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Peter M. Swartz
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For the first century or so of its existence, the deployment strategy of the US Marine Corps reflected mostly that of the US Navy. Marines formed integral parts of Navy ships’ companies, and Marine Barracks were a feature of the Navy Department’s Navy Yards. During the American Revolution, Marines deployed on Continental and state navy warships, and on some privateers. Once the US Navy was established, its larger vessels sailed with Marines on board. Marines acted as ships’ guards, providing discipline and ensuring security. They also served as sharpshooters, participated in boarding parties and ship self-defense, and manned some of the ships’ main guns. Usually more expert than sailors ashore, they were typically an important element of ships’ landing parties and were used frequently and globally for this purpose, of which the 1805 landings in Tripoli are the most famous.

As the young Republic found its footing among the world’s nations, Marines often acted as escorts and security forces for American diplomatic and consular representatives sent abroad on US Navy warships. Ashore back in the United States, Marines in Marine Barracks provided security and performed guard duty at US Navy Yards from 1798, occasionally being called out to assist local civil authorities in policing, firefighting, and disaster response.

The Corps during this period was quite small, growing from a force of less than 100 to some 4,000 Marines, then reduced to 2,000 by 1885. The rank of the Commandant increased from Captain in 1775 to Major (1776), Lieutenant Colonel (1800), and Brigadier General (1867), reverting to Colonel in 1876. Marine Corps Headquarters was established in Philadelphia in 1798, moving to Washington in 1801.

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CNA Historical Paper Series
CNA publishes documents in its Historical Paper Series to highlight previously unpublished works with historical perspectives that may be of use to current and future researchers. The content of this paper is current through its initial writing in 2016. It is presented in its original format.

DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT A. Approved for public release: distribution unlimited.


  • Pages: 64
  • Document Number: DIM-2019-U-022386-1Rev
  • Publication Date: 8/6/2021
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