Establishment of the modern Marine Corps 


portrait of O'Bannon staning in a dress uniform with an American Flag in the backgroun 


 Lt Presley O'Bannon earned the Mameluke sword at the Battle of Derne
See also: :Category:United States Marine Corps in the 18th and 19th centuries

In preparation for the Quasi-War with France, Congress created the United States Navy and the Marine Corps. The "Act to provide a Naval Armament" of 27 March 1794[68] authorizing new build frigates for the war had specified the numbers of Marines to be recruited for each frigate. Marines were enlisted by the War Department as early as August 1797 for service in these frigates.[69] Daniel Carmick[70] and Lemuel Clerk[71] were commissioned as Lieutenants of Marines on 5 May 1798. Under the "Act for establishing and organizing a Marine Corps", signed on 11 July 1798 by President John Adams, the Marine Corps was to consist of a battalion of 500 privates, led by a major and a complement of officers and NCO's.[72] The next day, William Ward Burrows I was appointed a major. In the Quasi-War, Marines aboard the USS Constitution and other ships conducted raids in the waters off Hispaniola against the French and Spanish, making the first of many landings in Haiti and participating in the Battle of Puerto Plata Harbor.

Among the equipment Burrows inherited was a stock of leftover blue uniforms with red trim, the basis for the modern Blue Dress uniform.[56] When the capital moved to Washington, D.C. in June 1800, Burrows was appointed Lieutenant Colonel Commandant of the Marine Corps; the first de jure Commandant, though Samuel Nicholas is traditionally accorded as the first de facto Commandant for his role as the most senior officer of the Continental Marines.[13] In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson and Burrows rode horses about the new capital to find a place suitable for a Marine barracks near the Washington Navy Yard.[73] They chose the land between 8th and 9th, and G and I streets and hired architect George Hadfield to design the barracks and the Commandant’s House, in use today as Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.. Burrows also founded the United States Marine Band from an act of Congress passed on 11 July 1798, which debuted at the President's House on 1 January 1801 and has played for every presidential inauguration since.

The Marines' most famous action of this period occurred in the First Barbary War (1801–1805) against the Barbary pirates,[74] when William Eaton and First Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon led a group of eight Marines and 300 Arab and European mercenaries in an attempt to capture Tripoli.[75] Though they only made it as far as Derne, Tripoli has been immortalized in the Marines' Hymn.[76] The Ottoman viceroy, Prince Hamet Karamanli was so impressed with the Marines that on 8 December 1804, he presented a Mameluke sword to O'Bannon inscribed in memory of the Battle of Tripoli Harbor, a tradition continued today by the swords worn by Marine officers.[30]

In May 1811, 2 officers and 47 Marines established an advanced base on Cumberland Island, Georgia to be used for actions against pirates in Spanish Florida, and captured Fernandina on 18 March 1812 for occupation until May 1813. This was the first peacetime overseas base of the United States.

The Marine Corps' first land action of the War of 1812 was the establishment of an advanced base at Sackets Harbor, New York by 63 Marines. This gave the Navy a base on the shores of Lake Ontario, and later, headquartered their operations in the Great Lakes; Marines helped to repel two British attacks (the First and Second Battle of Sacket's Harbor).[77] The Marines also established another base at Erie, Pennsylvania. Marine ship detachments took part in the great frigate duels of the war, the first American victories of the war. By the end of the war Marines acquired a reputation as marksmen, especially in ship-to-ship actions. On 27 April 1813, Marines participated in United States Army Colonel Winfield Scott's landing at York (now Toronto).[77] Under Commodore Joshua Barney and Captain Samuel Miller[disambiguation needed], they acted to delay the British forces marching toward Washington at the Battle of Bladensburg.[77] During the battle, they held the line after the Army and militia retreated, though were eventually overrun. Tradition holds that the British respected their fighting enough to spare the Marine Barracks and Commandant's house when they burned Washington,[78] though they may have intended to use it as a headquarters; a related legend cites that two NCOs buried treasure at the site (to prevent its capture) that is yet unfound.[78] At the Battle of New Orleans, the Marines held the center of Gen Andrew Jackson's defensive line. A total of 46 Marines would die and 66 were wounded in the war.[65]

Together with sailors and Army troops, they again captured Amelia Island and Fernandina in Spanish Florida on 23 December 1817. Fernandina was occupied until Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1821. In 1823, Marines also established an advanced base on Thompson's Island, now called Key West, for Commodore David Porter to use against pirates around the island of Cuba.[79] They garrisoned Pensacola, Florida in 1825 to use it as a base against pirates in the West Indies.

Henderson's era [edit]




Have gone to Florida to fight Indians. Will be back when war is over.





