Magazine article USA TODAY

How America Won Independence at Sea

Magazine article USA TODAY

How America Won Independence at Sea

Article excerpt

Americans are mistaken if they think the colonists' fight for independence was won solely by defeating the British, argues Frank Lambert, professor of American history at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., and author of The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World.

"Here was the United States just emerging from its fight for independence when the young country finds itself blocked from free trade by North African countries in the Atlantic Ocean," Lambert relates.

"Now, America had to fight for free access against imperial restrictions imposed by Britain and North African states and Europe in what is known as the Barbary Wars. This 33-year period, which includes the Tripolitan War (1801-05) and the Algerine War (1815-16), is an important aspect of history that people often overlook."

In 1784, the U.S. was vying with the Barbary States--including Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli--to dominate Atlantic Ocean trading routes. America's 13 colonies had just won independence from Great Britain in 1783, but the victory also meant the loss of protection from the British Royal Navy. The following year, the U.S.'s first ship, Betsey, was captured by pirates and its crew held for ransom. …

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