In June 2003 the USS Constitution Museum opened the exhibition: “The Barbary War: Piracy, Politics & and Power” to commemorate the 200th anniversary of USS Constitution’s involvement in the Barbary War.
After the American Independence the British Navy no longer protected American commercial shipping in the Mediterranean which resulted in the capture of a number of American vessels and their crew by Algerian and Tripolitan corsairs. The situation was dire enough for Congress to sign legislation in 1794, which allowed for the building of six frigates for the protection of our maritime interests. In August 1803 USS Constitution set out to the Mediterranean as the Flagship of the Third Mediterranean Squadron commanded by Edward Preble.
The American presence in the Mediterranean set of an era in American Naval history with many significant highlights and daring feats of courage: diplomatic efforts and colorful characters, the imprisonment in the castle of Tripoli of William Bainbridge and his crew, the burning of the captured USS Philadelphia in the harbor of Tripoli under the eyes of the Tripolitans, by Stephen Decatur and his men, the March to Derna, which inspired a line in the Marine Corps Hymn: “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli,” the bombardment of Tripoli by the US squadron under command of Edward Preble, and the story of a young American merchant sailor enslaved by the Algerian corsairs who became Christian Secretary to the Dey of Algeria and, after his release, the United States’ representative in Tripoli.