The United States Marine Corps: A Chronology, 1775 to the Present

The United States Marine Corps: A Chronology, 1775 to the Present

The United States Marine Corps: A Chronology, 1775 to the Present

The United States Marine Corps: A Chronology, 1775 to the Present


Devil's Gate-the name conjures difficult passage and portends a doubtful outcome. In this eloquent and captivating narrative, Tom Rea traces the history of the Sweetwater River valley in central Wyoming-a remote place including Devil's Gate, Independence Rock, and other sites along a stretch of the Oregon Trail-to show how ownership of a place can translate into owning its story.

Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Devil's Gate is the center of a landscape that threatens to shrink any inhabitants to insignificance except for one thing: ownership of the land and the stories they choose to tell about it. The static serenity of the once heavily traveled region masks a history of conflict.

Tom Sun, an early rancher, played a role here in the lynching of the only woman ever hanged in Wyoming. The lynching was dismissed as swift frontier justice in the wake of cattle theft, but Rea finds more complicated motives that involve land and water rights. The Sun name was linked with the land for generations. In the 1990s, the Mormon Church purchased part of the Sun ranch to memorialize Martin's Cove as the site of handcart pioneers who froze to death in the valley in 1856.

The treeless, arid country around Devil's Gate seems too immense for ownership. But stories run with the land. People who own the land can own the stories, at least for a time.


One would have to search the annals of military history far and wide to find a more storied organization than the United States Marines Corps. It first manifested as the Continental Marines, founded by the Second Continental Congress on November 10, 1775, and saw widespread service onboard vessels of the equally nascent Continental Navy. Major Samuel Nicholas functioned as the first commandant but, despite good performance on Nassau Island, the Battle of Princeton, and elsewhere, they were summarily disbanded following the onset of peace in 1783. Fifteen years later Congress was forced by increasing friction with the Barbary states of Africa and revolutionary France to reverse itself and found the U.S. Marine Corps on March 27, 1794, under Lieutenant Colonel William Burrows. the Marine Corps Band, a standard fixture in Washington, D.C., since 1800, was also created to elevate the corps’s political and public profile, and has performed at presidential inaugurations ever since. Over the next six decades the marines performed well during the Quasi-War with France, the war against the Barbary pirates, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War, fighting with distinction as part of a ship’s complement but, at Bladensburg, 1814, Mexico City, 1847, and Bull Run, 1861, functioned well as regular infantry. the famous “globe and anchor” emblem was finally adopted in 1868, an appropriate motif for America’s increasing military role worldwide, and during the Spanish American War of 1898, marines were increasingly coming ashore as battalion-sized units.

The first years of the 20th century witnessed the advent of the Boxer Rebellion and numerous brush wars in Haiti and Central America, but it was not until 1917, following American entry into World War I, that the Marine Corps came into being as a full-fledged land force. the marines performed magnificently at Belleau Wood and a dozen other pitched battles along the Western Front, and so impressed their veteran German adversaries that they acquired the moniker “Devil Dogs” from them. the next two decades were a period of fiscal entrenchment for the entire military establishment, and the marines reverted largely back to interventions throughout Central America, where Marine Corps aviators pioneered the new technique of dive-bombing. This constructive interval also witnessed theorizing and practice of large-scale amphibious tactics, so by the time of American intervention in World War II, the Marine Corps was the world’s best exponent of this intricate and dangerous form of warfare. Marines initially distinguished themselves with heroic, if doomed, performances at Wake Island and Corregidor, then bounced back with legendary conquest of Guadalcanal, Tawara, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, all of which spelled the doom of Japan’s Pacifi c empire. the postwar period found the Marine Corps successfully waging a battle for survival . . .

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