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.
Defending the New Republic
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