Presley O'Bannon

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

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, which is still part of the dress uniform today.[2]


Presley O'Bannon was born in Fauquier County, Virginia to William O'Bannon, a captain of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. and Anne Neville, possibly a daughter of General Joseph Neville.[3] 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. In 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 a United States flag over foreign soil in time of war.[4][5] O'Bannon's superior, William Eaton, a former Army officer, had raised the flag several months earlier while traveling on the Nile from Alexandria to Cairo, but it had not been in a time of war. According to Marine Corps tradition, Hamet Karamanli was so impressed with O'Bannon's bravery that he gave O'Bannon 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.

Before 1826 he married Matilda Heard, daughter of Major James Heard and Nancy Morgan (daughter of Revolutionary War general Daniel Morgan).[3] Presley O'Bannon died in 1850 at age 74 in Pleasureville, Kentucky, where his daughter and nephew lived. His remains were moved to the Frankfort Cemetery in 1919.

Mameluke sword[edit]

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.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "First Lieutenant Presley Neville O'Bannon", Who's Who in Marine Corps History.
  2. ^ "Noteworthy Marines". Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  3. ^ a b Union County, Past and Present, Writers' Program (U.S.). Kentucky. Schuhmann Printing, 1941 - Union County (Ky.)
  4. ^ "Presley Neville O'Bannon", Find-A-Grave.
  5. ^ a b "O'Bannon House Historical Marker". Kentucky Historical Society. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  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. 


  • 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. 
  • "DD 987 O'Bannon". 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. 
  • "Presley O'Bannon". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]