The Forgotten Wars of the Nineteenth Century

The Quasi-War With France & The Barbary Wars

This exhibit traces the conflicts with France and the Barbary States that the new nation faced after the American Revolution. American and French ships battled in the West Indies even though there was no formal declaration of war. The Pasha of Tripoli declared war on the United States in 1801, and in 1815 President James Madison asked Congress to declare war on Algeria. American merchant ships were in great danger at this time because there was no national navy to protect them abroad.

While typically thought of as a rebuilding time in United States history, it was a busy and tough time for American seamen.

Interesting artifacts in the Forgotten Wars exhibit include:

  • Sword and leather sea chest of James Sever, commander of USS Congress during the Quasi War with France
  • Letter from John Paul Jones to Secretary of State John Jay reporting that Algeria had declared war on the U.S.
  • Captain Thomas Tingey's uniform
  • Painting, "Decatur Boarding a Tripolitan Gunboat," by D.M. Carter - Camera (click here for picture)
Figurehead from General Armstrong

The War of 1812

Great Britain's interference with American shipping, the impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy, and Indian raids supported by the British in Canada led Congress to declare war on Great Britain on 18 June 1812. Fighting on inland waterways and on the sea, the U.S. Navy stunned Great Britain by defeating them on Lakes Erie and Champlain. The end result was that Great Britain finally conceded their loss and negotiated the Treaty of Ghent (1814).

Interesting artifacts from the War of 1812 exhibit include:

  • Prints of principle naval engagements
  • Model of USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides")
  • Desk of Commodore Thomas Macdonough
  • Replica of the gun deck of USS Constitution - Camera(click here for picture)
  • Artifacts from Joshua Barney's Chesapeake Flotilla
Replica of the gun deck of USS Constitution

The Mexican War

During the Mexican War, the U.S. Navy's home squadron, directed by Commodores David Conner and Matthew C. Perry, blockaded key Mexican ports along the Gulf of Mexico while the Pacific Squadron under Commodore John Sloat controlled ports on the Pacific side and captured California, thus helping to bring Mexico to her knees. The Navy also proved valuable through its quick transfer of men and supplies.

Interesting artifacts in the Mexican War exhibit include:

  • Sword belonging to Commodore John Sloat commander of the Pacific Squadron
Exhibit introductionExhibit introduction