Your Garage Beauty Best Books of the Month STEM nav_sap_plcc_ascpsc All-New Fire 7, starting at $49.99 Starting at $39.99 Wickedly Prime Handmade Wedding Rustic Decor Book House Cleaning masterpiece masterpiece masterpiece  Introducing Echo Show All-New Fire 7, starting at $49.99 Kindle Oasis Nintendo Switch Water Sports STEMClubToys17_gno



There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

Showing 1-10 of 139 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 221 reviews
on November 23, 2014
Richard Zacks' excellent history, The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805, was published in 2005. It tells the timeless and yet timely tale of America's first major covert operation which was led by the now almost forgotten William Eaton. He was an ex-captain in the US army and former consul to Tunis who was dispatched by President Jefferson to north Africa on a mission to liberate the crew of the USS Philadelphia.

The Barbary pirates of north Africa (see earlier post, The Shores of Tripoli, Jefferson in London and the Birth of the US Navy, 4/20/12) had been terrorizing, kidnapping and enslaving westerners for centuries. An old a Barbary maxim statures: "Whoever acts like a sheep, the wolf will eat." Most Western nations had simply opted to pay tribute to the wolf rather than confront the pirates. After the American revolution, the USA no longer had the protection of the Royal Navy on the high seas. In 1803 the entire American fleet consisted of six ships. The Philadelphia, launched in 1799, was a 36-gun American frigate commanded by Captain William Bainbridge (the same Bainbridge after which Bainbridge island in my adopted home state of Washington is named). The US did not want to be mistaken for a sheep and, therefore, dispatched the Philadelphia to the Mediterranean. Bainbridge had orders to confront the Barbary pirates, instead he managed on October 31, 1803 to run his ship aground in Tripoli harbor. The crew of 307 officers and sailors was captured and held hostage by Yussef Karmaanli, the Bashaw of Tripoli. Yussef has the distinction of being the first foreign ruler to ever declare war on the United States.

William Eaton was a flinty New Englander who had served in the continental army during the American Revolution, attended Dartmouth college after the war and served as the American consul in Tunis. Jefferson and his secretary of state, James Madison, opted to dispatch William Eaton to try to effect the release of the American hostages. Yussef Karmaanli had a brother Hamet who was his political rival for the throne of Tripoli. The Jefferson administration hoped Eaton would stir up a civil war that would topple Yussef and liberate the American sailors. It was therefore, the libertarian Jefferson who first implemented an American policy of using a covert force to effect a "regime change" in a foreign country.

William Eaton had some choice words in support of aggressive American action against the pirates of the Barbary coast. He said, "If the Congress do not consent that the government shall send a force into the Mediterranean to check the insolence of those scoundrels and to render the United States respectable, I hope they will resolve at their next session to wrest the quiver of arrows from the left talon of the (American) Eagle...and substitute a fiddle bow or a cigar in lieu."

Eaton was given the vague title of "Navy Agent of the United States for the Several Barbary Regencies". With long delays in orders due to the communications realities of the time, Eaton had been granted great latitude to get the job done.

In spite of a lack of personnel, money and resources Eaton managed to link up with Hamet and lead a rag tag band of US marines (ten in all), Greeks soldiers and native mercenaries on a 500-mile overland desert journey from Alexandria to Derne in Tripoli. Eaton, greatly outnumbered, led these and US naval forces in the battle of Derne on April 27, 1805 and triumphing over the Bashaw's forces capturing the fortifications of Derne in what is now Libya. His faithful Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon of the US marines raised the American flag over a foreign fort for the first time in history. The Marine hymn owes its reference to the "shores of Tripoli" due to this battle. With the capture of Derne and a US naval blockade of Tripoli, victory seemed to be within the grasp of the American forces.

Jefferson, however, had been secretly proceeding down a double-tracked strategy, having also appointed Tobias Lear, formerly George Washington's private secretary, as US consul general to the Barbary Regencies with the task of negotiating a quick peace with Bashaw Yussef. Lear was a Harvard graduate who had embezzled from his boss, Washington and most likely destroyed some of his Washington's private correspondence, particularly with Jefferson. This naturally endeared Lear to Jefferson. Lear succeeded in making peace with Yussef by promising to abandon Derne, give up the naval blockade of Barbary ports and pay the sum of $60,000 for the release of the Philadelphia crew.

