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The Early Marine Corps

The Early Marine Corps

After the war, Congress officially established the modern Marine Corps on March 27, 1798. The newly-outfitted Corps received fresh blue and red uniforms, which eventually evolved to the Dress Blues worn by Marines today. Marine battalions participated in the First Barbary War from 1801-1805, and Marine officer Presley O'Bannon is remembered for his heroic assault of Tripoli with a ceremonial Arab sword. Years later, this lead to the tradition of new Marine Corps officers receiving a decorated dress sword.

The McHenry bombardment

Throughout the 1800s, the Marine Corps participated in many conflicts including the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and others. In 1834 the Marine Cirps was officially made a wing of the United States Navy, against the wishes of President Andrew Jackson; he wanted to combine it with the army.

During the Civil War, the Marine Corps played only a small role, typically serving in Union blockades and port raids in the south. While only several thousand Marines participated in the war, there were 148 casualties and 17 won the Medal of Honor for their conduct.

Following the Civil War and with the rise of steamships and sophisticated naval warfare, the role of the Marine Corps declined. Many people wondered if the Marines had become obsolete, as they were no longer needed for ship-to-ship warfare. Even during this time of decline, the Marines continued to develop their unique culture, and the Marine Corps motto, "Semper Fidelis," was adopted around 1883. The Marines served in a variety of small conflicts in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Panama, the Caribbean, and elsewhere.

Article Citation (MLA format):

"The Early Marine Corps." Military Ranks Online. 04 Feb 2012. 23 Oct 2016. <>