After the War of 1812, Decatur moved to Washington to help direct naval policy. His close friendships with James Madison, John Quincy Adams, and other political leaders soon made him a rising star in national politics. He and his wife Susan made their elegant home on Lafayette Square near the White House a center of Washington society. The capital and the entire nation were shocked in 1820 when Decatur died at the age of forty-one in a duel with a rival navy captain.
In this carefully researched and well-written biography, historian Robert Allison tells the story of Decatur's eventful life at a time when the young republic was developing its own identity -- when the American people were deciding what kind of nation they would become. Although he died prematurely, Decatur played a significant role in the shaping of that national identity.
Decatur's heroism became widespread news in 1804 when, sent to reclaim a captured U.S. vessel from Tripoli in the Barbary Wars, he ordered his men to set fire to the captured vessel and proceed to attack the sailors of the Tripoli fleet in hand-to-hand combat. His brilliance continued through the War of 1812, after which he was promoted to the highest naval rank of Commodore.
Decatur not only proved dauntless on the quarterdeck but amazingly effective in Mediterranean diplomacy. His spectacular dealings with Islamic powers presaged America's twenty-first century involvement in the region.
Readers will also learn the identity of the woman he forsook for a sophisticated beauty pursued by suitors as varied as Napoleon Bonaparte's younger brother and Aaron Burr. Through freshly discovered documents, many official, some intensely personal, biographer Leonard Guttridge traces the elements that sped Decatur inexorably into the shadow of murder.
Here, at last, is the full story of the man who raised the most memorable toasts in the history of American celebrations, when he declared in 1816 "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong!"
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From the decision to build six heavy frigates, through the cliff-hanger campaign against Tripoli, to the war that shook the world in 1812, Ian W. Toll tells this grand tale with the political insight of Founding Brothers and the narrative flair of Patrick O'Brian.
Among the ships in Preble’s flotilla was a non-descript little ketch. Once a French supply boat, the ketch served Tripoli until the U.S. squadron captured her in 1803. Upon her capture, Preble incorporated the little boat into his force, re-naming her the Intrepid. She was the first ship in the United States Navy to bear the name of Intrepid and would play a central role in some of the primary feats of “Preble’s Boys.”
The exploits of the officers and sailors in this campaign are the stuff of legend. In culling myth from fact, Reid went back to original sources, using the words of the men in the campaign to tell their story. Whether it is Decatur leading the daring raid to burn the captured frigate Philadelphia or the escape attempts of American prisoners in Tripoli, Intrepid Sailors brings to life a story many Americans once widely knew but that today has become little more than footnote.
Unlike other books on the topic, however, Intrepid Sailors delves into the development of officers and sailors under Preble. Most were half the age of their commander and few had major combat experience. Under Preble, these men forged a legacy of professionalism to which the Navy still adheres. The book also examines one of the most famous friendships in American and Navy history – that of Decatur and Somers. Their thirst for glory and utter devotion to making the U.S. Navy a permanent, respected force inspired all around them but that quest for immortality never caused a breach in their friendship. Instead, that friendship grew stronger, providing even more inspiration. Intrepid Sailors offers a rare insight into the lives of men who today loom larger-than-life and who continue to inspire each new class of naval officer. Stephen Decatur, Richard Somers, Charles Stewart, James Lawrence, Edward Preble and a pantheon of early U.S. Navy heroes all come to life.