Christopher Kelly is the author of America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth and Italy Invades
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 17, 2012
Captivating account of the Barbary Coast War (1801-1805) in which President Jefferson sent a naval force to take on the Pasha of Tripoli and put an end the seizure of American vessels and the extraction of ransom and tributes for safe passage. An interesting part of the story describes how a handful (8) of marines organized outcast tribes and led a successful land campaign (from Alexandria to Tripoli) against the Pasha. The feat is strikingly similar to the initial operations in Afghanistan in which small teams of special ops warriors organized and led northern Afghan tribes in a rout of the Taliban. In the Tripoli operation, however, despite having routed the Pasha's forces, the marines received an order to end the campaign just as they were about to enter Tripoli and seize the Pasha. Why they were denied an well-earned heroic victory is a case study in bureaucratic bungling and poor communications. At the time, the only communications between the naval force and Jefferson was by way of messages carried by ship. Further complicating matters was that Jefferson relied on information and advice from a arrogant, incompetent diplomat who continually fed Jefferson misinformation and bad advice. The result was that Jefferson erroneously called off the assault on Tripoli moments after the marines had achieved certain victory. Worse yet, the bad advice caused Jefferson to settle the conflict by agreeing to pay the Pasha's demands of tribute. This has to be the origin of the saying, "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory". Despite this ignominious ending, however, the actions and achievements of the marines at Tripoli were indeed heroic, and a justifiable source of pride for the corps memorialized in "the Marine hymn". Highly recommended.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 19, 2014
The Pirate Coast: I found the book to be historically accurate, but overall, it's a dry read. The author never really brings the action to life. As a former Marine, I was indoctrinated with stories of the glory that Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon bestowed on the Corps. In fact, the verse in the Marine Corps hymn, "To the shores of Tripoli" specifically mentions the victory of a small group of Marines and mercenaries over the Barbary Pirates and yet, there is very little written about the Marines in this book. Most of the narrative is dedicated to the adventures of the former Naval Officer and Special Envoy Eaton. I think the author should have spent a little more time and effort writing about O'Bannon as the book would have been better received by the community of Marines, who despite the knuckle dragging reputation, are avid readers. Even in the cast of characters listing, Presley O'Bannon is simply listed by his rank. So, in my opinion, a book about an event that details one of the most historical of many such events of the storied Marine Corps is merely a footnote in this book as is one of its most famous Marine.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 26, 2013
The title of this book is deceptive. The secret mission was to rescue the captured American sailors of the USS Philadelphia as well as to place the exiled ruler Hamet on the throne of Tripoli. While these adventures are described in detail, Thomas Jefferson is placed before them and he is really not the focus of this piece. The point of this novel appears to be to correct an injustice due to William Eaton and Jefferson is portrayed almost universally in a negative light. I think it is more accurate to say this book is a biography celebrating Eaton for setting "a national tone of defiance and daring." In addition it shows how even a founding father could make mistakes. To quote the book, "Eaton's mission marked the first tentative steps by a deeply idealistic government trying to wrestle with ugly problems overseas." Jefferson wanted deniability and it has been common ever since for covert agents to be thrown under the bus.

While the author certainly is correct that Jefferson made mistakes and allowed his own prejudices to bias him, I think he is overly harsh towards Jefferson's initial decisions. First off, Eaton had a poor track record in northern Africa and was not exceptionally gifted at negotiation. He was very much a "my way or the highway" kind of guy. It is natural to be skeptical of such a man. Second, Hamet was an unknown. As Eaton discovered time and time again, Hamet had neither devout followers nor the resources to conduct a campaign. While the stories of Eaton's mishaps are entertaining to read from Hamet thinking of taking the money and running before the group even left Egypt to devious camel drivers demanding more pay in the middle of a desert, it does little to convince me that Eaton's mission was a good idea. Jefferson's opposition to fully supporting the mission and instead merely allocating sufficient resources to see its potential is the correct choice. While it's true that Eaton's conviction is surely the only reason the mission got anywhere, it is important to note that he would have almost certainly failed entirely without the help of the British consul in Egypt.

Eaton is also a bundle of contradictions. Eaton was extremely opposed to ransoming the sailors and piracy in general. Yet, as the author points out, he was perfectly happy to expect repayment for the United States from the tribute of other nations: "The United States, fighting to stop paying tribute to the Barbary pirates, would receive the blood money of the European nations." It is easy to see why Jefferson would be uncomfortable with this. Furthermore one of the financial thorns in Eaton's side was a ransom he paid for an Italian girl Anna in Tunis. I find it hard to understand why he would be willing to pay for her (which essentially freed her whole family), expect the United States government to reimburse him, and yet be unwilling to do the same for his own countrymen. This parallel is not drawn by the author to my knowledge.

