Knowing that the Tripolitans were short of powder, Richard Somers, an intimate friend of Decatur’s, next suggested a plan to destroy the Tripolitan shipping by means of a floating mine. This idea was warmly welcomed, and great stores of powder, shot, and iron were placed on board Decatur’s boat, the Intrepid. Then Somers solemnly warned the few men who were to go with him that he would blow up the boat, and all on board, rather than let the powder fall into the enemy’s hands.
In spite of this warning, many brave men volunteered, and one boy, rather than miss the honor of sharing the danger of the picked crew, hid himself on board the floating mine. At dusk, the Intrepid, manned by thirteen American heroes, entered the harbor of Tripoli.
Meanwhile, the other Americans anxiously watched and listened to find out what would happen. When it was quite dark, and while they were hanging over the railing of the ships, they suddenly saw a little light flit about, as if carried by some one who was moving rapidly. It was quickly followed by a loud explosion, which shook all the houses in Tripoli and the vessels both in and out of the harbor. That was all; and although the Americans peered anxiously into the darkness, waiting for the return of their men, they never came back.
On the next day, thirteen blackened bodies were washed up on shore, but no one has ever known exactly what happened. Some say the explosion was an accident, but others declare that Somers, seeing he was discovered before he could fulfill his object, blew up the vessel with his own hand. His heroic deed has always been greatly admired, and a monument has been erected in his honor on the western side of the Capitol at Washington.
Somers’s attempt to set fire to their ships, lack of ammunition, and the fact that there was some trouble in the city, finally induced the Tripolitans to make a treaty of peace with the Americans in 1805. All through the war our navy had behaved so well that the Pope declared that the United States, although only thirty years old, had done more in two years to put an end to piracy than all the European states together in nearly three centuries.
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