Colonel Archibald Henderson, 5th Commandant in a note pinned to his door at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. in 1836[78][80]


Marines, sailors, and local guides in rowboats navigating a swamp while hidden Seminole indians watch 


 Marines hunting Seminoles during the Battle of Wahoo Swamp
After the war, the Marine Corps fell into a depressed state. The third Commandant, Franklin Wharton, died while in office on 1 September 1818, causing a battle for succession between Majors Anthony Gale, Samuel Miller, and Archibald Henderson (then acting Commandant).[81] The latter two were unable to successfully impeach Gale, who assumed the role on 3 March 1819, ending a six-month vacancy. After a falling-out with Secretary Smith Thompson, Gale was court-martialed for conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, convicted, and fired on 18 October 1820.[82]

Henderson secured a confirmed appointment as the fifth Commandant in 1820 and breathed new life into the Corps.[80] He would go on to be the longest-serving commandant, commonly referred to as the "Grand old man of the Marine Corps". Under his tenure, the Marine Corps took on a new role as an expeditionary force-in-readiness with a number of expeditionary duties in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, Key West, West Africa, the Falkland Islands, China, Fiji, Peru, Buenos Aires, Nicaragua, and Sumatra, in addition to many of the Indian Wars.[83][84] Previously having rarely done anything but guard ships and naval depots, Henderson seized every opportunity to deploy his Marines in "landing party operations" and other expeditions. One example of this was the acquisition artillery pieces and training for use with landing parties, which would bear fruit at the Battle of the Pearl River Forts.[80] Henderson is also credited with thwarting attempts by President Andrew Jackson to combine the Marine Corps with the Army. Instead, Congress passed the Act for the Better Organization of the United States Marine Corps in 1834,[85] stipulating that the Corps was part of the Department of the Navy, as a sister service to the United States Navy. This would be the first of many times that Congress came to the aid of the Marines.

When the Seminole Wars (1835–1842) broke out, Commandant Henderson volunteered the Marines for service, leading 2 battalions to war, which accounted for about half the strength of the Marine Corps. They garrisoned Fort Brooke in Tampa and held off an Indian attack on 22 January 1836.[86] Henderson commanded the mixed Marine/Army Second Brigade at the Battle of Hatchee-Lustee on 27 January 1837,[87] for which he was appointed a brevet brigadier general. Marines also fought at the Battle of Wahoo Swamp that November.


a formation of Mairnes wearing blue uniforms march through the gates of Mexico City, led by a drummer and officer with drawn sword 


 Marines enter Mexico City
A decade later, in the Mexican–American War (1846–1848), the Marines made their famed assault on Chapultepec Palace, which overlooked Mexico City, their first major expeditionary venture.[88] Since marching to Mexico City would be a long and perhaps impossible venture, a combined force (containing some 200 Marines) under Major General Winfield Scott made an landing south of Veracruz on 9 March 1847 and captured the city on 29 March. From there, they fought their way to Mexico City and commenced their assault on 13 September.[89] The Marines were given the task of clearing the Chapultepec Castle, the "Halls of Montezuma", where they cut down the Mexican colors and ran up the Flag of the United States. The high mortality rate amongst officers and non-commissioned officers is memorialized in the dress uniform's "blood stripes",[90] as well as the line "From the Halls of Montezuma" in the Marines' Hymn.[75][76] Marines were later placed on guard duty at the palace and Captain Jacob Zeilin, a future Commandant, was made military governor. Marines also served as part of the Navy's blockade of Mexico that successfully prevented overseas arms and munitions from reaching the Mexican forces, and as part of the California Battalion under Major Archibald H. Gillespie;[91] engagements included the battles of Monterey, Los Angeles, Dominguez Rancho, San Pasqual, Rio San Gabriel, La Mesa, and 2nd Tabasco.[92] Other battles included the 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Tuxpan, capturing La Paz, defending La Paz, Mulege, and capturing and defending San José del Cabo.


framed painting depicts Marines and soldiers fighting Mexicans at the base of Chapultapec Castle 


Storming of Chapultapec by James Walker in 1858
In the 1850s, the Marines would further see service in Panama, and in Asia, escorting Matthew Perry's fleet on its historic trip to the East.[93] Two hundred Marines under Zeilin were among the Americans who first stepped foot on Japan; they can be seen in contemporary woodprints in their blue jackets, white trousers, and black shakos. Marines were also performed landing demonstrations while the expedition visited the Ryukyu and Bonin Islands.[84] Upon Henderson's death in 1859, legend cites that he willed the Commandant's House, his home of 38 years, to his heirs, forgetting that it was government property; however, this has proven false.[78]




Civil War


sketch of two columns of Marines watching the brick armory building at Harpers Ferry with bayonets mounted 


