On 31 October 1803, the USS Philadelphia came under fire by Tripolitan gunboats. She had been on a blockading mission in the far-off waters of the Mediterranean when she ran aground. A significant list rendered the frigate’s guns useless and, as her crew worked desperately to lighten the ship in a vain attempt to get her off of the reef that had seized her, she was subjected to hostile fire by the enemy gunboats. As additional Tripolitan craft approached, the Philadelphia’s captain determined that further resistance would subject his crew to a heavy loss of life, and so he surrendered.
The Tripolitans were subsequently able to tow the Philadelphia into Tripoli Harbor, and her crew was taken into captivity where they would ultimately suffer at the hands of captors who did not share the Americans’ standards of appropriate conduct.