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Derne Expedition

eaton, hamet, united, tripoli, arabs and march

DERNE EXPEDITION (Derna or Dern), a military expedition undertaken during 1805 by William Eaton (q.v.), United States consul to Tunis in 1799-1803, to secure recog nition of American international rights. Eaton became indignant at the abject submission of Christendom, part from fear and part from greed, to the wretched Barbary pirates; he had raged at their insults year after year while he was consul at Tunis; and when Tripoli, in 1801, finally insisted on war despite all payments, eagerly seized the chance of ending its robberies once for all by making it a United States pro tectorate. About 1792 Hamet Caramanli or Caramelli, pasha of Tripoli, had been deposed by his brother Yusuf and fled to Tunis, where he was then living; and Eaton resolved to have the United States restore him on con dition of peace and no tribute, and thus strike terror into the other piratical states. He borrowed $22,000 for Hamet to equip a force with which our navy was to co-operate; but the naval commanders' hands were tied by their instructions, and in 1803 Eaton's plain-spoken refusal to comply with the bey's extortions caused his peremptory dismissal as consul. He returned to the United States and urged Jefferson to make the country a United States' protectorate, but the govern ment did not feel justified in giving carte blanche for so daring a scheme. At length, in March 1804, Eaton was sent to the Mediter ranean as °naval with Barron's squad ron, but without authority or instructions. He cared for neither squadron nor authority if he could have help and be left to act un trammeled. Meantime Hamet Caramanli had failed and fled to Egypt, where, when Eaton arrived at Cairo on 8 December (having heard at Malta, in September, of Hamet's fiasco), the viceroy was besieging him and a few followers at Minyeh on the Nile. Eaton rescued him at great pains and some peril, and brought him to Alexandria; made a pact with him and a plan of campaign with Barron, and collected an °army° of some 500 floaters — the majority Arabs, some Tripolitan Kabyles, a hundred Alex andrian Christian Greeks and Americans, a most extraordinary rabble for a desperate mili tary venture — and started for a march of 600 miles across the Libyan Desert to Derne, the seaport capital of Barca, the most fertile prov ince of Tripoli. They had no provisions but

what they carried and no water for days to gether, and more than once the Arabs with Hamet were on the point of deserting in a body or cutting Eaton's throat. His energy and moral force finally pulled the entire body through a six weeks' march to 'Bomba, just east of Derne, 17 April 1805; but no ships were in sight. The Arabs cursed him afresh as an infidel traitor and resolved to break up next morning; Eaton and the Christians took post on a hill for the night and lit fires, and next morning the waiting fleet saw the smoke and came in. The Arabs rejoined them and after restocking from the fleet and resting a week, on the 25th, in co-operation with three cruisers, they assailed Derne, defended by earthworks and 800 men. On the 27th they carried it by storm, Eaton being shot through the wrist. A large force was sent from Tripoli to retake it and on 13 May he repulsed it in a sharp engagement with the aid of the fleet's guns. Another month passed; Derne showed no enthusiasm over Hamet, one Oriental mas ter being about the same as another; Eaton could not march on Tripoli, some 700 miles farther on, but the pasha's troops could not drive him from Derne. Suddenly the ground was cut from under his feet by the treaty arranged with the pasha by Tobias Lear, United States consul-general for Algiers and commis sioner of peace, it is said through jealousy of Eaton's success. Hamet's supporters were left to the pasha's vengeance, Hamet to European exile and a grudging pension, and Hamet's fam ily became possessions of the pasha. (See BAR