Happy 242nd Birthday to the Corps!

You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced, to the point of arrogance, that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth – and the amusing thing about it is that they are…You should see the group about me as I write- dirty, bearded, their clothing food-spattered and filthy- they look like the castoffs of creation. Yet they have a sense of loyalty, generosity, even piety greater than any men I have ever known. These rugged men have the simple piety of children. You can’t help loving them, in spite of their language and their loose sense of private property. Don’t ever feel sorry for a priest in the Marines. The last eight weeks have been the happiest and most contented in my life.

 Father Kevin Keaney, 1st MarDiv Chaplain, Korean War

 

 

On November 10, 1775 the Continental Congress passed this resolution authored by John Adams:

“Resolved, 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 office, or enlisted into said battalions but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve with advantage 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 names of First and Second Battalions of American Marines, and that they be considered as part of the number which the Continental Army before Boston is ordered to consist of.”

The Continental Marines were just over three months old when they staged the first of the amphibious operations that have ever been the hallmark of the Marine Corps.  As depicted in the video clip from the movie John Paul Jones (1959).  Under the command of Captain Esek Hopkins, a tiny American fleet seized  Nassau in the Bahamas  on March 3, 1776, 210 Marines leading the way.  Desperately needed artillery, gunpowder and military supplies were seized.  The Marines had won the first of their many, many victories for the United States. (more…)

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Published in: on November 10, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Happy 242nd Birthday to the Corps!  
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November 5, 1775: Washington Ends Guy Fawkes Day

gwpict

The idiotic anti-Catholic celebration of Guy Fawkes Day , observed each November fifth, was effectively ended two hundred and forty-tw0 years ago in America during the Revolution, in large part due to George Washington.  Here is his order on November 5, 1775:

As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope–He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain’d, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada. (more…)

Published in: on November 5, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 5, 1775: Washington Ends Guy Fawkes Day  
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The Surrender of Cornwallis

 

Something for the weekend.  The Surrender of Cornwallis to the tune of The British Grenadiers sung by Bobby Horton.  Bonus: World Turned Upside Down song from Hamilton:

 

Published in: on October 21, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Surrender of Cornwallis  
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October 19, 1781: British Surrender at Yorktown

 

After the battle of Monmouth in 1778, the time of large scale battles in the north during the American Revolution came to an end.  The subsequent years were frustrating for Washington as he struggled against a collapsing American economy to keep his army from starving, unable to build up the military power necessary to put New York under siege.  The situation altered in 1781. The French navy achieved temporary control of the waters off Virginia, and Washington secretly marched with 8,000 Continentals and 5,000 French from New York to attack the army of General Cornwallis in Virginia.  Besieged at Yorktown, Cornwallis surrendered his 7,000 men on October 19, 1781.  The War would drag on another two years until the British withdrew from New York under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, but after Yorktown everyone on both sides knew that American independence, against the odds, had been achieved.  Here is the text Washington’s letter to Congress announcing the victory: (more…)

Published in: on October 19, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Forgotten Heroes of the Revolution

 

Congress on April 3, 1776 formally authorized American privateers to raid British merchant ships.  In this Congress was merely recognizing what was already well under way, the patriot governments of the various colonies having issued letters of marque and reprisal since the beginning of hostilities.   The British parliament would authorize privateers against American merchant ships in December 1776.

Privateers were a traditional part of European naval war which fitted in well with the American national character.  Private operations, a common seamen on board a privateer after a successful cruise of capturing several British ships, could come back home with a small fortune in his pocket, often enough to purchase a small farm, or an inn, or set himself up in trade.  Privateers led by more daring commanders would even make prizes of several smaller ships of the Royal Navy.  Of course the risks were commensurate with the rewards, with death by sinking, or the slow death of rotting away in a British prison hulk if a crew was captured, ever a possibility.  Most American sailors were eager to take the risk, so many that the Continental Navy often found it difficult to man its ships. Some 11, 500 Americans died on the British prison ships, more than were killed in battle in all wars of America up to the Mexican War.  The dead are remembered in the Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. (more…)

Published in: on September 15, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Forgotten Heroes of the Revolution  
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September 10, 1776: Nathan Hale Volunteers to Spy on the British

How beautiful is death, when earn’d by virtue!
Who would not be that youth? What pity is it
That we can die but once to serve our country.

