Presley O'Bannon

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Presley Neville O'Bannon
Nickname(s)"Hero of Derna"[1]
Born1776 (1776)
Fauquier County, Virginia
DiedSeptember 12, 1850(1850-09-12) (aged 73–74)
Henry County, Kentucky
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Marine Corps
Years of service1801-1807[1]
RankFirst lieutenant
Presley O'Bannon, from Naval Documents[2]
Presley O'Bannon's grave monument in Frankfort Cemetery

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.[3]


Presley Neville O'Bannon was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, to William O'Bannon, a 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 Duquesne, 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.[4]

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;[5] 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.[4]

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 in Kentucky's state capital.

Mameluke sword[edit]

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.[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.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "First Lieutenant Presley Neville O'Bannon", Who's Who in Marine Corps History.
  2. ^ United States. Office of Naval Records and Library. Naval documents related to the United States wars with the Barbary powers ... : naval operations including diplomatic background ... Washington : Government Printing Office, 1939-44. OCLC 1014224873.
  3. ^ "Noteworthy Marines". Retrieved 2007-02-10.
  4. ^ a b Union County, Past and Present, Writers' Program (U.S.). Kentucky. Schuhmann Printing, 1941 - Union County (Ky.)
  5. ^ "O'Bannon House Historical Marker". Kentucky Historical Society. Archived from the original on 2008-04-14. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
  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.
  10. ^ "O'Bannon House". USMCFSA. Archived from the original on 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2008-03-01.


Further reading[edit]

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