To The Shores of Tripoli

U.S. Marine Flag

The day comes ‘round once more. Two hundred and thirty six years old and still counting…

November 10, 1775. That’s the codified date of the birth of the today’s United States Marine Corps. Now, 236 years later, it’s still a going concern with far more traditions and tales than any other branch of the military.

For one thing, there’s the great founding story of the first recruitment of ‘a few good men’ during the Revolutionary War. With the approval of the Continental Congress, Captain Nicholas signed up two battalions’ worth at Tun’s Tavern in Philadelphia. Most Marines find this birthplace — a tavern — most fitting for their gung-ho esprit de corps. However, Tun’s had also been the site of the creation of the Masons in Philadelphia, and various other civic organizations.

Recall that back then, aside from churches, there would have been few large meeting houses to hold numbers of people. And especially there would there not have been any large enough to accommodate the variety of men attracted to this new ‘naval army’. Come to think of it, Tun’s would have been an exclusively male setting. We’d be hard put to find such a politically incorrect environment today. What a sad loss for our culture.

The Marine Corps Birthday is serious business, mind you. Serious fun, though. For example, there are birthday cakes at all Marine Corps installations, including far-flung deployments in hellholes wherever they’re sent. Marine Corps balls, a tradition since the 1920s or so, are held all over the country, with strict rules of etiquette

Men are expected to wear their full dress uniforms and the ladies accompanying them would be expected to wear formal dresses. The old etiquette required that gowns be “below the knee” but I doubt even the manly gravitas of the Corps can prevail against women’s fashions. Ah well, at least those dress uniforms still look splendid. I wonder how many a young boy joined up just for the chance to wear those Marine Corps blues back home?

And remember I said the Corps has something for every occasion? Here is a version of the Marine’s prayer, displaying all the virtues a Marine holds fast:

Almighty Father, whose command is over all and whose love never fails, make me aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and deed and helping me to live so that I can face my fellow Marines, my loved ones, and Thee without shame or fear. Protect my family.

Give me the will to do the work of a Marine and to accept my share of responsibilities with vigor and enthusiasm. Grant me the courage to be proficient in my daily performance. Keep me loyal and faithful to my superiors and to the duties my Country and the Marine Corps have entrusted to me. Help me to wear my uniform with dignity, and let it remind me daily of the traditions which I must uphold.

If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again.

Guide me with the light of truth and grant me wisdom by which I may understand the answer to my prayer.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Have you ever wondered about the Marine Corps Hymn? For instance, the opening line, where it says “from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli”? The first refers to a battle in Mexico, the latter to the Marine Corps’ Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon’s hoisting of the American flag in a victory against the pirates of the Barbary Coast. I’m glad he couldn’t see the future, where pirates are free to take whatever they want.

Here’s the wiki, which brought back some old laughter. This verse is only sung during toasts, not at solemn events:

…If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By The United States Marines.

Marines are sure that’s true. Just ask one.

7 thoughts on “To The Shores of Tripoli

  1. There seems to be some argument as to whether the initial recruiting for the Cont’l. Marines was done at Tun’s Tavern, or another tavern (the “Conestoga Waggon”) owned by Capt. Nicholson’s family. There is also disputation about the original location of Tun’s Tavern.

    One version of the story has Capt. Nicholson appointing the Tavern Keeper as his recruiting officer, which would certainly be in keeping with the Marines’ history of public relations savvy!

    The legislation authorized two battalions. By the end of the year, Capt. Nicholson had managed to recruit some five companies — weak ones, 300 men — but that’s an impressive performance given the competition for recruits going on at that period.

  2. Oh, it’s so good to hear from you, el Jefe!

    I am pleased to have done this post. Last year, Nov 10th I wasn’t feeling so good.

    Thanks for the info on the Captain. I knew about the tavern keeper being paid for recruitment but not about Nicholson’s family owning a tavern.

    Yes, the USMC pr is great. I hope they are permitted to remain true to their mission in these pcmc times. Ah for the days when gunny growled, “iffa da Corps wanted youse to have a wife, we’d a issued you one”…

    If you haven’t read a good tale of the Barbary days, I recommend this one:

    The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805

    Glad you’re still out there!

    @ Heroyalwhyness–

    wasn’t Jefferson responsible for the publication of the Koran here?

  3. Thanks CS–

    About the same time he also did his own version of the Gospels. Left out all the miracles, etc. Was was remarkable was how it held together and became, in some ways, even stronger evidence of Christ’s shining presence in life.

    He had enough copies printed to give one to each member of Congress. Back when I bought books I got a copy and was quite moved by the work. Can’t remember what happened to it…books walk around here. Sometimes they walk in, sometimes they leave. Never can tell about books; they’re definitely moveable feasts in my experience.

    BTW, I wonder who translated the Koran for him? While he was multilingual, I don’t think Arabic was one of his accomplishments.

    Interesting point about that moment in history: the Euros were so busy fighting one another that they were willing to pay the pirates whatever they asked. America, no longer having the protection of England, went along for awhile. However, the experience of wresting their freedoms from the Brits was too fresh to hand their liberties over to the Deys of Barbary. Thus did we get our navy — which few wanted. However, it was a navy or giving up our precious trade with other countries…commerce won.

  4. Jefferson’s Copy of the Koran It appears that Jefferson purchased George Sale’s translation of the Koran in 1765 from the office of the Virginia Gazette. At the time, Jefferson was engaged in his law studies at the College of William and Mary, so it is likely that he purchased the book as an example of Arabic law as his textbooks suggested. This edition is the first English edition to have been translated directly from the Arabic and is often regarded as the best early translation of the Koran. Jefferson cataloged the book in his section on “Religion,” where it shared the shelves with early Greek and Roman mythology and the Bible.
    George Sale, trans. (1697–1736). The Koran, Commonly Called the Alcoran of Mohammed, Translated into English Immediately from the Original Arabic; . . . 2 vols. London, 1764. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress. (S. 1457) (27.00.00)

  5. LOL Dymphna –

    “books walk around here. Sometimes they walk in, sometimes they leave.”

    ..One of these days, these books are gonna walk all over you.. 😉

    At least yours are walking. Mine seem to have wings these days, like it’s a flying circus here in Amsterdam.


    Take care,

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