Editors Note: This post originally appeared in the former “Virginiana” section of Virginia Memory.
The United States Marine Corps abounds with tradition and history. An important aspect of this history and tradition revolves around Presley Neville O’Bannon and the Marine Corps sword. Over two hundred years ago, O’Bannon, a Virginian born in Fauquier County, became the first American to raise the United States’ flag over foreign soil.
Promoted to 1st lieutenant in the Marine Corps, O’Bannon was assigned to the USS Argus in the Mediterranean during the war against Tripoli, one of the Barbary States on the north coast of Africa. Described by author Joseph Wheelan as “America’s First War on Terror,” the Tripolitan War sought an end to the exorbitant tributes of the Pasha of Tripoli, Yusuf Karamanli. William Eaton, navy agent to the Barbary Regencies, devised a plan to depose the Pasha by forming an alliance with Yusuf’s exiled brother Hamet. Eaton led an army consisting of Lieutenant O’Bannon and seven U. S. Marines from the Argus, along with an assortment of Tripolitans, Arabs, and European mercenaries. This army marched 520 miles across the Desert of Barca from Alexandria to attack the city of Derna, Tripoli’s eastern provincial capital. On 27 April 1805, a combined land and sea attack supported by the USS Argus, Nautilus, and Hornet, commenced against Derna. Later called the “Hero … read more »