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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Operations Against West Indian Pirates 1822-1830s

By the second decade of the 19th Century, pirates increasingly infested the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, and by the early 1820's nearly 3,000 attacks had been made on merchant ships. Financial loss was great; murder and torture were common.

Under the leadership of Commodores James Biddle, David Porter and Lewis Warrington, the U.S. Navy's West India Squadron, created in 1822, crushed the pirates. The outlaws were relentlessly ferreted out from uncharted bays and lagoons by sailors manning open boats for extended periods through storm and intense heat. To the danger of close-quarter combat was added the constant exposure to yellow fever and malaria in the arduous tropical duty.

The Navy's persistent and aggressive assault against the freebooters achieved the desired results. Within 10 years, Caribbean piracy was all but extinguished, and an invaluable service had been rendered to humanity and the shipping interests of all nations.

15 July 1996