Today in North African history: the Battle of Derna ends (1805)

For a military clash that didn’t involve that many soldiers, the 1805 Battle of Derna has a lot of symbolic importance. For one thing, it was the final and most decisive battle of the First Barbary War, arguably the first overseas war the United States ever fought (unless you count the 1798-1800 Quasi-War against the French, even though it was only a “quasi-war”). It was definitely the first overseas ground battle ever fought by a US military force. It gave the Marines the “to the shores of Tripoli” part of their theme song. So there’s a lot of stuff happening here. It also has the distinction of being a battle in which people who actually did the fighting and won came away almost completely empty-handed. More to the point, it was the first episode in the long history of the United States recruiting and then screwing over Middle Eastern proxies.

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