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Horrors of Slavery

Horrors of Slavery: Or, The American Tars in Tripoli

William Ray
Edited and with an Introduction by Hester Blum
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Horrors of Slavery
    Book Description:

    Barbary pirates in Africa targeted sailors for centuries, often taking slaves and demanding ransom in exchange. First published in 1808, Horrors of Slavery is the tale of one such sailor, captured during the United States's first military encounter with the Islamic world, the Tripolitan War. William Ray, along with three hundred crewmates, spent nineteen months in captivity after his ship, the Philadelphia, ran aground in the harbor of Tripoli. Imprisoned, Ray witnessed-and chronicled-many of the key moments of the military engagement. In addition to offering a compelling history of a little-known war, this book presents the valuable perspective of an ordinary seaman who was as concerned with the injustices of the U.S. Navy as he was with Barbary pirates.

    Hester Blum's introduction situates Horrors of Slavery in its literary, historical, and political contexts, bringing to light a crucial episode in the early history of our country's relations with Islamic states.

    A volume in the Subterranean Lives series, edited by Bradford Verter

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4567-7
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxx)

    InHorrors of Slavery(1808) William Ray describes his experience as a captive American sailor in North Africa during the Tripolitan War (1801–1805), the first military encounter of the United States with the Islamic world. Ray had been a schoolteacher and a failed shopkeeper in New York State in the 1790s. In poverty and near-suicidal desperation after his hopes of securing a newspaper editorship in Philadelphia were frustrated, he enlisted on a U.S. frigate bound for the Mediterranean in 1803. Along with more than three hundred crewmates, he spent nineteen bitter months in captivity after his ship, the Philadelphia,...

  5. Chronology
    (pp. xxxi-xxxiv)
  6. A Note on the Text
    (pp. xxxv-xxxvi)
  7. Horrors of Slavery; or, The American Tars in Tripoli

    • Exordium
      (pp. 3-14)
    • CHAPTER I Introductory Remarks
      (pp. 15-18)

      Although much general, authentic and interesting information has been conveyed to the public, through the medium of many private and official communications from sundry gentlemen and officers of the United States’ navy, relative to our hostile operations, our pacific transactions, or ultimate adjustment of differences with the power-humbled and recreant Regency of Tripoli; yet no one has given an accurate, full and circumstantial detail, of our capture and sufferings while under the domination of those predatory miscreants and ferocious barbarians.

      The most that has been written on the subject, or the most that has met with publicity, are the extracts...

    • CHAPTER II Commencement of Service
      (pp. 19-25)

      On the 13th of June, 1803, I was pressed³ into the maritime service of the U. States: I say pressed, for I was compelled by an irresistible, horrific band of complicated wants, commanded by imperious necessity, more formidable, and as rapacious as a British press-gang. But that a man should be reduced to this degrading alternative in a free and prosperous country, overflowing with all the good things of this life, where every honest employment meets with liberal and prompt encouragement, and prudent industry with due reward, may excite sensations of inquisitive surprise, in the breasts of those who are...

    • CHAPTER III A Sketch of Biography
      (pp. 26-30)

      Among my new companions in arms, I observed one to whom I felt myself attracted, by the mysterious magnetism of congenial sympathy. There was something in his physiognomy indicative of merit superiour to his station, and to the vacant stare of vulgar ignorance. On becoming acquainted with him, I discovered that he was no Lord or Duke in disguise, as was common in the days of chivalry and romance, but a mechanic of no ordinary abilities—a skillful typographer. And though he had never rendered his life or actions illustrious by immolating his fellow-creatures at the impious altar of bleeding...

    • CHAPTER IV Suicide Attempted
      (pp. 31-36)

      Although I have been mentioning what was transacted on board of the Philadelphia, this was unavoidably necessary as being connected with the relation I was giving, and I now return to the place from whence I took my departure in the latitude and career of eclat.

      Nothing of any great consequence occurred, from the time I entered, until we were sent on board of the frigate, excepting the following interesting circumstance, and its sequacious peculiars; which, as it is expected that this volume will fall into the hands of the young and facetious as well as the old and serious,...

    • CHAPTER V Embarkation—Celebration of Independence—Exemplary Punishment, &c.
      (pp. 37-42)

      In the afternoon of the third of July, those of us who were destined for the frigate, were ordered, at a moment’s warning, to repair on board. All hands were employed in shipping her top-masts, taking in spars, lumber, rigging, &c. The ship was in the utmost confusion—no water nor provisions for the men, and nothing to sleep on the following night, and for many nights after, but the hard and pitchy deck. The next morning ushered in the glorious anniversary of American Independence; and such an independence as I never saw before nor since, and never wish to...

    • CHAPTER VI A Voyage
      (pp. 43-48)

      We were divided into two watches; but all hands being kept constantly on deck in the day time, we had not more than four hours, out of twenty-four, for relaxation and repose; and, consequently, at every muster of the watch, during the night, stupified with lassitude, more or less would be sound asleep below. Sometimes fifteen or twenty at a muster would be ranged along the gangways, to receive the reward of their atrocious actions—the punishment due to the incestuous crime of yielding to the embraces of mother nature, by resting their heads a few moments in her lap;...

    • CHAPTER VII Exercising Ship
      (pp. 49-55)

      Having now been at sea for several days, it became expedient for us to practise in the art and discipline of war; and accordingly a time was appointed to exercise ship. The day was remarkably fine. We were prepared, by previous notice, and furnished with eight rounds of cartridges for small arms. The cannon were also made ready for the occasion. At ten o’clock in the morning, the boatswain piped, and the drum beat to quarters! We soon opened a tremendous fire upon ourimaginaryfoes, and went through all the manoevres of a naval engagement. It was truly ludicrous...

