united states marines

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MikeyB

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Sep 13, 2018
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Good morning, had a few Marine questions for everyone I was wondering about.

How big was the USMC at the outset of the war? And did this branch grow exponentially like the army during the war? Did USMC volunteers exist, or were they all regulars?

Did Marines look like Union soldiers? Or was there a distinct uniform? Different trims?

Was the vast majority of the corps assigned as fleet protection? Were Marines ever used as first in "shock troops" or typically just supporting the Navy and amphibious assaults?

Regards,
mike
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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The USMC was small, and really did not get much bigger-- certainly nothing in proportion to the expansion of the Army and the Navy as a whole. The Marines were all regulars (speaking for the formal Corps).

Marines wore uniforms very similar to infantry, though their dress uniforms were different. Marine kepis had an old English "M" in the center of the infantry "bugle." (The famous eagle-globe-and-anchor was still some years in the future. Significantly, it was Civil War veterans who were responsible for many of the now-famous Marine emblems and symbols.)

The traditional role of the Marines was shipboard security. By tradition, they formed the crew of at least one gun on warships big enough to have a Marine detachment, and they also performed duty as sharpshooters and opposed (and led) boarding operations.

Although the role of the Marines as amphibious troops was mostly a 20th-Century development, there were a few interesting precursors in the Civil War. But they were far too few to function as independent amphibious units in any but the smallest operations.

The lack of Marines led to expedients, especially in the Western Gunboat Flotilla/Mississippi Squadron, where the only Marines assigned were a handful of guards at the Mound City Naval Station (despite repeated pleas by commanding admirals). On a number of occasions, an Army rifle regiment or company, sometimes one that had been reduced by combat, was divvied up among gunboats to serve as marines, but they were never Marines with the capital M (nor would they have described themselves as such). There was one outfit that causes some confusion, the Mississippi Marine Brigade, but that had nothing to do with the U.S. Marines. (Interestingly, the MMB served a role closer to what we now think of as the Marine mission, though it was incompletely thought out and the unit itself was poorly organized and led.)
 

MikeyB

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Sep 13, 2018
Messages
307
The USMC was small, and really did not get much bigger-- certainly nothing in proportion to the expansion of the Army and the Navy as a whole. The Marines were all regulars (speaking for the formal Corps).

Marines wore uniforms very similar to infantry, though their dress uniforms were different. Marine kepis had an old English "M" in the center of the infantry "bugle." (The famous eagle-globe-and-anchor was still some years in the future. Significantly, it was Civil War veterans who were responsible for many of the now-famous Marine emblems and symbols.)

The traditional role of the Marines was shipboard security. By tradition, they formed the crew of at least one gun on warships big enough to have a Marine detachment, and they also performed duty as sharpshooters and opposed (and led) boarding operations.

Although the role of the Marines as amphibious troops was mostly a 20th-Century development, there were a few interesting precursors in the Civil War. But they were far too few to function as independent amphibious units in any but the smallest operations.

The lack of Marines led to expedients, especially in the Western Gunboat Flotilla/Mississippi Squadron, where the only Marines assigned were a handful of guards at the Mound City Naval Station (despite repeated pleas by commanding admirals). On a number of occasions, an Army rifle regiment or company, sometimes one that had been reduced by combat, was divvied up among gunboats to serve as marines, but they were never Marines with the capital M (nor would they have described themselves as such). There was one outfit that causes some confusion, the Mississippi Marine Brigade, but that had nothing to do with the U.S. Marines. (Interestingly, the MMB served a role closer to what we now think of as the Marine mission, though it was incompletely thought out and the unit itself was poorly organized and led.)
thanks for these last couple of posts to my questions. very informative and very interesting reading. much appreciated!
 
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redbob

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It could be said that one of the earliest casualties of the Civil War was a Marine, Private Luke Quinn was killed during the assault on the engine house at Harper's Ferry in 1859.
 
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major bill

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Marines retained white belts and straps. Milita companies wore white belts and straps early in the Civil War. Still if one sees a Civil War photo with white belts and straps, then it would be worth will to see if it is a Marine.
 

Ragged Old First

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Marines retained white belts and straps. Milita companies wore white belts and straps early in the Civil War. Still if one sees a Civil War photo with white belts and straps, then it would be worth will to see if it is a Marine.
US Marines 1861
220px-Marines01.jpg
 
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lurid

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I'm quite sure the Marines had their coming out party during the Spanish-American War.
 
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Mark F. Jenkins

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Marines retained white belts and straps. Milita companies wore white belts and straps early in the Civil War. Still if one sees a Civil War photo with white belts and straps, then it would be worth will to see if it is a Marine.
Certainly in any photos taken on shipboard, the white crossbelts signify Marines.
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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FYI - The US Marines at First Bull Run (4 companies) were very newly raised. In other words new recruits with a small number of experienced NCO's and Officers. They will not have a good battle but it does suggest that some effort was made to increase the size of the US Marine Corps.
 
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