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by Joseph Wheelan

Jefferson's War: America's First War On Terror 1801-1805


Jefferson's War is a very solid book on America's war with the Barbary pirates at the beginning of the 19th Century. I first read about this war in a Young Adult book in my local grade school library, and I've always remained fascinated by it. The Barbary Pirates included the countries of Morocco, Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers. They were all Muslim nations who used their religion as an excuse to attack the shipping of Christian nations. The rulers of the Barbary states were usually more interested in money, gifts, and slaves more than any religious reasons. The upstart American nation, led by Thomas Jefferson, grew tired of these insults to their honor (and disruptions of America's own moneymaking). The result is fascinating. America built up a standing Navy for the first time, led by the six "Super Frigates", the Constitution, President, United States, Constellation, Chesapeake, and Congress. Led by these powerful ships, the United States in fits and starts managed to browbeat Tripoli into submission. The other states mostly were bribed during this period, but the U.S. did go back to finish the job in Algiers in 1815. Wheelan does an excellent job of telling this surprisingly little-known story. The War involved the first planting of a U.S. flag on enemy soil by the Marines at Derna, Tripoli, it caused "Preble's Boys" (the young officers who gained experience and dash during the war) valuable lessons to be used later to great effect in the War of 1812, and it showed the rest of the world that America would be a force to be reckoned with. The only thing I didn't like was Wheelan's attempt to compare the fight with the Barbary Pirates to America's current war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. It seemed like a cheap way to make extra money off of the book and didn't really have a place in it, IMHO. I definitely recommend this one to anyone interested in America's wars, the U.S. Marines, and fans of the Age of Sail. 336 pp., 4 maps

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