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Stephen Decatur
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Military Personnel
    (January 5, 1779-March 22, 1820)
    Born in Sinepuxent, Maryland
    US naval officer
    Served during the Barbary Wars and War of 1812
    Commanded the ships USS Argus, Enterprise, Chesapeake, United States, President, Constitution and Guerriere
    He received his first appointment as a midshipman from a friend of the family.
    He was extremely tactless, with the curator of the Decatur House Museum noting, 'One of the things we have known much about Stephen Decatur is that he couldn't keep his mouth shut.'
    He threatened to resign from the navy after he and a friend were sent home from Malta to defuse an international incident following their participation in a duel in which a British officer was killed.
    A running feud with fellow naval officer James Barron eventually led to a duel in which he was mortally wounded.
    His raid on Tripoli to burn and destroy the captured USS Philadelphia (February 16, 1804) was hailed by Lord Nelson as 'the most bold and daring act of the age.'
    After the raid, he was promoted to captain at age 25, making him the youngest man to reach that rank in US naval history.
    During the second Barbary War, he captured the flagship of the Dey of Algiers, ultimately forcing the Barbary states to stop demanding tribute payments from other nations to avoid piracy (1815).
    In an after dinner toast, he coined the phrase, 'Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country.'
    His funeral was attended by President James Monroe, the justices of the Supreme Court, most of Congress and 10,000 citizens of Washington, DC.

Credit: C. Fishel


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