Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A P.O.W. from Tripoli

This week, I am honoring my ancestor Peter De Lozier, my 4x Great-Grandfather in my father’s maternal line. Peter De Lozier, also written as Delozier and DeLozier and d’Lozier, was the son of Oliver DeLozier and Eleanor Erkells, the grandson of Peter “Petrus” Lozier and Fytje “Sophia” Zabriskie, the great-grandson of Nicholas “Claes” LaSueur, the great-great-grandson of Francois Le Sueur, a civil engineer from France who immigrated to New Amsterdam, and Jannatje Hildebrand Pietersen.
Peter was born in Clinton, Connecticut in 1786. He was a marine, serving aboard the U.S.S. Philadelphia when it ran aground in Tripoli harbor during the First Barbary War in October of 1803. The Americans found it impossible to keep the ship afloat while under fire. The crew, along with their captain, William Bainbridge, were all taken and held as hostages. The U.S.S. Philadelphia was anchored in the harbor as a gun battery for the Tripoli.
According to a letter from Captain Bainbridge to the Secretary of the Navy, dated the first of November, the crew made every attempt to keep the boat afloat by offloading the stores of guns and water but the ship was still too heavy. They cut the mast but that was of no help as well. After four hours of fire from the Tripoli gun boats, and seeing their own reinforcements approaching, the Captain and Officers lowered their ship’s colors and submitted to the enemy. Just after sunset, the ship was taken and the men were carried to shore after dark.
In his letter he states that he and the Officers, and their attendants, were quartered within the American Consular House and confined there during their imprisonment. Bainbridge expresses upset over the confinement inside the walls of the house, despite having given their word, their “parole of honor.” He says, “the remainder of the Crew will be supported by this Regency.” Peter DeLozier was one of those men. He was 16 years old. The men were held in the dungeons of an old castle fort in Tripoli, where they were fed 15 ounces of bread a day.
On the night of February 16, 1804, a small contingent of Marines got into the harbor and set fire to the U.S.S. Philadelphia so that the enemy could not use her against them. My ancestor was still being held hostage. On July 14, 1804, an attempt was made to destroy the enemy fleet, but the ship to be used was destroyed before it achieved it’s goal, with a total loss of the Captain and the crew. And still, the crew was held hostage.
In April and May of 1805, Ex-Consul William Eaton, a General, and U.S. Marine First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon led a force of 8 Marines and 500 mercenaries, made up of Greeks from Crete, Arabs, and Berbers, on a desert march from Alexandria, Egypt to Derna, in Tripoli. They captured the city and, for the first time, the U.S. flag was raised in a foreign land. This move led Yusuf Karamanli to sign a treaty to end hostilities.
According to Article 2 of the Treaty, the Bashaw of Tripoli agreed to return the Americans in his care to America as long as America agreed to return the captured subjects of the Bashaw to Tripoli. Tripoli held “Three Hundred Persons, more or less” and America held “One Hundred more or less” Tripolino Subjects, The Bashaw also required $60,000 in payment for the difference in numbers, which President Jefferson agreed to pay on June 10, 1805.
In this Treaty, the Jefferson administrative made a clear line between paying tribute as opposed to paying ransom. Some felt that buying sailors out of slavery was a fair way to bring end to a war, but General Eaton and others believed that the capture of Derna should have been used as a bargaining chip to obtain their release without payment.
At his release, my 4x Great-Grandfather Peter had been held in captivity for 30 months. Most of the captives had been used for hard labor in extremely foul conditions, exposing them to both vermin and disease. He was about 18 when he returned home in 1805.
He married Lucy Raymond four years later. The next year, their only child, Ordelia, was born in Whitestone, New York. By 1820, Peter De Lozier is listed as owning a cabinet-making business on Richmond Avenue in Lockport, New York.
From what we can gather, sometime between 1820 and 1825, at the age of 33, Peter De Lozier abandoned his family in Lockport and returned to life at sea. In 1825, Ordelia married Bailey Harrison Whitcher, her father’s apprentice in the cabinet-making business; it is likely that Ordelia married Bailey in order to keep the family business going as she was only 15. It’s also possible that Peter saw a connection between his apprentice and daughter and left feeling the family would be taken care of. And possible still that the engagement was already determined. The truth may never be known.
I don’t know what it would have been like to be a prisoner of war at such a young age, for so long, and then try to readjust to a normal life. We know enough about post traumatic stress disorder now that I can imagine the difficulty of surrendering to the expectations of a society that did not have to experience what you did. I don’t blame him, as some descendants might, for the darkness of what the family might have suffered by his absence. Sometimes life deals us hard cards and we do the best we can.

 Peter De Lozier died July 30, 1849 of cholera in Connecticut, where he was listed as a mason worker. He was 63. His wife Lucy lived with her daughter and son-in-law in Lockport, New York until her death in 1874.

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