Derne, the city which Eaton was forced to abandon to slaughter, was clearly a mistake by the United States. While this can be partially blamed on communication methods of the time, it really falls on the diplomat Tobias Lear. While I would like to say something nice about this man to counter his negative image, I can find no evidence to do so. He appears to have been given his position merely by favoritism rather than talent; the novel presents "allegations" (I say this in quotes because while unproven they appear to be true) that he destroyed damning documents about Thomas Jefferson from George Washington's personal collection. He botched the negotiations in every way and from a position of strength seems to have given in to every demand made of him. Given his own history of stealing and financial circumstances, I can't help but wonder if these payments were part of a larger scheme of him skimming off the top. The one man's opinion of Lear that I wish was included is not that of Jefferson or Eaton, but the Secretary of State James Madison. While Madison may not have broken from Jefferson in public, he would have had little reason to pamper Lear. The opinion is never stated, but the epilogue hints at the truth since under Madison's presidency Lear was not assigned anything as grand as his former position, but instead the post of chief accountant in the War department.

While I may disagree with the author on several points, I think this book is an extremely interesting read. I also really appreciate that there is sufficient information to draw your own conclusions that may contradict the author. I do not recommend this book if you are looking for a happy ending; it ends on several particularly bleak notes.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 25, 2006
As a recorded book, The Pirate Coast is excellent. The reading is crisp and intelligent. It is a wonderful companion for the hours you will spend listening to the account of early U.S. military intervention in the Muslim world. This is not the first retelling of this relatively obscure incident. Other works have covered all, or parts of the campaign in very commendable style. This book, however, goes into intricate detail about the exploits of the U.S. Consul William Eaton, and his subsequent feud with the Jefferson Administration over their failure to live up to their promises to him. It should serve as a cautionary tale to those who expect any Administration to "stay the course" when the political winds change. The sorry fate of Eaton makes a rather depressing conclusion to an otherwise exciting true story of the ealiest adventures of the American Marines and American "activist" diplomats.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 16, 2013
This work meanders. There are great moments recounted, but then we are suddenly sent off into another time and place to take up a subplot. Other accounts of these events are better and respect the readers need for a linear theme.

I am 32% of the way through it and there has been very little Thomas Jefferson, a lot of Pirate Coast and almost no Marines. We learn a lot of unimportant facts which sometimes feel like the author has crossed the centerline to hyperboyle.

I suppose the various subplots of this history have their place and provide motivation for the characters, but I suspect the level of detail about these events can be condensed.

I am about ready to move on to something else, finishing this book only when trapped in an airport with nothing left on my kindle but this story.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 4, 2015
Excellent character study of William Eaton and Thomas Jefferson. It is an interesting history that reads like a novel. The author relates the political and global events of the early 19th century to current events. It is ironic how little the world and politics have changed in the past 200 years. The message of this book and the events it recounts remain relevant today.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 19, 2016
I really loved reading about this period of our new country. I learned more about President Jefferson and his decisions. As usual, I learned some facts that changed my mind about the president, the congress, and the pirates. Interesting that the same family of pirates are operating all over the world today.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 13, 2016
Forgotten but fascinating American history comes to life! "The Pirate Coast" is a well developed history and a story finer than that of Sir Lawrence of Arabia. Marines who think Lieutenant O'Bannon conquered the Barbary pirates single-handedly, you have a life changer ahead of you. You and every Marine should read the book. You'll still love O'Bannon, and you'll see both he and the politicians who sent him to war got handled by history better than they deserved.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 10, 2013
I really liked this book. The story gets into the politics, personalities and problems the U.S. had dealing with the Barbary pirates way back when. Other reviewers complained that the part about crossing the desert was plodding (hey, they plodded; what can you say?) so I was expecting a slow spot but I found that part just as intriguing. Every day or night there was another problem -- camel drivers going on strike or threatening to leave them in the desert.

I was kind of bummed to read that in the end, the U.S. paid ransom just like all the European countries had been doing for centuries.

The weekend after I finished this, there was an artilce in the NY Times about some study showing that European countries are unknowlingly financing the current violence in northern Africa by quiietly paying ransoms for citizens taken hostage. it's like, wow -- two centuries and things haven't changed. History repeats itself.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse