Second Barbary War
Part of the Barbary Wars

Decatur's Squadron off Algiers.
DateJune 17–19, 1815
Result United States victory
 United States Regency of Algiers
Commanders and leaders
James Madison
Stephen Decatur, Jr.
James C. George
Mohamed Kharnadji
Omar Agha
Reis Hamidou
10 warships 1 brig
1 frigate
Casualties and losses
10 killed
30 wounded [1]
53 killed
486 captured

The Second Barbary War (1815), was the second of two wars fought between the United States and the North African Barbary states of Tripoli, Tunis, and Algeria. The war between the Barbary states and the U.S. ended when "the U.S. Senate ratified Decatur’s Algerian treaty on December 5, 1815".[2] However, Dey Omar Agha, the ruler of Algeria, repudiated the US treaty, refused to accept the terms of peace that had been ratified by the Congress of Vienna. William Shaler, the US commissioner who had negotiated alongside Decatur, had to flee aboard British vessels and later watched "shells and rockets fly over [his] house like hail"[3] as a result of the subsequent Bombardment of Algiers (1816). Shaler then negotiated a new treaty after the Bombardment of Algiers in 1816, which was not ratified by the Senate until February 11, 1822, owing to an accidental oversight.[4]

After the end of the war, the United States and European nations stopped their practice of paying tribute to the pirate states to forestall attacks on their shipping. It helped mark the beginning of the end of piracy in that region, which had been rampant in the days of Ottoman domination (16th–18th centuries). Within decades, European powers built ever more sophisticated and expensive ships which the Barbary pirates could not match in numbers or technology.[5]


See also: Barbary slave trade

After the First Barbary War (1801–1805), the U.S. found its attention diverted to its worsening relationship with Great Britain over trade with France, which culminated in the War of 1812. The Barbary pirate states took this opportunity to return to their practice of attacking American and European merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea and holding their crews and officers for ransom.

At the same time, the major European powers were still involved in the Napoleonic Wars, which did not fully end until 1815.

United States' response

At the conclusion of the War of 1812, however, the United States returned to the problem of Barbary piracy. On 3 March 1815, the U.S. Congress authorized deployment of naval power against Algiers, and two squadrons were assembled and readied for war. The squadron under the command of Commodore William Bainbridge was ported in Boston, Massachusetts while Commodore Stephen Decatur's squadron was at New York. Decatur's squadron was ready to set sail first and departed 20 May 1815. It comprised the frigates USS Guerriere, the flagship with 44 guns, commanded by Captain William Lewis; Constellation with 36 guns, commanded by Captain Charles Gordon; and Macedonia with 38 guns, under the command of Captain Jacob Jones; the sloops-of-war Epervier, commanded by Captain John Downes, and Ontario with 16 guns, commanded by Captain Jesse D. Elliott; the brigs Firefly, Spark and Flambeau, each with 14 guns, commanded by Lieutenants George W. Kodgers, Thomas Gamble, and John B. Nicholson; and the schooners Torch and Spitfire, both with 12 guns, commanded by Lieutenants Wolcott Chauncey and Alexander J. Dallas.[6]

Bainbridge's command was still assembling, and did not depart until 1 July, missing the actions.[7]


Shortly after departing Gibraltar en route to Algiers, Decatur's squadron encountered the Algerian flagship Meshuda, and, in the Battle off Cape Gata, captured it. Not long afterward, the American squadron likewise captured the Algerian brig Estedio off Cape Palos. By the final week of June, the squadron had reached Algiers and had initiated negotiations with the Dey. After the United States made persistent demands for compensation, mingled with threats of destruction, the Dey capitulated. By terms of the treaty signed aboard the Guerriere in the Bay of Algiers, 3 July 1815, Decatur agreed to return the captured Meshuda and Estedio. The Algerians returned all American captives, estimated to be about 10, and a significant number of European captives[citation needed] were exchanged for about 500 subjects of the Dey.[8] Algeria also paid $10,000 for seized shipping. The treaty guaranteed no further tributes by the United States[9] and granted the United States full shipping rights in the Mediterranean Sea.


In early 1816, Britain undertook a diplomatic mission, backed by a small squadron of ships of the line.

As a result, Exmouth was ordered to sea again to complete the job and punish the Algerians. He gathered a squadron of five ships of the line, reinforced by a number of frigates, later reinforced by a flotilla of six Dutch ships. On 27 August 1816, following a round of failed negotiations, the fleet delivered a punishing nine-hour bombardment of Algiers. The attack immobilized many of the Dey's corsairs and shore batteries, forcing him to accept a peace offer of the same terms as he had rejected the day before. Exmouth warned that if these terms were not accepted, he would continue the action. The Dey accepted the terms, but Exmouth had been bluffing; his fleet had already spent all its ammunition.[10]

A treaty was signed on 24 September 1816. The British Consul and 1,083 other Christian slaves were freed, and the U.S. ransom money repaid.[citation needed]

After the First Barbary War, the European nations had been engaged in warfare with one another (and the U.S. with the British). However, in the years immediately following the Second Barbary War, there was no general European war. This allowed the Europeans to build up their resources and challenge Barbary power in the Mediterranean without distraction. Over the following century, Algiers and Tunis were colonized by France in 1830 and 1881, respectively. In 1835, Tripoli returned to the control of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1911, taking advantage of the power vacuum left by the fading Ottoman Empire, Italy assumed control of Tripoli. Europeans remained in control of colonial governments in eastern North Africa until the mid-20th century. By then the iron-clad warships of the late 19th century and dreadnoughts of the early 20th century ensured European dominance of the Mediterranean sea.[citation needed]

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ "Les Corsaires des Régences barbaresques - Page 6" (in French).
  2. ^ "Milestones: 1801–1829 - Office of the Historian". Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  3. ^ Taylor, Stephen (2012). Commander: The Life and Exploits of Britain's Greatest Frigate Captain. London: faber and faber. p. 289. ISBN 978-0-571-27711-7.
  4. ^ "Milestones: 1801–1829 - Office of the Historian". Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  5. ^ Leiner, Frederic C. (2007). The End of Barbary Terror, America's 1815 War against the Pirates of North Africa. Oxford University Press, 2007. pp. 39–50. ISBN 978-0-19-532540-9.
  6. ^ Allen, Gardner Weld (1905). Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs. Boston, New York and Chicago: Houghton Mifflin & Co. p. 281.
  7. ^ Allen, Gardner Weld (1905). Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs. Boston, New York and Chicago: Houghton Mifflin & Co. p. 281.
  8. ^ "the United States according to the usages of civilized nations requiring no ransom for the excess of prisoners in their favor." Article3.
  9. ^ "It is distinctly understood between the Contracting parties, that no tribute either as biennial presents, or under any other form or name whatever, shall ever be required by the Dey and Regency of Algiers from the United States of America on any pretext whatever." Article 2.
  10. ^ Taylor, Stephen (2012). Commander: The Life and Exploits of Britain's Greatest Frigate Captain. London: faber and faber. p. 292. ISBN 978-0-571-27711-7.
  11. ^ Appelbaum, Yoni (21 March 2011). "The Third Barbary War". The Atlantic. Retrieved 16 April 2014.