Reuben James, USN
Reuben James was born in Delaware, Ohio about 1776. He joined the U.S.
Navy and served on various ships, including the frigate USS
CONSTELLATION. It was during the infamous Barbary Wars that the
American frigate PHILADELPHIA was captured by the Barbary pirates.
Having run aground in the pirate capital of Tripoli on the southern
shores of the Mediterranean Sea, the crew had to abandon ship and
formulate a plan of attack. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, along with a
group of volunteers which included Boatswain's Mate Reuben James,
entered Tripoli harbor under the cover of darkness in an attempt to set
the PHILADELPHIA to the torch so that the pirates could not make use of
The American volunteers boarded the PHILADELPHIA on 16 February 1804
and were met by a group of the savage Barbary pirates who were guarding
their prize. A furious battle ensued, and during the bloody chaos of
hand-to-hand combat, a villanous pirate made ready to end the life of
Lieutenant Decatur. Reuben James, with both of his hands already
wounded, in an act of selfless dedication and courage did throw his
hand before the pirate's cleaving blade! Willing to give his life in
defense of his captain, Reuben James took the blow from the sword!
Having proved to the world over the courage and dedication of United
States Sailors, Reuben James also hammered home the fact that US
Sailors are undefeatable by not only surviving, but recovering from his
wounds and continuing his career in the U.S. Navy! After spending many
more years with Decatur, James was forced to retire in January 1836
because of declining health brought on because of past wounds. He died
on 3 December 1838 at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Washington, D.C.