Napoleon Series Archive 2004

Swedish-Tripolitanian war.

If any of the readers of this list also reads Strategy & Tactics magazine i hereby disclaim responsibility for the story about the Swedish-Tripolitanian war. It is signed by me but the text has been so brutally mangled and changed that i would have withdrawn the story had i any way been informed about the "editing".
Here is the text i sent to S&T.

Swedish- Tripolitanian war 1798-1803
The american-tripolitanian war of the early XIX:th century is rather well known. There are many paintings, detailed descriptions is readily available, the marines have sword patterned on a scimitar, Khadaffi have issued stamps about the war, even Enya sings about it.
At the same time Sweden was at war with Tripoli. Swedish frigates blockaded Tripoli and escorted convoys at same time as the americans did it.
There are precious little literature and less interest in this war in Sweden or anywhere.
Why was USA and Sweden at war with far-away Tripoli ?
Tripoli was one of the Barbary-states specializing in extortion of seafaring-nations. In a classic protection-racket the barbary-states demanded money from nations trading in the mediterranean. If no money were forthcoming merchant ship were taken and the crew held at ransom. The taken ships were forfeit and shipboys were singled out for special treatment. Great energy was exerted to convert the boys and they regularly sodomized.
The money asked were mostly not in cash but in items such as ships, guns, powder, rigging. Actually all things needed to keep the piracy going. The tripolitanians didn´t even bother to man their own ships and hired crews of turks and renegades. The tripolitanians themselves produced more or less nothing and served as board of directors or leeches if anyone care to make the distinction.

