Wednesday, November 10th was the 235th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps. The USMC was formed to serve as infantry units aboard U.S. Navy vessels. The Sergeant at Arms (in charge of the Marines on any given ship) was responsible for not only defending the ship and her crew during boarding or landing actions, but also the safety of the ship’s officers in the event of mutiny. The USMC – like the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy – was patterned almost directly on the British Royal Marines. Why reinvent the wheel, after all?
Being a Navy brat (from long back in my ancestry and, in fairness, not just of the U.S. variety) I feel compelled to point out that the USMC claim to being the “oldest military branch” in America is a bit erroneous. Both the Marine Corp. and the Navy were established in 1775 and disbanded by Congress after the Revolution. It wasn’t until the 1790s that the two branches were reinstated, again by act of Congress.
From the beginning, Marines were frequently part of landing and raiding parties abroad. Their first remarkable success came during the Revolutionary War when Navy and Marine forces took a large British munitions depot at that old pirate haunt, New Providence, The Bahamas. Marines served during the Quasi-War with France and were an enormous factor in American success during the First Barbary War (1801-1805). The culmination of that action saw William Eaton lead 500 Marines and mercenaries into Tripoli to liberate the captured sailors from USS Philadelphia (Triple P favorite David Porter among the latter). This aggressive response to hostility abroad showed the world that the U.S. was more than capable of standing up for herself. It is also the event that led to the “shores of Tripoli” line in the Marine hymn and the distinctive Mameluke Sword carried by Marine officers.
Marines were once again in the thick of it during the War of 1812. Their involvement in the legendary frigate actions that characterized the war at sea were too numerous to mention here. USMC fame was sealed at the Battle of New Orleans, where they held the very center of General Andrew Jackson’s line on Rodriguez Canal. With the close of the War of 1812, the U.S. Marine Corp. held a reputation world wide for their marksmanship, both at sea and by land.
The USMC has gone through their ups and downs but consistently throughout America’s history they are the ones to call when the tough jobs need doing. It’s not always a popular business they are in but, as we like to remind the kids around my house, freedom isn’t free. I will close then with a hearty Huzzah! for the USMC, her veterans, current actives and reserves and for all who serve. Thank you.
Oh, and if you’re a realist like your humble hostess, hop over to the always interesting and informative Navy Historical Blog and enjoy their tribute to the Marine Corp.
Sailor Mouth Saturday will be up tomorrow; I’ll spy ye then, Brethren.