Reuben James

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Reuben James (c. 1776 – 3 December 1838) was a Boatswain's Mate of the United States Navy, famous for his heroism in the Barbary Wars.


Born in Delaware in about 1776, James joined the United States Navy and served on several ships, including the frigate USS Constellation. During the Barbary Wars, the American frigate Philadelphia was captured by the Barbary pirates when it ran aground in the city of Tripoli, on the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, along with a group of volunteers that included Reuben James, entered the harbor of Tripoli under the cover of darkness in an attempt to burn the Philadelphia so that the pirates could not use her.

The volunteers boarded the Philadelphia on 16 February 1804 and were met by Barbary pirates who were guarding their prize. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, Reuben James, with both of his hands already wounded, positioned himself between Lieutenant Decatur and a sword-wielding pirate. Willing to give his life for his captain, James took a blow from the sword and survived.

James continued his Naval career, serving many years with Decatur. He was forced to retire in January 1836 because of ill health. He died in 1838 at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Washington, DC.


Three warships of the Navy have been named Reuben James in his honor:

There are two songs with the title Reuben James:

External links

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