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Art Marine

USS Philadelphia - Jeremy Rugge-Price

USS Philadelphia - Jeremy Rugge-Price

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During the First Barbary War,  the 1240-ton, 36-gun sailing frigate USS Philadelphia, accompanied by USS Vixen, cruised off Tripoli until October 31, 1803, while giving chase and firing upon a pirate ship she ran aground on an uncharted reef two miles (3 km) off Tripoli Harbor. The captain, William Bainbridge, tried to refloat her, first laying the sails aback, and casting off three bow anchors and shifting the guns aftward, but a strong wind and rising waves drove her further aground.

Next, they jettisoned many of her cannons, barrels of water, and other heavy articles overboard in order to make her lighter, but this too failed. They then sawed off the foremast in one last desperate attempt to lighten her. All of these attempts failed and Bainbridge, in order not to resupply the pirates, ordered holes drilled in the ship's bottom, gunpowder dampened, sails set afire and all other weapons thrown overboard before surrendering. Her officers and men were made slaves of the Pasha.

Philadelphia, which had been refloated by her captors, was too great a prize to be allowed to remain in the hands of the Tripolitans, so a decision was made to recapture or destroy her. The United States had captured the Tripolitan ketch Mastico, renamed her Intrepid, and re-rigged the ship with short masts and triangular sails to look like a local ship.

A party of volunteers, led by Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, the son of Philadelphia's first master, was given the task. On February 16, 1804, under the cover of night and in the guise of a ship in distress that had lost all anchors in a storm and needed a place to tie up, Decatur sailed Intrepid next to Philadelphia. The Americans boarded the prize, and after making sure that she was not seaworthy, burned the ship where she lay in Tripoli Harbor.

Britain's naval hero Viscount Nelson is said to have called this feat "the most bold and daring act of the Age".

Philadelphia's anchor was returned to the United States on April 7, 1871, when Mehmed Halet Pasha, the Ottoman governor, presented it to the captain of the visiting Guerriere.  

Original oil on canvas, signed.

Canvas size: 20 x 30 inches

The frame if required is hand-gilded in 24-carat gold leaf.  

Larger image is available on request.


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