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Presley Neville O'Bannon
Nickname "Hero of Derna"[1]
Born 1776
Died September 12, 1850 (aged 73–74)
Place of birth Fauquier County, Virginia
Place of death Logan County, Kentucky
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1801-1807[1]
Rank Major

Presley Neville O’Bannon (1776 – September 12, 1850) was an officer in the United States Marine Corps, famous for his exploits in the First Barbary War. In recognition of his bravery, he was presented a sword for his part in attempting to restore Prince Hamet Karamanli to his throne at Tripoli. This sword became the model for the Mameluke Sword adopted in 1825 for Marine Corps officers and which is part of the dress uniform even today.[2]


Born in Fauquier County, Virginia, Presley O'Bannon entered the Marine Corps on January 18, 1801. As a first lieutenant assigned to the USS Argus (1803), he commanded a detachment of seven Marines and two Navy midshipmen in General William Eaton’s small army during the Tripoli campaign of the First Barbary War. During the combined operations with the U.S. Navy, he led the successful attack in the Battle of Derna on April 27, 1805, giving the Marines' Hymn its line “to the shores of Tripoli”. Presley O'Bannon at this battle became the first man to raise the American flag over foreign soil during time of war,[3][4] his superior William Eaton (a former Army officer) actually had done that several months earlier while traveling on the Nile from Alexandria to Cairo, however, this was not done during time of war as Lt. O'Bannon's action was. Thus, Lt. O'Bannon is still the first American to raise the American Flag over foreign soil - during time of war. According to tradition, Hamet Karamanli was so impressed with O'Bannon's bravery that he gave his own Mameluke sword to O'Bannon as a gesture of respect; however, this is a myth.[5] After O'Bannon returned home, the Virginia legislature presented him with a sword featuring a silver eaglehead hilt and a curved blade modeled after the one Hamet had given him. The blade was inscribed with his name and the date of the battle.[1]

O'Bannon resigned from the Marine Corps on March 6, 1807. He moved to Logan County, Kentucky, making his home in Russellville. He served in the Kentucky State Legislature in 1812, 1817, and 1820–21, and in the Kentucky State Senate from 1824 to 1826.

Presley O'Bannon died in Russellville in 1850 at the age of 74. In 1919 his remains were moved to the Frankfort Cemetery.

Mameluke sword

Because of O'Bannon's Marines' distinguished record during this campaign, Marine Corps Commandant Archibald Henderson in 1825 adopted the Mameluke sword for wear by all Marine Corps commissioned officers. Since the initial distribution in 1826, the Mameluke sword has been worn except for the years 1859-75, when regulations required Marine officers to wear the model US Army M1850 foot officers' sword. Mameluke swords are worn today by Marine Corps officers in dress uniform.[6]


Three Navy ships have been named USS O'Bannon in his honor:

O'Bannon Hall, at the Basic School in Quantico, Virginia is named in honor of Presley O'Bannon.[4]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "First Lieutenant Presley Neville O'Bannon", Who's Who in Marine Corps History.
  2. "Noteworthy Marines". Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  3. "Presley Neville O'Bannon", Find-A-Grave.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "O'Bannon House Historical Marker". Kentucky Historical Society.,%202002%20014.jpg. Retrieved 2008-03-01.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "OBH" defined multiple times with different content
  6. "Swords of the Marine Corps". Symbols and Icons. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  7. "O'Bannon (I)". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  8. "O'Bannon (II)". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  9. "O'Bannon (DD 987)". Naval Vessel Register. NAVSEA Shipbuilding Support Office, United States Navy. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 


Further reading

Was played by John Payne in the 1950 Paramount motion picture 'Tripoli'

External links

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