The attack on Derna
In the spring of 1805 former US Consul to Tunis William Eaton was sent to Egypt where the brother of the Pasha of Tripoli, Hamet Karamanli, was living in exile. A plan was formed for an expedition led by Eaton, and manned by mercenary troops, to attack Tripoli in an overland expedition from Alexandria, in order to install Hamet as Pasha, deposing his brother. A force of ten Americans, including Eaton, two navy midshipmen, and seven US Marines contacted Hamet, who raised a force of about 300 Arabs and less than one hundred Christian mercenaries, many from Greece. Accompanied by camels and pack mules, this force marched 500 miles across the desert toward Derna.
The expedition departed Alexandria in early March. Inadequately supplied, by the time the expedition neared the Gulf of Bomba their rations were consumed and the Arab faction, by far the bulk of the little army, was threatening to abandon the operation. Relief was obtained when the brig of war USS Argus met the expedition at the Gulf of Bomba and transferred rations ashore. Argus also arranged to support the proposed attack on Derna with shore bombardment, and its captain, Isaac Hull, promised Eaton that he would attempt to arrange further naval gunfire support from other ships from the Tripoli squadron.
On April 27 three American ships, Argus, Nautilus, and Hornet, bombarded the defenses manned by Yusuf Karamanli’s forces and they were attacked by land by Eaton’s expedition. The city of Derna was captured in the assault, and for the first time the flag of the United States was raised over a captured foreign city. Hamet Karamanli declared himself the true Pasha but his brother disagreed and twice attempted to retake the city, failing in both attempts. At the end of May USS Essex arrived at Tripoli carrying Tobias Lear, who entered into negotiations with Yusuf to end the war. The reinforced American squadron carried with it the threat of further actions.
Eaton had signed an agreement with Hamet in which Hamet would become Pasha, which Lear renounced, and Yusuf was allowed to remain the ruler of Tripoli. The Americans provided Hamet with a small sum for his troubles and leaned on Yusuf to install his brother as the head of state of Derna, to which Yusuf acquiesced. He was also persuaded to release the prisoners he held, including the former crew of Philadelphia, in return for $60,000 dollars. Finally he agreed to renounce tribute from the United States and cease the practice of capturing merchant ships from the United States and European nations. He was still free to raid on the other Barbary States.
The American squadron, then under Commodore Rodgers due to Barron becoming ill, immediately sailed to Tunis and forced a similar agreement from the Bey. With the accession of Tunis, the First Barbary War was over. The naval operations of the war had been noted by the European naval powers and the professionalism of American officers had impressed those of Great Britain, France, and Spain. During the ensuing Napoleonic Wars and British blockade of the French fleets in their home ports, the Barbary pirates returned to their raiding, though not against American ships until the War of 1812 began, and the US Navy remained largely preoccupied with war with Great Britain.