Stephen Decatur And The Barbary Pirates

By | March 13, 2019

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Painting by Rembrandt Peale depicts a portrait of US Naval Officer Stephen Decatur (1779-1820), 1817. Source: (Photo by The New York Historical Society/Getty Images)

An exceptional sailor and heroic commander, Stephen Decatur was the youngest person in United States Navy history to reach the rank of captain. It was through his victories, leadership, and efforts that the U.S. Navy established itself as a powerful force of the sea. In the early 1800s, Decatur was a national hero, so much so that dozens of cities and towns were named for him. Let’s look at the exploits of Stephen Decatur.

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A Rebel Sailor

Stephen Decatur’s father was a merchant captain. When Decatur fell ill with whooping cough as a child, the doctor suggested he join his father on a sea voyage because the fresh, salt air, he believed, would cure his ailment. When Decatur returned from the voyage, he was not only cured of whooping cough…he was hooked on the sea. His parents, on the other hand, hoped he would join the clergy. They were sadly disappointed when Decatur, at age 17, sign on to work for a shipbuilder.