The United States Marine Corps has had many important roles in America's military, though at various times it has been on the verge of being merged into either the Army or the Navy. One of the important periods was from our nation's founding up to just before the Civil War when Marines stormed the arsenal at Harpers Ferry where John Brown had attempted to incite a slave rebellion. While many of us are familiar with the Marines in WW2, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East and Afghanistan, the origins of the Corps and its early history are likely to draw a blank in most minds. To remedy this, Osprey Publishing has just released The US Marine Corps 1775-1859 by Ron Field with lovely color illustrations by Adam Hook.
Marines have been a component of military vessels since probably the Romans, but played a specialized role once cannons became the chief weapons of combat between vessels. For close-in fighting, or for landing parties, Marines served on the British ships that the Colonies and then the early United States emulated. When in 1794 the young Congress authorized the construction of six frigates, 316 officers and men were simultaneously authorized at what became the birth of the United States Marine Corps.
The book begins at the beginning, with details about the uniforms, arms and accoutrements, including 1794 Charleville .69 caliber muskets. The young nation quickly found itself embroiled in subsequent conflicts, starting with a scrap between the US and French privateers from 1798-1800, followed by First Barbary War with the various rulers along the southern coast of the Mediterranean. Field follows chapters on the Barbary Pirates with ones on the War of 1812, the interwar period from 1815-1835, the Second Seminole War (1841-1859), the Mexican War, and ending with the attack on Harpers Ferry.
The book offers more detail than all but the most-demanding reader could ask for, including color plates of gear and uniforms. The writing is brisk and clear, and I enjoyed the accounts of "the halls of Montezuma" and "the shores of Tripoli." Anyone with an interest in the early days of the Marines will likely enjoy this volume.
Thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review copy. Be sure to mention you saw the book reviewed on Kitmaker Network when purchasing it.