For well over 400 years, the Barbary
Coast pirates made their living by seizing ships and goods and
by enslaving people. France
and England, among other nations, had for hundreds of years
been paying “tributes” to the rulers of the Barbary Coast
which included Algiers, Tunisia, Morocco and Tripoli (now
called Libya). American
ships were protected because prior to the Revolutionary War,
our ships flew British flags.
For a while after the Revolutionary War the French
By 1785, however, we were on our own.
The newly created United States had downsized the army
to less than 700 men and had eliminated the Navy entirely and
had sold its last ship. That same year, the Barbary Coast
pirates seized the first U.S. merchant ship and took 22
hostages. By 1793, over 100 Americans were being held hostage
(including 16 of the 22 taken in 1785; 6 hostages having died
while in captivity). This
on-going situation was the single most important reason why
Congress passed and President Washington signed legislation on
March 27, 1794 which recreated the Navy under the Department
of War. The
Department of Navy, as a separate entity was created April 30,
1798. It should
be noted that the first Secretary of the Navy was Benjamin
Stoddert who was born in neighboring Charles County, MD.
Just six months later, on September 7,
1798, Michael Brown Carroll was appointed as a midshipman in
the U.S. Navy. Mr. Carroll was born 1768 in St. Mary’s
“Susquehanna” which was a part of the approximately 7,000
acres taken by the U.S. Navy in 1942 for the Patuxent Naval
Air Station. Mr. Carroll saw action first in the Quasi War
with France, but by 1800 he was serving aboard the Philadelphia
off the coast of Tripoli.
In 1803, pirates seized the Philadelphia and its
crew of 307 was taken hostage after it had become entrenched
on a sandbar in the harbor of Tripoli.
Luckily, by that time Michael Brown Carroll had already
been assigned to the Siren. Stephen Decatur, with a
crew of volunteers, eventually destroyed the Philadelphia
in a daring raid in which they posed as pirates using a
previously captured Tripolitan ketch, which had been renamed,
the USS Intrepid.
The Siren, with Mr. Carroll on board,
accompanied the USS Intrepid.
The mission was successful with 20 of the enemy being
killed and the Philadelphia destroyed.
As a result of this mission, Stephen Decatur was
promoted from Lieutenant to Captain at the age of 25, the
youngest Captain ever appointed in the U.S. Navy.
Michael Brown Carroll would continue to
serve in the Mediterranean until 1806.
He received his commission, signed by President
Jefferson in 1802. He would eventually be promoted to Master
Commandant in 1815 after having served in New Orleans during
the War of 1812. Mr.
Carroll resigned from the U. S. Navy in 1822 and came back to
“Susquehanna” where he died in 1831.
In 1960, the family of Michael Brown Carroll donated to
the St. Mary’s County Historical Society the original
commission signed by President Jefferson, a sword said to have
been presented to him by a prominent Turk after the Battle of
Tripoli, and a small portrait all of which are on display at
the Old Jail Museum in Leonardtown.
The second wife of
Nathaniel Eaton, the first head of Harvard University in 1638,
was Ann Graves, the sister of Verlinda Graves, wife of
Governor Thomas Stone of Charles County?
Louisa Johnson, wife of President John Quincy Adams,
was the daughter of Joshua
Johnson of Calvert County?
Smith, born in Calvert Co., married President Zachary Taylor
and their daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor was the first wife of
In 1970, while a
student at Fordham University, Denzel Washington played the
role of Matthias De Sousa, an African American who came to
Maryland on the Ark and that he was assisted in preparing for
this role by Mr. Edwin Beitzell who was then the President of
the St. Mary’s County Historical Society?
The crew of the
Dove had to sue three times for their wages after their voyage
to Maryland? Mr.
Calvert, et al, refused to pay them because the Dove had
traveled to Barbados in order for the ship’s captain to
collect on a personal debt?