Joseph Addison, Cato (1712)

 

 

 

At age 21 Captain Nathan Hale was already marked as  a man on the rise.  A graduate of Yale, he was an early advocate of advanced education for women and had taught a class of college level subjects to twenty young ladies prior to the War.  With the coming of the War he enlisted as a First Lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut regiment.  During the battle of Long Island he distinguished himself by leading a raid seeking to burn the frigate HMS Phoenix.  The raid failed in its main goal but several tenders of the frigate were destroyed and four cannon and six swivel guns were captured.

Due to his enterprise and courage Hale was invited to join the Ranger unit being formed by Colonel Thomas Knowlton.  The ancestral outfit of modern American Army Rangers, Knowlton’s Rangers specialized in reconnaissance and raids and were given their orders directly by General Washington.  On September 10, 1776 Knowlton brought to his officers a personal request from Washington that one of them volunteer to spy in New York to bring him back accurate intelligence on what the British army would do next.  His request was met with stony silence.  These were brave men, but they regarded the work of a spy morally dubious and a death by hanging if discovered, the fate of a common felon rather than a soldier.  Hale, the youngest man present, broke the silence and said simply that he would do it. Captain William Hull, later a Major General in the War of 1812, remonstrated with his friend:  “He said to him that it was not in the line of his duty, and that he was of too frank and open a temper to act successfully the part of a spy, or to face its dangers, which would probably lead to a disgraceful death.” Hale replied, “I wish to be useful, and every kind of service necessary to the public good becomes honorable by being necessary. If the exigencies of my country demand a peculiar service, its claim to perform that service are imperious.” (more…)

Published in: on September 10, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 10, 1776: Nathan Hale Volunteers to Spy on the British  
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Greene Reports on the Battle of Eutaw Springs

 

The last major engagement of the Southern Campaign, the battle of Eutaw Springs was fought on September 8, 1781.  The sides were numerically evenly matched with each side having about 2000 men involved.  Although tactically a draw or a slight British victory, strategically the battle was an American victory with the British left in control of only Charleston and its environs.  Along with Savannah and Wilmington, the British attempt to conquer the South was clearly failing, a result only underlined by the surrender of Cornwallis in the following month.  Here is the text of General Greene’s report on the battle to Washington.

 

 

 

Head Quarters, Martins Tavern, near Fergusons swamp So. Carolina
September 11th 1781

Sir,

In my dispatch of the 25th of August I informed your Excellency that we were on our march for Frydays ferry to form a junction with the State Troops, and a Body of Militia collecting at that place; with an intention to make an attack upon the British Army laying at Col. Thompsons near McCords ferry. On the 27th on our arrival near Frydays ferry I got intelligence that the Enemy were retiring.

We crossed the River at Howells ferry, and took post at Mottes plantation. Here I got intelligence that the Enemy had halted at the Eutaw Springs about forty miles below us; and that they had a reinforcement, and were making preparations to establish a permanent post there. To prevent this I was determined rather to hazard an Action, notwithstanding our numbers were greatly inferior to theirs. On the 5th we began our march, our Baggage and Stores having been ordered to Howells ferry under a proper Guard. We moved by slow and easy marches; as well to disguise our real intention, as to give General Marion an opportunity to join us, who had been detached for the support of Col. Harding, a report of which I transmitted in my letter of the 5th dated at Maybricks Creek. General Marion joined us on the evening of the 7th at Burdells plantation, 7 miles from the Enemies Camp.

