Presley O'Bannon (1776 – September 12, 1850) was a first lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, famous for his exploits in the First Barbary War (1801-1805). In recognition of his bravery, he was presented a sword for his part in attempting to restore Prince Hamet Karamanli to his throne as the Bey of Tripoli. This sword became the model for the Mameluke Sword, adopted in 1825 for Marine Corps officers, which is part of the formal uniform today.
Presley Neville O'Bannon
|Nickname(s)||"Hero of Derna"|
Fauquier County, Virginia
|Died||September 12, 1850 (aged 73–74)|
Henry County, Kentucky
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1801-1807|
Presley Neville O'Bannon was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, to William O'Bannon, an Irish Catholic captain of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), and Anne Neville, a sister of General John Neville, commander of Fort Pitt (formerly French Fort Dusquene, later Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania) during the Revolution. O'Bannon was probably named after Neville's son Presley, who was aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Lafayette.
O'Bannon entered the Marine Corps on January 18, 1801. As a first lieutenant assigned to USS Argus, he commanded a detachment of seven Marines and two Navy midshipmen in diplomatic Consul General William Eaton's (1764-1811) small army during the Tripoli campaign of the First Barbary War (1801-1805). In the combined operations with the U.S. Navy, he led the successful attack at the Battle of Derna, a coastal town in eastern modern Libya on April 27, 1805, giving the Marines' Hymn its line "to the shores of Tripoli." Lieutenant O'Bannon became the first man to raise a United States flag over foreign soil in time of war; O'Bannon's superior, William Eaton (1764-1811), a former Army officer, had raised the American flag several months earlier while traveling on the Nile River from Alexandria to Cairo, but it had not been in a time of war. According to Marine Corps legend, Hamet Karamanli was so impressed with O'Bannon's bravery that he gave him a Mameluke sword as a gesture of respect.
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.
Some time before 1826, he married Matilda Heard, daughter of Major James Heard and Nancy Morgan, a daughter of American Revolutionary War general Daniel Morgan, commander at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina in 1781).
O'Bannon died in 1850 at age 74 in Pleasureville, Kentucky, where his daughter and nephew lived. In 1919, his remains were moved to the Frankfort Cemetery on East Main Street in the state capital of Frankfort, Kentucky.
Because of O'Bannon's distinguished record during the Derna 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 1859-1875, when regulations temporarily required Marine officers to wear the model U.S. Army M1850 foot officers' sword. Mameluke swords are worn by Marine Corps officers as prescribed with all uniforms except the evening dress and utility uniform.
Three Navy ships have been named USS O'Bannon in his honor:
- USS O'Bannon (DD-177), a Wickes-class destroyer which was launched in 1919 and struck in 1936;
- USS O'Bannon (DD-450), a Fletcher-class destroyer which was launched in 1942 and struck in 1970; and
- USS O'Bannon (DD-987), a Spruance-class destroyer, which was launched in 1978 and struck in 2005.
- "First Lieutenant Presley Neville O'Bannon", Who's Who in Marine Corps History.
- United States. Office of Naval Records and Library. (1939–44). Naval documents related to the United States wars with the Barbary powers ... : naval operations including diplomatic background ... Government Printing Office. OCLC 1014224873.CS1 maint: date format (link)
- "Noteworthy Marines". Tun-Tavern.com. Retrieved 2007-02-10.
- Union County, Past and Present, Writers' Program (U.S.). Kentucky. Schuhmann Printing, 1941 - Union County (Ky.)
- "O'Bannon House Historical Marker". Kentucky Historical Society. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
- "MARINE CORPS UNIFORM REGULATIONS §3032. SWORD AND ACCESSORIES, OFFICERS" (PDF). MARINE CORPS ORDER P1020.34G W/CH 1-5. Marines.mil. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
- "O'Bannon (I)". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
- "O'Bannon (II)". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
- "O'Bannon (DD 987)". Naval Vessel Register. NAVSEA Shipbuilding Support Office, United States Navy. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
- "O'Bannon House". USMCFSA. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
- Crouch, Howard R. (1999). Historic American Swords. Fairfax, VA: SCS Publications. pp. 99–103.
- Cureton, LTC Charles H., USMC (Ret.) (2006). "Early Marine Corps Swords". The Bulletin of the American Society of Arms Collectors (93): 121–132.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- "DD 987 O'Bannon". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
- "First Lieutenant Presley Neville O'Bannon, USMC". Who's Who in Marine Corps History. History Division, United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
- Mowbray, E. Andrew (1988). The American Eagle Pommel Sword, the Early Years 1793-1830. Lincoln, RI: Man at Arms Publications. pp. 218–219.
- Peterson, Harold L. (1970). The American Sword 1775-1945. Philadelphia: Ray Riling Arms Books Co. pp. 192–193.
- London, Joshua E. Victory in Tripoli: How America's How America's War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005.
- Smethurst, David. Tripoli: The United States' First War on Terror. New York: Presidio Press, 2006.
- Zacks, Richard. The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805. Hyperion, 2005.
Was played by John Payne in the 1950 Paramount motion picture 'Tripoli'
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Presley O'Bannon.|
- "Presley Neville O'Bannon, 1st Lt., USMC (1776-1850)". Namesake. United States Navy. Archived from the original on 2005-06-30.
- From the Halls of Montezuma To the Shores of Tripoli: Presley Neville O'Bannon and the Marine Corps Sword, at Virginia Memory