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This is the first of six historical galleries. The Continental Congress authorized 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. Visitors follow the Marines from their beginnings during the American Revolution on through the long years of a country divided by Civil War. As Thomas Paine said, "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered," but the first Marines did their part to win America's freedom from the British, usually from the fighting tops of ships. In early 1776, Nicholas led 234 Marines in their first amphibious landing in the Bahamas. This gallery portrays life aboard a fighting ship. Marines were not only expert riflemen, they were also good seamen, and they sailed to the "ends of the earth" fighting the enemies of the new republic. Weapons and tools of these first Marines, including muskets, swords, powder horns, and boarding axes, are displayed, along with art work and dioramas.

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 in the early 19th century. Marine detachments sailed on new frigates, fighting at sea and on far away lands, including "the shores of Tripoli." 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 and set high standards of leadership and readiness for the Corps. In the 1840s, Marine detachments executed a series of landings on both coasts of Mexico and in California, during the Mexican War. Rare and dear artifacts of the Corps from these early expeditions—swords, flags, uniforms, and more—bring these years alive. Visitors see for themselves the difference between a smooth-bore musket and a rifled barrel.

When America's national tragedy wrenched the country apart in the 1860s, it also splintered the Marine Corps. Visitors meet Medal of Honor recipient Corporal John Mackie, sighting down his long arm, onboard the ironclad USS Galena. This first of 12 new life-like cast figures makes American history and its actors very real. From Harpers Ferry to the war's battlefields, this gallery explores the Civil War through the eyes of Union and Confederate Marines, relays the importance of noncommissioned officers, and concludes with the story of one Marine who accompanied President Abraham Lincoln to Gettysburg where he delivered his memorable address. Drums, bugles, uniforms, and the weapons of this long war are displayed in the gallery, along with the first photographs of Marines from both sides of the conflict. After 90 years of service and though never more than 4,000 strong, Marines won distinction fighting their country's battles around the globe.



1775 – 1865
More photos coming soon!

National Museum of the Marine Corps
18900 Jefferson Davis Highway
Triangle, VA 22172
Toll Free: 1.877.635.1775

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Copyright© 2006. Admission to the National Museum of the Marine is FREE. Hours are 9:00 AM to 5: 00 PM every day except Christmas Day.