We made the following disposition, and marched at 4 o’Clock the next Morning to attack the Enemy. Our front line was composed of four small Battalions of Militia; two of North, and two of South Carolinians; one of the South Carolinians was under the immediate command of Genl. Marion, and was posted on the right, who also commanded the front Line; the two North Carolina Battalions under the command of Col. Malmady was posted in the center, and the other South Carolina Battalion under the command of General Pickens was posted on the left. Our second Line consisted of three small Brigades of Continental Troops, one from North Carolina, one from Virginia, and one from Maryland. The North Carolinians were formed into three Battalions under the command of Lieut. Col. Ash, Majors Armstrong and Blount, the whole commanded by General Sumner, and posted upon the right. The Virginians consisted of two Battalions commanded by Major Snead and Captain Edmonds and the whole by Lieutenant Colonel Campbell and posted in the center. The Marylanders also consisted to two Battalions, commanded [by] Lt. Colonel Howard and Major Hardman, and the Brigade by Col. Williams Dy. Adjutant General to the Army, and was posted upon the left. Lieut. Col. Lee with his Legion covered our right flank, and Lieut. Col. Henderson with the State Troops commanded by Lieutenant Colonels Hampton, Middleton, and Polk, our left. Lieutenant Col. Washington with his Horse and the Delaware Troops under Captain Kirkwood formed a Corps de reserve. Two three Pounders under Captain Lieutenant Gaines advanced with the front Line, and two fives under Captain Browne with the second.

The Legion and State Troops formed our advance and were to retire upon the flanks upon the Enemy’s forming. In this order we moved into the attack, the Legion and State Troops fell in with a party of the Enemy’s Horse and foot about four miles from their Camp, who mistaking our People for a party of Militia charged them briefly, but were soon convinced of their mistake by the reception they met with, the Infantry of the State Troops kept up a heavy fire, and the Legion under Captain Rudolf charged them with fixed Bayonets, they fled on all sides leaving four or five dead on the ground, and several more wounded. As this was supposed to be the advance of the British Army our front Line was ordered to form and move on briskly in Line, [while] the Legion and State Troops take their positions upon the Flanks. All the Country is covered with Timber from the place the Action began to the Eutaw Springs. The fight began again between two and three Miles from the British Camp. The Militia were ordered to keep advancing as they fired. The Enemies advanced parties were soon driven in, and a most tremendous fire began on both sides from right to left, and the Legion and State Troops were closely engaged. General Marion, Col Malmady and General Pickens conducted the Troops with great gallantry and good conduct and the Militia fought with a degree of spirit and firmness that reflected the highest honor upon this class of soldiers but the Enemies fire being greatly superior to ours, and continuing to advance, the Militias began to give ground. The North Carolina Brigade under General Sumner was ordered to their support. These were all new levees, and had been under discipline but little more than a month, notwithstanding which they fought with a degree of obstinacy that would do honor to the best of veterans, and I could hardly tell which to admire most, the gallantry of the Officers or the bravery of the Troops. They kept up a heavy and well directed fire, and the Enemy returned it with equal spirit, for they really fought worthy of a better cause, and execution was done on both sides. In this stage of the Action the Virginians under Lieut. Col. Campbell, and the Maryland Troops under Col. Williams were led on to a brisk charge with trailed Arms, through a heavy cannonade, and a shower of Musquett [sic] Balls. Nothing could exceed the gallantry and firmness of both Officers and Soldiers upon this occasion . They preserved their order, and pressed on with such unshaken resolution that they bore down all before them. The Enemy were routed in all quarters. Lt. Col. Lee had with great address, gallantry, and good conduct, turned the Enemys left flank and was charging them in rear at the same time the Virginia and Maryland Troops were charging them in front. A most valuable Officer Lieut. Col. Henderson got wounded early in the Action, and Lieut. Col. Hampton who commanded the State Cavalry, and who fortunately succeeded Lt. Col. Henderson in command, charged a party of the Enemy and took upwards of 100 Prisoners. Lieut. Col. Washington brought up the Corps de reserve up from the left, where the Enemy seemed disposed to make farther resistance, and charged them so briskly with the Cavalry and Captain Kirkwoods Infantry as gave them no time to rally or form. Lieutenant Colonels Polk and Middleton who commanded the State Infantry, were no less conspicuous for their good conduct, than their intrepidity and the Troops under their command gave a specimen of what may be expected from men naturally brave, when improved by proper discipline. Captain Lieutenant Gaines who commanded the three Pounders with the front Line did great execution, untill [sic] his pieces were dismounted. We kept close at the Enemy’s heels after they broke, untill [sic] we got into their Camp, and [a] great number of Prisoners were continually falling into our hands, and some hundreds of the fugitives run [sic]off towards Charles Town. But a party threw themselves into a large three story brick House which stands near the Spring, others took post in a picquetted Garden, while others were lodged in an inpenetrable thicket, consisting of a ragged Shrub called a black Jack. Thus secured in front, and upon the right by the House, and a deep Ravine upon the left by the Picquetted Garden, and in the impenetrable Schrubs, and the rear also being secured by the Springs and deep hollow ways, the Enemy renewed the Action. Every exertion was made to dislodge them, Lt. Col. Washington made most astonishing efforts to get through the Thicket to charge the Enemy in the Rear, but found it impracticable, had his Horse shot under him, and was wounded and taken Prisoner. Four six Pounders were ordered up before the House, two of our own, and two of the Enemy’s which they had abandoned, as they were pushed on [so much?] under the command of the fire from the House, and the party in the Thickett [sic] as rendered it impracticable to bring them off again when the Troops were ordered to retire. Never were pieces better served, most of the Men and Officers were either killed or wounded. Washington failing in his charge on the left, and the Legion baffled in an attempt upon the right, and finding our Infantry [galled?] by the fire of the Enemy, and our Ammunition mostly consumed, tho’ both Officers and Men continued to exhibit uncommon acts of heroism, I thought proper to retire out of the fire of the House and draw up the Troops at a little distance [?] the Woods, not thinking it advisable to p[ursue?] our advantage farther, being persuaded the Enemy could not hold the Post many Hours, and that our chance to attack them on the retreat was better than a second attempt to dislodge them, which, if we succeeded, it must be attended with considerable loss.

