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Yesterday, we noted the November 6 birthday of John Philip Sousa, leader of the Marine Band. Today we recognize the entire Corps.
On November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress passed the following resolution:
“That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, two Lieutenant-Colonels, two Majors, and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of Privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present war with Great Britain and the Colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the First and Second Battalion of Marines.”
Thus began the proud heritage of the United States Marine Corps. The two battalions of “Continental Marines” were under the command of Major Samuel Nicholas (1744-1790). Nicholas was born in Philadelphia, the scion of a prominent Episcopalian family, the head of which was also named Samuel Nicholas. The younger Nicholas married Mary Jenkins, who came from a Quaker family of Welsh origins. They had five children.
Nicholas’ first task was to recruit men for his battalions. He set up shop at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress had met. By January 1776, Nicholas had recruited his Marines and they set sail aboard the Alfred under the command of Commodore Hopkins. In February 1776, the Alfred reached the Bahamas where a British force had a supply base. From this base, the British had raided the American coast with great success. Nicholas led his Marines ashore in their first landing. They succeeded in their mission of captuiring the British supplies and disabling the enemy’s raiding force.
Thereafter, the Marines contributed to American successes at the Battle of Trenton and engaged Cornwallis at Princeton.
After the war, Congress disestablished the Marines and the Navy. Nicholas returned to his civilian life in which he ran a tavern known as Connostoge Waggon. He was prominent in the affairs of Philadelphia. He died, reportedly of yellow fever, at age 46.
The Marine Corps was re-established in 1798 and of course went onto serve America with great distinction. Nicholas and the original two battalions had set the precedent of success that the Marines would follow, whether fighting Barbary pirates on the “shores of Tripoli” or Taliban in the remote spaces of Afghanistan.
On November 1, 1921, General John A. Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order No.47, Series 1921.The order provided a summary of the history, mission, and traditions of the Corps. General Lejeune directed that the order be read to every command each subsequent year on November 10th in honor of the founding of the Marine Corps. This tradition has continued every year since 1921 throughout the Corps.
So today we can all celebrate by remembering the Marines who are overseas and those who won’t be coming back.
[As readers know, I’m an Air Force guy. But a key highlight in my life came about two and a half years ago while I was in Washington. The Marine Corps honored me with a “Sunset Parade” at the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virigina. This was an honor of great significance that I’ll never forget. Below is a photograph of the Marines preparing to pass in review.]
November 10, 2007 Saturday at 4:48 am