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U. S. Frigate
Philadelphia
By : John Sharp ©


Image of the stranding and capture of USS Philadelphia, 31 October 1803

The USS Philadelphia, was chasing a Tripoli blockade-runner, and ran aground on a reef just outside Tripoli Harbor.
This sketch of the frigate Philadelphia is by William Bainbridge Hoff, courtesy of Naval Historical Center Collection.
This sketch depicts Philadelphia under attack by gunboats off Tripoli, after she ran aground on uncharted rocks while chasing a small enemy vessel.

Deciding his situation was hopeless Captain Bainbridge surrendered his ship and crew to the forces of the Bashaw of Tripoli Yussef Karamanli. Her crew of 307 men and boys was led to captivity and the enlisted men were kept in a dungeon or forced to work as slaves. The US Navy decided to attempt a daring plan to burn the ship less it be used against American forces by pirates. Lt Stephen Decatur led this successful mission but the government had to ultimately ransom the crew. Their ransom was $60,000.00 for the sailors (a considerable sum at that time).

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This image is from a painting by the 19th century artist Edward Moran.
The image is from the US Navy Historical Center Collection.

Illustration for the Commodore Edward Preble USN 1804 Diary extract re frigate Philadelphia burning in Tripoli Harbor.
All of the US Naval officers and men who took part in the boarding and burning of the Philadelphia or who witnessed this incredible conflagration remembered that dramatic event for the rest of their lives.

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