We collected all our Wounded except such as were under the command of the fire of the House, and retired to the ground from which we marched in the Morning, there being no Water nearer, and the Troops ready to faint with the heat, and want of refreshment, the Action having continued near four Hours. I left on the field of Action a strong Picquett, and early in the Morning detached General Marion, and Lt. Col. Lee with the Legion Horse between Eutaw and Charles Town, to prevent any reinforcements from coming to the relief of the Enemy, and also to retard their march should they attempt to retire, and give time for the Army to fall upon their Rear, and put a finishing stroke to our successes. We left two pieces of our Artillery in the hands of the Enemy, and brought off one of theirs.

On the Evening of the 9th the Enemy retired, leaving upwards of 70 of their Wounded behind them, and not less than 1000 stand of Arms that were picked up on the field, and found broke and concealed in the Eutaw Springs. They stove [in?] between 20 and 30 puncheons of Rum, and destroyed a great variety of other Stores which they had not carriages to carry off. We pursued them the moment we got intelligence of their retiring. But they formed a junction with Maj. McArthur at this place, General Marion, and Lieut. Col. Lee not having a force sufficient to prevent it. But on our approach they retired [to?] the neighbourhood of Charles Town. We have taken 500 Prisoners, including the Wounded the Enemy left behind; and I think they cannot have suffered less than 600 more in killed and Wounded. The Fugitives that fled from the field of Battle spread such an alarm that the Enemy burnt their Stores at Dorchester, and abandoned the Post at Fair Lawn, and a great number of Negroes and others were employed in falling Trees across the Road for some Miles without the Gates of Charles Town. Nothing but the brick House, and the peculiar strength of the position at Eutaw saved the remains of the British Army from being all made Prisoners.