In 1796 Yussuf Bascha of Tripoli took 8 swedish ships because his tribute was late. Of course the taken ships were kept as interest on the delayed tribute. When the tribute arrived the ship carrying it got a tripolitanian cargo and while on it´s way was taken by a french privateer. Yussuf Bascha demanded compensation from the swedish government for his lost cargo and weren´t shy about the value of the cargo. Also three shipboys that had converted sneaked out of Tripoli. As compensation for this crime against islam Yussuf demanded 15000 peso duro from the swedish government.
When the swedish response was slow and negative Yussuf declared war. It was his stated policy to always be at war with someone. Thirteen swedish ships were soon brought to Tripoli, the ships and crews were thoughly plundered by the privateer crews, the loot being their salary.
Yussuf asked for a truly awesome compensation for his trouble of waging war and the treaty concluded was so expensive and humiliating that Sweden decided to send a flotilla to the mediterranean despite a threatening bankruptcy of Sweden.
Anno 1801 the 40-gun frigare Thetis were already present in the mediterranen and as reinforcement the 40-gun frigates Fröja and Camilla and the brig Husaren were dispatched from Carlskrona. At the first stop at Gothenburg the small frigate Sprengtporten joined.
The Carlskrona ships sailed in october 1801 and encountered a storm of hurricane force in Kattegatt. The frigates lost many yards, sails and a man overboard. The brig Husaren disappeared and some identifiable remains later floated ashore. Husaren had foundered with 121 men and the expedition had started very badly. During the sailing to Malaga there were some complaints about the inexperience of the crew. On the three frigates no less than 5 men fell out of the rigging and drowned. Sprengtporten also lost many yards. The trip had sapped the morale of many and 5 sailors deserted in Malaga, at least three later got caught.
The frigates weren´t in very good repair, Fröja and Camilla found in the mediterranean that the new copperbottoms was of such low quality that it was disappearing and in need of replacement after just a years service. At least Fröja didn´t have the 24 pounders specified but only 18-pounders, likely her armament had been decreased because of the ships age.
In Malaga the flotilla meet Thetis and by a circuitous route sailed towards Tripoli detaching ships to escort convoys of swedish and american ships. After stopping at Toulon, Livorno and Malta, Fröja sailed to Syracusa and meet the american frigate Boston. The logg of Fröja shows some consternation when Boston outsailed Fröja. The frigates of the Bellona-cert, Fröja among them, had no experience of being outsailed and when it was discerned that Boston had royal-sails the swedish carpenters very next day were sent ashore to make such yards for Fröja.
On reaching Tripoli in mars 1802 the port was blockaded and new negotiations started. Yussuf bascha was furious that the earlier agreement hadn´t been accepted in Stockholm and ordered hostilities to be reopened. He also asked for a staggering amount of money from Sweden because of its impertinence in resisting being robbed by the bascha.
The climax of the blockade came on 11/4. Simultaneously a chebeck and four smaller boats tried to sail into from north and west. Fröja chased the chebeck coming from the north and shipboat commanded by ensign Nordenskiöld with 18 men rowed for the boat approaching from the west. Nordenskiöld aimed for three of the boats sailing close together and they beached themselves, the crews made of with sails and rudders. The swedish landed and pursued the sailors forcing them to drop sails and rudders. Then the swedes proceeded to take off the boats but people started to flock to the beach, about half of them had muskets and some on horseback. Nordenskiöld at first kept them at a distance with blunderbuss-fire but the numbers of locals kept increasing until there were hundreds of them. In the exchange of musketfire the shipboat was hit several times and No142 Gerst got hit in the arm. Two of the boats were relinquished. The description in Fröjas logg is interesting. It has been written that some locals were hit but by counterfire and remained still, but that line has been crossed out. The swedish retreat is also more dramatic and less orderly than other reports imply. Two blunderbusses, a pistol and two cutlasses without scabbards were lost overboard in the scramble to get away.
In the meantime Fröja caught the chebeck loaded with mostly food, well manned and rather well armed. The captain couldn´t show any pass or any document whatsoever and it was decided sail it to Malta with a prizecrew for further investigation. Two passengers on the chebeck had a pass and with two of the chebecks crew they were allowed to continue on the next on the boat taken the day before...
The prize was mainly loaded with pots of cooking oil ( 53 large pots, one broken, etc. etc. ) and was unloaded before the boat was let loose.
The chebeck received a prizecrew consisting ensign Armfelt, 9 men and a boy. Before they reached Malta a severe storm forced them to run before the storm. In danger of shipwreck of the Cyrenaican coast and after having lost most of the sails, Armfelt decided to take cover in Benghazi. In the port a Tripolitanian privateer was anchored and it promptly captured the chebeck and making the swedes prisoner.
The chebeck was immediately returned to its crew and was a tunisian ship as the captain had said. The Dey of Tunis considered this incident as a novel means of extortion. He claimed that 50000 peso duro had been concealed in the cargo and that it was mysteriously missing. The swedes did not feel like paying but when the Dey threatened to take a swedish ship rearadmiral Cederström agreed to a payment of 9750 peso duro.
Sometime later Fröja chased a privateer in the hope of it being Tripolitanian, it also was found to be Tunisian but at least it had been somewhat annoyed: During the chase it had slipped the two prizes it had been towing.
Some days after the 11/4 the Tripolitanian gunboats made a short sortie and cannonaded Fröja. She answered with one broadside and tried to entice the gunboats away from the fortressguns without success.
Later the Tripolitanians tried an ambush. Two boats was filled with mamelukes and renegades who kept low. The intention was to entice a boat from a swedish or american frigate to close with the tripolitanian boats. When it was close enough all the soldiers would leap into action and take the shipboat. The blockading frigates did not follow the script and simply opened fire on the boats and drove them ashore. According to the swedish consuls report the soldiers brought some cannonballs back to town as ersatz-booty and proclaimed that they all had been to seasick for combat. That was the last action in the swedish-tripolitanian war.
Yussuf felt very threatened by the blockading forces and invented a counter-tactic worthy of his character and country. The mates among the swedish hostages were ordered to make special shirts. They had no arms, were soaked in tar and powdered with sulphur. Yussuf threatened that if the swedish navy burned any ships in Tripolis harbour the captains among the hostages would be dressed in the cremation-suits and set on fire.
On the 27/4 negotiations was once again reopened and Yussuf Bascha sent a gift of cow, sheeps and vegetables to the Fröja. As a returngift the oil from the taken boat was sent ashore. Soon afterwards arrived a bill on the oil lost from broken pots ! The swedes insisted that all of them had broken during the last transport and refused to pay.
Negotiations was of course slow and the swedish-american blockade weren´t very effective. Ships slipped in and out of Tripoli and flotillas from Denmark and the Netherlands sailed past the blockade in order to pay tribute to Yussuf Bascha. Therefore Yussuf were kept in money and could with logic ask the swedes why he would settle for less money from Sweden when these two countrys didn´t even have any hostages awaiting ransom.
A peaceagreement was hammered out on 2 oct. with help from french colonel Sebastiani in Tripoli on a mission from Bonaparte. Yussufs original demands for tribute were considerably reduced bur weren't exactly cheap. Sweden had to pay a good ransom for the prisoners excluding sailor No37 Gillberg who "went turk" and entered tripolitanian service.
Final exchange didn´t take place until april 1803 because the frigates had to wait for cash in Livorno. During the winter at least 9 sailors died on the frigates.

Yussuf continued his war with USA and continued to wage war for many years. On one occasion boats from the sardinian navy sneaked into port and burned the tripolitanian navy. Some years later an attack by the neapolitanian navy were defeated. Instrumental in the defence were a new fort in the harbour. The guns and powder in the fort were recent tribute from Sweden and Denmark.

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