Paul Revere's signed receipt for a brass Sea Mortar made for the Argus, fired in the First Barbary War in support of the Marine attack on "the shores of Tripoli"
Paul Revere Historic Military Autograph Document Signed
"Paul Revere" in text, one page, 7" x 1.75". [Boston],
August 25, 1803. Revere handwrites his receipt to the "United
States Navy Department" to "Paul Revere & Son" for
"a Brass 10 Inch Sea Morter", weighing 2,175 lbs at $45 per
pound for "$978.75." The docket on verso, in an unknown
hand, reveals that the 10 inch Sea Mortar, "ordnance," made
by Paul Revere was for the Brig Argus and that he was paid
on August 31st. Portion of a paper seal at lower left. Faint
vertical fold passes through second "e" of "Revere."
Small mounting remnant in blank area on verso. Fine condition.
In 1784, the U.S. Congress had allocated money for payment of tribute to the Barbary pirates to assure they would not attack American ships in the Mediterranean, and instructed her British and French ministers (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, respectively) to look for opportunities to negotiate peace treaties with the Barbary nations. When Jefferson became President in 1801, the Pasha of Tripoli demanded money from the new administration. Jefferson, who had opposed the previous tribute to the pirates, refused the demand. In May 1801, the Pasha declared war on the United States and the President sent a group of frigates to defend American interests in the Mediterranean.
The brig Argus was launched in Boston on August 21, 1803. With Paul Revere's mortar installed, she set sail on September 8, 1803 with Lt. Stephen Decatur in command. Arriving at Gibraltar on November 1, 1803, Decatur relinquished command to Lt. Isaac Hull. In March 1804, the Argus received orders to join the rest of the squadron off Tripoli in blockading the port. The Argus later docked at Alexandria, Egypt. In early 1805, Gen. William Eaton, former U.S. Consul at Tunis, began organizing an attack on Tripoli.
Under the command of Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon (who was serving on the Argus), Eaton, eight U.S. Marines, and about 500 Arab, Greek, and Berber mercenaries he had recruited in Alexandria with Hull's help, marched over 600 miles west across the Sahara to attack the Tipolitan coastal city of Derna (now, Libya). The force finally reached the port city of Bomba on April 35, 1805, where the Argus, Nautilus, and Hornet were docked. At Bomba, up the coast from Derna, Hull provided Eaton and his force with supplies and money to pay the mercenaries. On April 27, 1805, Hull's ships, anchored just a half-mile east of the Derna fortifications, opened fire and bombed the city's batteries for about an hour as the Tripolitans returned fire. A mortar fires shells at a much lower velocity and higher ballistic arc than other ordnance their shells explode on impact with the target. English scientist, mathematician, and engineer Benjamin Robins (1707-1751) had calculated that a 10-inch mortar would fire a 96-pound shell to a distance of about 3,350 yards (1.9 miles). Revere's brass mortar was perfect for this battle.
By 2:45 P.M., gunfire from the Argus and Nautilus had silenced all of the guns in the city. Lt. O'Bannon then led his Marines in a charge. The Tripolitan defenders fled in such haste, that they left their cannon loaded and ready to fire. O'Bannon raised the U.S. flag over the works as Eaton turned the captured batteries on the city and opened fire. By 4 P.M., the entire city had fallen. The Battle of Derna was the first recorded land battle of the United States on foreign soil and was the first time the American flag flew over a fortification in the Eastern Hemisphere. Derna's capture by the Marines, with crucial support by the Marines and with Paul Revere's 10 inch sea mortar firing on the city from the Argus, is immortalized in the "Marine's Hymn" in its opening verse:"....to the shores of Tripoli."
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