In the early 1800s, American ships off the coast of North Africa routinely found themselves the targets of Muslim pirates. These sea raiders, or ‘corsairs’ as they were known, sought captives to enslave in the Ottoman Empire’s galleys, mines and harems. When reports circulated of white Christians being shackled to oars, smashing rocks in mines and being sold into sexual slavery, the American public became incensed. The leaders of the young republic were forced to act and with remarkable dexterity built a fleet of ships that grew into a fighting force powerful enough to withstand its first major test: The Barbary Wars.*Includes annotations and images.
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