The United States Marine Corps in the Civil War: The Second Year

By Gardner, Donald R. | Naval War College Review, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

The United States Marine Corps in the Civil War: The Second Year


Gardner, Donald R., Naval War College Review


Sullivan, David M. The United States Marine Corps in the Civil War: The Second Year. Shippensburg, Penna.: White Mane, 1997. 373pp. $40

This is the second volume (the first was also published in 1997) of David Sullivan's authoritative series on the U.S. Marines during the Civil War. No one has written more on the role of the Marines in this war than Sullivan. He has distinguished himself with solid research, and he vividly brings these Marines to life. There are excellent accounts of the Marines with the North Atlantic Squadron during 1862, including in the muzzle-tomuzzle duel between CSS Virginia and USS Monitor. Lieutenant Charles Heywood (later to be the colonel-commandant) and his Marines won highest praise during this engagement. A number of Confederate marines who manned the guns of Virginia are also cited for zeal and courage. During the same year, Corporal John F Mackie of USS Galena became the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor. This account alone makes the book worthwhile for members of the naval service. One could only wish that the publisher, White Mane, had done a better job with his rare collection of photographs.

Sullivan offers an exciting narrative of events: the court-martial of Lieutenant Colonel John G. Reynolds, Marines fighting on the lower Mississippi, and the problems of wartime expansion of the Corps. It was also in the summer of 1862 that the U.S. Senate debated legislation limiting Marine Corps commissions to graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy. This debate, centered on proportional representation by states, was very contentious. Ultimately the bill failed, but it produced excellent discussions on providing for a professionally educated officer corps. This idea thus took root with Congress; it would be 1882 before it was realized.

Enlisted Marines came from farms, towns, and cities. Many were immigrants, newly arrived in the northeastern United States and eager to enlist. They joined for a variety of reasons: patriotism, adventure, prize money, or simply to avoid the line regiments of the Army. The chapter entitled "Barracks and Hammocks" describes life in the different Marine barracks in Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, Portsmouth (New Hampshire), Washington, as well as various seagoing detachments. …

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