We purued them as far as this place but not being able to overtake them we shall halt a Day or two to refresh; and then take our [old?] position on the high Hills of Santee. I think myself principally indebted for the victory we obtained to the free use of the Bayonet made by the Virginians and Marylanders, the Infantry of the Legion, and Captain Kirkwoods Light Infantry and tho’ few Armies ever exhibited equal bravery with our in general, yet the conduct and intrepidity of these Corps were peculiarly conspicuous. Lt. Col. Campbell fell as he was leading his Troops to the charge, and tho’ he fell with distinguished marks of honor, yet his loss is much to be regretted. He was the great Soldier and the firm patriot.

Our loss in Officers is considerably more from their value than their number, for never did either Men or Officers offer their blood more willingly in the service of their Country. I cannot help acknowledging my obligations to Col. Williams for his great activity on this and many other occasions in forming the Army, and for his uncommon intrepedity in leading on the Maryland Troops to the charge, which exceeded any thing I ever saw. I also feel myself greatly indebted to Captains Pierce, and Pendleton, Major Hyrne, and Captain Shubrick, my aids de Camp, for their activity and good conduct throughout the whole of the Action.

This dispatch will be handed your Excellency by Captain Pierce to whom I beg leave to refer you for further particulars.

I have the honor to be with the greatest respect,

Your Excellency’s
        most obedient and most humble servant

Nath. Greene

His Excely. the President of Congress

Published in: on September 8, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Greene Reports on the Battle of Eutaw Springs  
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September 1, 1774: Powder Alarm

 

General Thomas Gage was appointed military governor of Massachusetts in early 1774.  He embarked on a campaign to disarm the Massachusetts militia.  In an event that is largely forgotten today but was a huge event throughout the colonies in 1774, on September 1, 1774 Gage sent an expedition of British troops to seized the powder at the arsenal located in Sommerville, Massachusetts.  The British succeeded in their mission and almost started the Revolutionary War.  Militia units formed up in alarm throughout Massachusetts and surrounding colonies in New England, thinking that a war had begun while wild rumors flew, and it was several days before calm was restored.  This Powder Alarm caused the militia in Massachusetts and the colonies to take steps to protect their arsenals for fear of a deliberate British policy to disarm them and leave them helpless before the redcoats.  The stage was set for Lexington and Concord.

Published in: on September 1, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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A Just War

 

 

 

 

Based on the just war doctrine first enunciated by Saint Augustine, the American Revolution was a just war.

 

Over the centuries the precise content of the just war doctrine has varied.  The classic definition of it by Saint Thomas Aquinas is set forth in Part II, Question 40 of his Summa Theologica:

“I answer that, In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime. And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Rm. 13:4): “He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil”; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Ps. 81:4): “Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner”; and for this reason Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 75): “The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority.”

Secondly, a just cause is required, namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault. Wherefore Augustine says (Questions. in Hept., qu. x, super Jos.): “A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly.”

Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. Hence Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. [*The words quoted are to be found not in St. Augustine’s works, but Can. Apud. Caus. xxiii, qu. 1]): “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” For it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority, and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 74): “The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war.”

The most recent formulation of the Just War doctrine for the Church is set forth in the Catechism at 2309: (more…)

Published in: on July 6, 2017 at 3:30 am  Comments Off on A Just War  
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The Ballad of the Green Mountain Boys

Something for the weekend.  The Ballad of the Green Mountain Boys, celebrating the exploits of the Vermont militia during the American Revolution.  The Green Mountain Boys mustered again in the War of 1812, the Civil War and the Spanish American War.  The Vermont National Guard today is informally known as The Green Mountain Boys.

Green Mountain Boys Flag

Published in: on July 1, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Ballad of the Green Mountain Boys  
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