monument has stood on the grounds of the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, but its unique and tumultuous history began long before 1860. Originally erected at the Washington Navy Yard in 1808, it was the Federal capital’s first monument and for a period of 35 years the only monument in the District of Columbia. It witnessed and weathered the War of 1812; the building, burning, and rebuilding of the Capitol, and the slow establishment of the city itself. For 52 years, its existence was plagued with uncertainties and agitations.
The idea for the memorial rose amidst the rage and ruin of the war against the Barbary Pirates of North Africa, the first formal war under the young nation’s Constitution. Success of the small fleet in Mediterranean waters marked the rebirth of naval power, which had been disbanded after the Revolutionary War, as well as the emergence of the Navy as a permanent force.
A Tripolitan observer of the time was quoted as saying: “The English, French, and Spanish Consuls have told us that they [the Americans] were a young nation, and got their independence by means of France; that they had a small navy and their officers were inexperienced, and they were merely a nation of merchants, and that by taking their ships and men, we should get great ransoms. Instead of this, their Preble pays us a coin of shot, shells, and hard blows; and sent a Decatur, in a dark night with a band of Christian dogs fierce and cruel as the tiger, who killed our brothers and burnt our ships before our eyes.”