VA -- Quantico -- Natl Museum of the Marine Corps -- Gallery: Defending the New Republic (1775-1865) (except Civil War):
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MCM177_100612_019.JPG: 1775-1865: From the Halls of Montezuma...
"Resolved that two battalions of Marines be raised... so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea." -- Continental Congress, 20 November 1775
The Marines created by Congress early in the Revolutionary War formed an armed service patterned after the British Royal Marines. When 2000 Continental Marines splashed ashore in the Bahamas, making the first combat landing in American history, the Declaration of Independence still lay three months in the future. Marines fought as sharpshooters on warships and led boarding parties onto British decks during the Revolution and the War of 1812. In 1805, Lt. Presley O'Bannon and his men wrested a stronghold from Barbary pirates on "the Shores of Tripoli." Marines joined in storming Chapultepec castle -- "the Halls of Montezuma" -- outside Mexico City in 1847. When Civil War fractured America in 1861, U.S. Marines fought former Southern comrades who created the Confederate States Marine Corps.
After 90 years of service, though never more than 4,000 strong, Marines had won distinction fighting their country's battles around the globe.
MCM177_100612_035.JPG: Defending the New Republic, 1775-1865
MCM177_100612_041.JPG: "... we mutually pledge.
"He had plundered our seas,
to each other
ravaged our Coasts,
burnt our towns,
and our sacred Honor."
the lives of our people."
MCM177_100612_087.JPG: Engraved Powder Horn:
During the Colonial and Revolutionary periods, any soldier, hunter, or farmer who used a rifle or musket needed a powder horn. This scrimshawed horn depicts a Marine officer and is inscribed "August 20th AD... made by H. Mack." It is the earliest piece of Marine Corps equipment known to exist.
MCM177_100612_097.JPG: Boarding Ax:
The ax served as a weapon and as a tool for cutting away wreckage and rigging. Like other weapons wielded by Americans during the Revolutionary War, most axes came from captured British stores. Some, however, were made in America. The ax became obsolete for shipboard use in the 1880s.
MCM177_100612_109.JPG: On the Land and On The Sea:
"Marines are as old as war at sea."
-- Col. Robert D. Heinl, USMC, Soldiers of the Sea
Athenian and Roman naval infantry ("marines") fought on warships more than 2,000 years ago. In 1775, as the Continental Congress created armed forces to gain independence, its members decided that the new American Navy would need a fighting force of trained riflemen adaptable to seagoing combat similar to the British and Dutch Marines. The resolution that created the Continental Marines on 10 November 1775 urged the recruitment of riflemen who were also "good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea." Subsequent legislation authorized the US President to order Marines ashore to support the Army. "By Sea and By Land" -- adapted from the Royal Marines -- became an early motto of the US Marines until replaced in 1883 by Semper Fidelis.
MCM177_100612_112.JPG: Marine Life Aboard Ship:
"We experienced a violent gale from the north, the seas running mountain high and breaking with awful fury o'er bows."
-- Journal of Corporal Edward W. Taylor, USMC, Marine Detachment, USS United States, 23 June 1842
Marines and sailors serving on board Navy warships in the early 19th century experienced cramped quarters and hazardous seas. Enlisted men in "the Frigate Navy" slept in canvas hammocks slung between bulkhead hooks, swaying with every pitch and roll of the ship, and arose at reveille to secure ("trice up") their hammocks for the day. Men who died at sea were sewn up in their hammocks, wrapped in a flag, and committed to the deep.
MCM177_100612_148.JPG: This plaque marks the site of a fort
captured on April 28 1805 with the
aid of units of the United States
fleet, by a military force composed
of Arabs and United States Marines
led by William Eaton after overcoming
the dangers and obstacles confronting
it during its six-weeks advance
overland from Alexandria to Derna.
Assault on Derna:
US newspapers widely praised the combat exploits of Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon's Marines and the supporting Navy gunboats in the allied assault on Derna, Tripoli, on 27 April 1805. The attack yielded a glimpse of future Navy-Marine hallmarks -- landing forces assaulting a hostile fort under the guns of the fleet.
MCM177_100612_155.JPG: "My head or yours!"
-- Governor of Derna, Tripoli, to commander, US assault force, 1805
MCM177_100612_161.JPG: "He asked me how many Marines the United States kept in pay. My answer... ten thousand!"
-- Captive US Navy surgeon to ruler of Tripoli, 1804
Marines With Decatur:
"The intrepid Decatur is a proverbial... for the good treatment of his men, as he is for his valor."
-- Private William Ray, USMC, USS Philadelphia, 1808
Navy Captain Stephen Decatur distinguished himself during the Barbary Wars in a series of sea fights and as commander of the daring destruction of the captured USS Philadelphia in 1804. Marines who fought beside the dashing 25-year-old Decatur in his many ship-to-ship boarding brawls admired his courageous leadership. Decatur and many of the same ships, sailors, and Marines went on to greater distinction in the War of 1812.