 Marines surround John Brown's Fort in 1859
Despite their stellar service in foreign engagements, the Marine Corps played only a minor role during the Civil War (1861–1865); their most important task was blockade duty and other ship-board battles, but were mobilized for a handful of operations as the war progressed.[94][95][96][97]

During the prelude to war, a hastily-created 86-man Marine detachment under Lieutenant Israel Greene was detached to arrest John Brown at Harper's Ferry in 1859, after the abolitionist raided the armory there.[98] Command of the mission was given to then-Colonel Robert E. Lee and his aide, Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart, both having been on leave in Washington when President James Buchanan ordered Brown arrested.[94] The ninety Marines arrived to the town on 17 October via train, and quickly surrounded John Brown's Fort. Upon his refusal to surrender, the Marines stormed the building with bayonets, battering down the door with hammers and a ladder used as a battering ram. Greene slashed Brown twice and would have killed him had his sword not bent on his last thrust; in his haste he had carried his light dress sword instead of his regulation sword.[99]


painting of the USS Galena's port broadside, with John Mackie firing his musket from a gun port 


 Cpl John F. Mackie became the first Marine Medal of Honor recipient at the Battle of Drewry's Bluff in 1862
At the opening of the war, the Marine Corps had 1892 officers and men, but two majors, half the captains, and two-thirds of the lieutenants resigned to join the Confederacy, as did many prominent Army officers.[94] Though the retention of enlisted men was better, the Confederate States Marine Corps formed its nucleus with some of the best Marines the Corps had.[100] Following the wave of defections, thirteen officers and 336 Marines, mostly recruits, were hastily formed into a battalion and sent to Manassas. At the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas), they performed poorly, running away like the rest of the Union forces. Commandant John Harris reported sadly that this was "the first instance in Marine history where any portion of its members turned their backs to the enemy."[94]

Congress only slightly enlarged the Marines due to the priority of the Army; and after filling detachments for the ships of the Navy (which had more than doubled in size by 1862), the Marine Corps was only able to field about one battalion at any given time as a larger force for service ashore.[95] Marines from ship's detachments as well as ad-hoc battalions took part in the landing operations necessary to capture bases for blockade duty. These were mostly successful, but on 8 September 1863, the Marines tried an amphibious landing to capture Fort Sumter in Charlestown harbor and failed, one of the few failed landings of the Marine Corps.[95] Due to a shortage of officers, the Marines of Commander George Preble's naval brigade that fought at the Battle of Honey Hill in 1864 started the battle with First Lieutenant G.G. Stoddard as the battalion commander (normally accorded a lieutenant colonel), the only officer in the battalion (the company commanders and other staff being sergeants).[96]


photograph of a man sitting upright, wearing a grey dress uniform 


 Confederate Marine Lt Frances H. Cameron in 1864
On 15 May 1862, the Battle of Drewry's Bluff began as a detachment of ships under Commander John Rodgers (including the USS Monitor and USS Galena) steamed up the James River to test the defenses of Richmond as part of the Peninsula Campaign. As the Galena took heavy losses, the unwavering musket and cannon fire of Corporal John F. Mackie would earn him the Medal of Honor on 10 July 1863, the first Marine to be so awarded.[101]

In January 1865, the Marines took part in the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, tasked with acting as marksmen on the flank of the attack to shoot any Confederate troops that appeared on the ramparts of the fort. Even though they were ordered from their firing positions by Admiral Porter's second in command, Porter blamed the Marines for the failure of the naval landing force to take the fort. Despite this, the fort was successfully captured; five Marines earned the Medal of Honor during the battle.[97] In all, Marines received 17 of the 1522 awards during the Civil War. A total of 148 Marines would die in the war, the most casualties up to that point.[65]

Confederate Marine

On the opposite side of the lines, the Congress of the Confederate States authorized the creation of the Confederate States Marine Corps on 16 March 1861.[100] Initially authorized at 45 officers and 944 enlisted men, the CSMC was increased to 1,026 enlisted men on 24 September 1862, but actual manpower never approached that number, maxing below 550 total. Its first and only Commandant, Colonel Lloyd J. Beall, stood the corps up in Richmond, and headquartered it at Fort Darling.[102]

The Confederate Marines, much like its progenitor, played small roles through the Civil War. Much of its service in the war was shipbound, such as the CSS Virginia's famous duel with the USS Monitor at Battle of Hampton Roads. Detachments on land guarded several naval bases, including the defense of the CSMC's headquarters at the Battle of Drewry's Bluff. One of the few notable operations included an assault on a Union prisoner of war camp at Point Lookout. Toward the end of the war, Marines were pressed for the defense of Richmond, such as the Battle of Sayler's Creek.


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Cpl John F. Mackie became the first 
Marine Medal of Honor recipient at 
the Battle of Drewry's Bluff in 1862
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