    • CHAPTER VIII Remarks on Dr. Cowdery’s Journal
      (pp. 56-69)

      I shall now take some notice of extracts from Doctor Cowdery’s journal, as published in the Balance, of Hudson, and republished in the Albany Register. As far as he adheres to strict veracity, I shall coincide with his observations; but when he deviates from correctness, or exaggerates on facts, take the liberty of differing with the learned Doctor’s diary. He says—“After the signal of the Philadelphia was struck, and the officers and crew waiting the pleasure of their new masters, the Tripolitan chiefs collected their favourites, and, with drawn sabres, fell to cutting and slashing their own men who...

    • CHAPTER IX A Petition
      (pp. 70-81)

      On the 27th of November, we presented a petition to the Bashaw in the following language.—

      The petition of the American prisoners most humbly sheweth—That when your petitioners were captured, in the United States frigate Philadelphia, they were plundered of all their clothing, and are daily sickening and suffering most intolerably by the inclemency of the season, and by not having any thing to sleep on to keep them from the cold, damp ground, but a thin and tattered sail-cloth: and also, that your petitioners, not receiving sufficient food and nourishment to enable them to endure the hardships and...

    • CHAPTER X Commodore Preble’s Engagement with the Tripolitans
      (pp. 82-96)

      August 3.—The wind east, pleasant weather, and the squadron stood in towards Tripoli. About 12 o’clock, the squadron was within two or three miles of the batteries. Some of our men, who had been at work on the fortifications, came running in, and informed us that the whole coast was lined with our shipping. The whole town was in an uproar, every Turk had his musket and other weapons, and wild disorder rang through every arch. We were all locked into the prison, and a formidable guard set over us. Their batteries were all manned, and several of their...

    • CHAPTER XI Elegy
      (pp. 97-108)

      Our men were employed in repairing the damages done in the several attacks upon the forts and batteries—laying new platforms, building new gun-carriages, hauling timber and stone to build boats and erect fortifications, and nothing, worthy of remark, transhaped our fortune for a considerable time.

      October 21—was the last day we saw any of our shipping. The Tripolitans took their arms and ammunition from their gun-boats, and extracted the charges from the cannon on the forts and batteries. It seems the Bashaw, as yet, had but very inadequate conceptions of the force of his foe; for he this...

    • CHAPTER XII Description of the Place
      (pp. 109-118)

      Tripoli, including Barca, one of the piratical states of Barbary, on the continent of Africa, is situated between 10 and 30 degrees east longitude—30 and 34 degrees of north latitude; bounded on the north by the Mediterranean sea; east by Egypt; south by the country of the Beriberies, and west by Tunis and Biledulgerid; being about eleven hundred miles in length, and two hundred and forty in breadth. The city of Tripoli, the capital and largest town of the dominion, lies on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, in east longitude 14 degrees and 30 minutes, and in north...

    • CHAPTER XIII Manners, Customs, &c. of the Tripolitans
      (pp. 119-124)

      Though something of the manners, customs, &c. of the Tripolitans may be gathered from what has been already mentioned, yet much remains to be particularized. The Tripolitans, like the Moors, marry very young; many of their females not being more than twelve years old at their nuptials, so that they are sometimes grand-mothers at twenty-two, and are reckoned old at thirty. As Mahometans, it is well known, that their religion admits of poligamy to the extent of four wives, and as many concubines as they please; none but the opulent are able to indulge themselves in this privilege, and I...

    • CHAPTER XIV Public Transactions of the United States with the Regency of Tripoli; INCLUDING GENERAL EATON’S EXPEDITION
      (pp. 125-163)

      In giving the public transactions of the United States, &c. with the Regency of Tripoli, a lengthy and detailed account cannot be expected—I have, however, drawn from the Secretary of the Navy all the documents and information on the subject, (including many from the Secretary of State,) which he declares “can consistently be made public”; and also, from General Eaton himself, all which he deems necessary or important relative to his expedition. As far, therefore, as these are authentic, the following statements must be considered as correct.

      I cannot well refrain from making the precursory remark—that what I...

    • CHAPTER XV Sketch of General Eaton’s Expedition
      (pp. 164-180)

      Some circumstances relative to the origin of this expedition have been already mentioned. The disinterested patriotism, the enterprize, the activity and the intrepidity of this second Laonidas, cannot be too highly appreciated, or too much extolled. Had he not been basely deserted by Com. Barron, who had promised to aid his exertions, he would unavoidably have marched triumphantly to Tripoli, and saved the United States 60,000 dollars, besides a large amount of national honour. The following letter will exhibit a brief statement of the General’s cooperations with the Ex-Bashaw, and of his conquest of Derne.

      I left the United States...

    • CHAPTER XVI Return Home
      (pp. 181-182)

      I have before mentioned, that on the 5th of June, 1805, I entered on board the United States frigate Essex, of which Capt. Cox was then commander. The next morning we sailed for Syracuse, and arrived there a few days after. There were a great number sick on board the ship, and two of the Philadelphia’s crew, James Ingalson and John Garrabant, soon after died. This place was the rendezvous of our squadron. There we lay till about the middle of July. While here I went ashore, and meeting a Mr. Irving, we proposed visiting the cave of Dionysius. We...

  8. Poetry, Published in The Albany Register, during the summer of 1807
    (pp. 183-196)
    William Ray
  9. Explanatory Notes
    (pp. 197-200)
  10. Further Reading
    (pp. 201-202)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 203-204)