Fighting the Barbary Corsairs:
"People who handle dangerous weapons in War must expect wounds and Death."
-- Commodore Edward Preble, USN, on enemy casualties sustained from the burning of the USS Philadelphia, 1804
The Navy's campaign against Barbary pirates incurred a major setback in 1803 when the USS Philadelphia ran aground in Tripoli Harbor and fell into enemy hands. For 19 moths, the frigate's crew, including 41 Marines, languished in dungeons, much to America's chagrin. A naval raiding party burned the captured ship, but rescuing the prisoners proved futile. In the end, it was diplomacy -- not force -- that freed the hostages and ended the war.
MCM177_100612_189.JPG: Last Stand at Bladensburg:
British regulars stormed across the Anacostia River at Bladensburg on 24 August 1814, scattering American defenders and advancing on Washington. A small band of US Navy sailors and Marines commanded by Commodore Joshua Barney blocked their way. Firing heavy guns in broadsides, the naval force repulsed three British attacks before being overrun. Their spirited defense was a solitary bright spot in a bleak day that ended with the enemy's capture of the US capital.
MCM177_100612_221.JPG: American-Manufactured Blunderbuss Swivel Gun:
Thomas French of Canton, MA manufactured this flintlock, an example of early American craftsmanship from the days of fighting sail.
Model 1813 S North Navy Pistol:
The Model 1813 pistol was made by Simeon North of Middletown, CT, who was contracted to manufacture some 20,000 of the pistols. By 1815, very few had actually been delivered. The M1813 is chambered in .69 caliber and fired a 1-ounce lead ball.
MCM177_100612_243.JPG: Marine Corps Flag, 1840s:
The citizens of Washington DC presented this earliest flag to be designed for the Marine Corps to Commandant Archibald Henderson after the Mexican War. The silk flag was painted by Joseph Bush of Boston and is emblazoned with a version of the famous motto "From Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma."
MCM177_100612_276.JPG: The Capture of Mexico City:
General Winfield Scott's army, including its Marine battalion, attacked the Mexican capital on 13 September 1847, starting with an assault on Chapultepec castle, dominating the southwestern approaches. Fierce resistance by Mexican soldiers and young cadets from the castle's military academy slowed the American advance. Captain George Terrett impatiently led his few Marines in a direct assault on the San Cosme Gate, joined by Army Lieutenant US Grant's soldiers. Other Marines helped seize the castle. The city fell by nightfall.
MCM177_100612_318.JPG: Mexican War Marine Corps Colors, circa 1847:
This flag was reportedly carried by the Marine battalion attached to Gen. Winfield Scott's army in Mexico. The battalion was with Quitman's Division on the Tacubaya Road during the storming of Chapultepec and accompanied the Marines as they marched into Mexico City through the Belen Gate on 14 September 1847.
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Description of Subject Matter: Defending the New Republic
The Continental Congress authorized the establishment of two battalions of Marines on 10 November 1775. According to legend, Captain Samuel Nicholas began recruiting men on that date at Philadelphia’s Tun Tavern. It is here that visitors begin their journey with the Marine Corps: from their humble beginnings in a tavern during the American Revolution on through the long years of a Nation divided by civil war.
In early 1776, Marines aboard Navy ships sailed to the Bahamas in search of supplies and munitions. Once in the Bahamas, Captain Nicholas led 234 Marines in the Marine Corps’ first amphibious landing. A series of crises on the high seas—resulting in ships lost to piracy—prompted President Thomas Jefferson to send the Marines to fight Barbary pirates off the northern coast of Africa—on the shores of Tripoli—in the early 19th century.
During the War of 1812, U.S. Marines fought the British again, on the seas and closer to home. Navy ships with embarked Marines helped suppress the slave trade along the west coast of Africa and sailed to the far reaches of the Pacific and Antarctica on a series of global expeditions. Commandant Archibald Henderson led Marines against Seminole Indians in Florida in 1836. In the 1840s during the Mexican War, Marine detachments executed a series of landings on both coasts and fought all the way to the “Halls of Montezuma,” Mexico City.
When the Civil War—America’s national tragedy—wrenched the country apart in the 1860s, it also splintered the Marine Corps. Visitors explore the Civil War through the eyes of both Union and Confederate Marines, understand the importance of noncommissioned officers, and conclude with the story of one Marine who accompanied President Abraham Lincoln to Gettysburg where Lincoln delivered his memorable address.
After their first 90 years of service, and never more than 4,000 strong, Marines won distinction fighting their Country’s battles both at home and abroad. This gallery provides visitors with a glimpse of life aboard a fighting ship and rare Marine Corps artifacts—swords, flags, muskets, powder horns, broad axes, bugles, and more—from these early operations.
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