Why did Decatur burn the Philadelphia?

In 1803, the US lost one of its best ships when Bainbridge hit uncharted rocks. According to Anthony Irvin, the Philadelphia was “one-third of Preble’s Squadron.”

With one-third of America’s force in the hands of a pirate, Commodore Preble had to do something.

He thought he was taking a big risk. He thought many American lives would have to be sacrificed to destroy the Philadelphia. But it had to be done. Peter Lisle could not be allowed to use one of America’s best warships against the US.

The Philadelphia was being repaired. Time was running out.

One question is, could Decatur have saved the Philadelphia? Could it have been taken out without being destroyed? Most historians say no, but polemicist Yoichi Shimatsu claims that the original plans were to retake the Philadelphia.

Sorry Yoichi, I can’t find the evidence of this. The only evidence I can find of an eyewitness account other than the Americans is that of Salvadore Catalano. In fact, when Salvadore Catalano testified for Stephen Decatur’s widow, he claimed to ask Stephen Decatur if they should try to free the ship. Decatur is said to have objected because he had orders to destroy the ship.

Preble thought that many American lives would be lost just by destroying the ship. To bring it back out would have been disastrous.

If Yoichi can supply me with evidence to the contrary, I’d be happy to see it. I suspect, from the other historical errors in his work, that he can’t. He hasn’t seen any original documents but has only viewed interpreted versions of the events (that is, propaganda).

One may criticize Decatur for not waiting for his escort, or Preble for not trying to free the frigate. The fact is, once the frigate was ready to free, it would be possible that Peter Lisle would already have a crew ready to send her out.

At the stage she was when Decatur boarded and destroyed her, the Philadelphia was already armed and it added to the harbor’s defenses. It was already a threat to the US Navy, and it was soon to be a threat to merchant shipping.

What does this have to do with modern Libya? Nothing.

Since then, the Karamanlis were overthrown by Turkey, which was kicked out of Libya by the Italians, who were kicked out by the Allies in World War II, who were then followed by a royal army which was then followed by a brief monarchy. The Karamanlis have about as much in common with Gadaffi as Sitting Bull does with Obama.

Anyway, if anyone knows Yoichi, please invite him to contact me. I’d like to discuss his sources: they sound different from everything I read and there might be something new in them.