The Pirate Coast, Thomas Jefferson, the first Marines
and the Secret Mission of 1805
by Richard Zacks
List Price: $25.95 Hardback: 448 Pages
Publish Date: June 1, 2005
Review by Brian Williams
The Pirate Coast, Thomas Jefferson, the first Marines and the Secret Mission of
1805 is an amazing true story of the secret dealings of the young
United States, a forty-year old diplomat-turned general, the first American
Marines (8 of them), and the civil war of Tripoli. I will say right
off that whenever I picked up this book, I found it difficult to put it down.
Richard Zacks has recreated for us the events between the years of 1803 and
1805 where the young United States found itself caught in an
awkward Mediterranean war against the Barbary Pirates. Through his
research on the subject, we get a unique insider's view of Jeffersonian
politics and early naval operations and politics. The details
provided by Zacks is amazing. We also get into the motives and
politic-dealings of everyone from Thomas Jefferson, the Bashaw Yussef of
Tripoli, General Eaton, Hamet, and the various admirals and officers.
William Eaton is the main character in the book and we follow him from diplomat
to General to civilian. Zacks does a wonderful job of getting us
inside this man's mind through the numerous correspondence written between all
the various characters involved.
The book also gives Western readers a unique insight into the harsh and rugged
mindset of the Arab world. Christian slaves were routinely captured on
raids (such as from Sicily) and traded. According to Islamic Law,
non-Muslims were legitimate slaves. Also, as the USS Philadelphia found,
even prisoners of war were considered as legitimate slaves.
But, overall, what I found most interesting about the book were the inside
government dealings and politickings in which Eaton found himself. Of
course, such politicking goes on in each war, but it was wonderful to get an
insider's view of the dealings. One cannot help to feel sorry for Eaton,
who was caught in the middle, but his situation really wakes up the
reader to the reality of real-world politics. Also, I found the candid
and harsh view of the Arab world refreshing. It enlightens readers
to a culture that before this book, I had not known existed.
Readers will be pleasantly rewarded by this book. It takes us to a
very little-known period in American History and brings out details and
insights into our early history that are amazing. This is a fabulous
addition to your military-history library collection.
Review by Brian Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org)