Portrait of Commodore Edward Preble
This oil painting illustrates Commodore Edward Preble holding a partially rolled up map of the harbor of Tripoli in his left hand with the harbor of Naples, Italy in the background.
Edward Preble, the successful Constitution captain, was born on August 15, 1761 in Maine. Going to sail as a privateer when he was seventeen, Preble spent most of his life at sea and was quickly promoted through the ranks. After spending more than 15 years as a merchant captain, Preble found the attacks upon American merchant ships in the Mediterranean distressing and sought a commission as a lieutenant in the newly formed Navy in the spring of 1794.
During Preble’s time serving in the First Barbary War, his crew would later affectionately call themselves “Preble’s Boys.” While “blunt” and “critical,” he was also forgiving and incredibly capable in battle, earning him the respect of his men. In just over a year, his demanding leadership resulted in many successful attacks that made a significant impression on the Pacha. This portrait was most likely painted after these victories.
He was succeeded in command of the squadron in 1804 due to a lack of captains junior to Preble. For his service, Preble received a gold medal from Congress once he arrived home in 1805, becoming the first Constitution captain to be decorated for his performance. He oversaw the design and launch of two gunboats and two bomb ketches before a sharp decline in health resulted in his death on August 25, 1807.