Namesakes were pirate fighters – 200 years ago

Published 4:34 pm Friday, April 17, 2009

If the pirates off the Africa coast had studied a bit of history, they would have never messed with anything named “Bainbridge”—or “Decatur” for that matter.

As in our city’s namesake, the USS Bainbridge is named after Commodore William Bainbridge, a naval officer who played an important role in cleaning out pirates that plagued shipping off the African coast more than 200 years ago.

On Tuesday night, the Bainbridge City Council is scheduled to consider a resolution honoring our city’s namesake—commending the actions of the sailors and SEALs on the USS Bainbridge, a U.S. Navy destroyer.

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Capt. Richard Phillips of the U.S.-flagged cargo ship Maersk Alabama was freed when SEALs on the USS Bainbridge killed three pirates that held him hostage earlier this week.

City Manager Chris Hobby said he is working on the wording for the resolution and hopes to convey to the ship’s approximately 270 officers and sailors the appreciation and pride the city holds for those on the USS Bainbridge.

On Nov. 13, 2004, Bainbridge Mayor Mark Harrell, Hobby and their wives traveled to Bath, Maine to witness the christening of the USS Bainbridge, which is now homeported in Norfolk, Va. They met the commanders of the destroyer, but he doesn’t know if those he meet are presently serving on the ship.

“It’s a pretty impressive looking vessel,” Hobby said Friday. “It portrays the might of the United States pretty effectively.”

The destroyer is six inches shy of 510 feet and has a displacement of 9,200 tons.

Decatur’s legacy

Our county’s name also comes from a pirate fighter, and the U.S. Navy’s USS Decatur is a destroyer serving with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group that his homeported in San Diego, Calif.

Decatur County is named after Stephen Decatur, who was a hero during the First and Second Barbary Wars that battled pirates and those countries that supported the pirates, online references say.

Although some are saying that Decatur was the last American to be held hostage by pirates before Phillips, an Internet search said that Decatur was never actually captured by pirates, but by the British.

He was held prisoner in Bermuda following his surrender to the British in January 1815 during the War of 1812.

During the Second Barbary War, Decatur played a pivotal role in ending the international practice of paying tribute to pirate states. For that campaign, Decatur became known as the “conqueror of the barbary pirates.”