Massachusetts Officers in the
U. S. Marine Corps
Marines, or soldiers employed on shipboard, are of great antiquity. As early as 500 B. C, when the trireme, a ship with three banks of oars, was in common use as a ship of war, the personnel of the Persian and Greek navies consisted of two classes, the rowers, or seamen proper, and the marines, or fighting men. In Roman times the quinquireme with its five banks of oars was manned by 300 rowers and 120 milites or marines.
The Corps of Marines of Great Britain was originally formed in 1664, and certain regiments of soldiers were set apart and trained for special service on shipboard.
The United States Marine Corps had its beginning in 1775, when on the 8th of June the Continental Congress authorized the organization of two units of marines to be known as the first and second battalions, "to serve for and during the present war with Great Britain." The United States Marines have at no time acted as the only fighting men on shipboard, as in ancient times many of our guns crews having been made up of regular seamen.
The officers and men of the United States Marine Corps have distinguished themselves in every conflict in which our country has been engaged from the Revolution down to the present time. During the Civil War, with the activities of which we are chiefly concerned, their service was very largely rendered on shipboard, though from time to time detachments were assigned temporarily to land duty. Their numbers were many times less than those of the seamen in the navy, but the character of the service which they performed was of a very high order.
The marines attached to the Cumberland, congress, and Minnesota greatly distinguished themselves in the battle with the ram Merrimac in Hampton Roads, Va., March 8, 1862, suffering many severe casualties.
At the passage of the forts below New Orleans by Farragut's fleet in the early hours of April 24, 1862, and in the occupation of the city that day and on the days immediately following, the marines of the fleet conducted themselves with great gallantry and forbearance. In the battle of Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864, the marines very greatly distinguished themselves, no less than eight non-commissioned officers and privates, including James S. Roantree of Massachusetts, receiving medals of honor.
The land attack on Fort Fisher, January 15, 1865, was led by four companies of marines from the fleet under command of Lieutenant Louis E. Fagan, and their courage and determination contributed largely toward the capture of that formidable fortress. Here again seven marines received medals of honor.
The above are only a few of the conspicuous occasions during the Civil War on which detachments from the United States Marine Corps rendered most distinguished and meritorious service.