Sunday, January 25, 2004


General John Glover
& His Marblehead Mariners
By John Glover Eastman
August 27, 1999


Again and again the question is raised by Marines, "Just what is meant by the Old Corps?"

The answers to that question are arguable on into infinity it seems, with the opinion of each one differing in some degree from all others. The answer is ultimately different and unique for each individual Marine. Probably in no other military organization has so much emphasis been placed on its history and traditions. And so Marines are especially well versed in the events that have occurred in our Corps since November 10, 1775 and Tun Tavern.

"...but its roots go back much further. The use of fighting men aboard ships was well established by the time of the Phoenicians, and their duties were remarkably similar to those of today's Corps--fighting in naval engagements, boarding enemy ships, and making raids into enemy territory... The Greeks and Romans picked up the ideas of marines from the Phoenicians, and marines have been used by every maritime country since....Official recognition of marines came first from Charles II of England . In 1664 he decreed the formation of the Admiral's Maritime Regiment, later renamed The Regiment of Marines, still later, the Royal Marines. In 1740 three regiments of marines were raised in the American colonies. An early commander was William Gooch of Virginia, and his troops became known as Gooch's Marines....When the revolution came, the Americans found they needed marines of their own...Samuel Nicholas, a Quaker innkeeper, was commissioned the first Marine officer, and recruiting began at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia."
(Re The Marine Book, by Chuck Lawliss, Thames & Hudson, NY 1992)

BTW, there seems to be some disagreement in the matter of Tun Tavern.
"...the story is untrue. It probably got its start from the fact that Samuel Nicholas, effectively the first Marine Commandant, actually did own a tavern in Philadelphia, the Conestoga Wagon, which apparently served as his headquarters for a time. However, the owner of the Tun Tavern did become a Marine officer, about a year after the creation of the Corps, which probably gave rise to the legend."
(Re Marine Corps Book of Lists, by Albert A. Nofi, Combined Publishing 1997)

That much of the tradition of the U.S. Marine Corps is rooted in the British Royal Marines is self-evident. American colonists had served in the Royal Marines all along. The official colors of both services are scarlet and gold, etc; and later, both services fought together in Samoa, the Boxer Rebellion, World War I, World War II, and Korea, etc.

Eleven states had established their own organized Marine Corps' by the time of the Revolutionary War. And prior to the war, there were those private marines known as "Privateers."

It is hoped that the interested reader here will delve into the references mentioned-- and there are many others--in the interest of finding that things are never quite as they might have seemed, and that there is always more information to be found on any subject; otherwise there always exists the possibility of error by omission as well as for any other reason.

The following 'vignette' is provided courtesy of Mr. John Glover Eastman, and is one of the many items of information that is not as well known as, I think, it should be. It is hereby presented for your attention.

By Editor, Dick Gaines

For my entire life I've heard the family story that General John Glover donated/leased the first armed vessel in our Nation's history to the United Colonies. It was a schooner christened the "Hannah" and was activated on August 1, 1775. General Glover lived in Marblehead, MA but the "Hannah" was berthed in Beverly, MA.

There still exists a "war" of who is to get the historical credit between these two towns. I understand that there were also armed gunboats on Lake Champlain who claim to be the origin of the US Navy, as well. With apologies to extraordinarily courageous men of the "Brown Water" Navy, I feel that the origin of the Navy belongs to ocean going vessels.

I am new to the list and perhaps all of this is old news but for information: Just a few days out of port she recaptured an American vessel that was seized by the British. The Royal Navy started an intensive search for the "Hannah". On 16 October, 1775 she engaged the H.M.S. Nautilus and although heavily out gunned her crew was able to survive this first naval battle of the Revolution. (Note: The 'list' Mr. Eastman speaks of, above, is the Scuttlebutt & Small Chow Marines History List, where this was first posted. -Ed)

As to the importance of General Glover and his Marblehead Mariners to the United States Marine Corps:

Glover's Mariners were comprised of mostly merchant marine sailors and fishermen. When the Continental Army had to be evacuated from their entrapment in New York it was the Marblehead Mariners who placed their muskets in the boats, picked up and heaved the oars. When they reached the evacuation beaches they laid their oars down and picked up their muskets.

When the boats were loaded they reversed the musket/oar cycle and route continually until the entire Army was safely on the other side. Without these Mariners the Continental Army would have ceased to exist and that first Revolution would have been over. That would leave us today with a lot more in common with Canada. ( I strongly believe that if the Revolution had failed, and the reason I referred to it as the "first", was that eventually in the course of history our forefathers would have ousted British rule.)

Into the boats; land on a hostile shore. Sounds like a US Marine to me.

Another event that makes me feel Glover and his unit are the de facto founders of the US Marines is the battle of Treneton. It was, again, the Marblehead Mariners manning the boats that ferried the Army to defeat the British/Hessians at Trenton. ( Regardless of that well known artistic rendering of the crossing, there was no ice and I doubt anyone was standing in the boats.) When the troops were safely across the Mariners grab their weapons and joined in the assault. This victory was another pivotal event in the eventual success of the Revolution. I'm a little shaky on the following point: I believe that the victory at Trenton, besides raising the level of commitment to final victory over the British, caused France to agree to support the Revolution. France's Fleet (Adm. DeGrasse?) trapped the British fleet allowing our victory at the final battle of Saratoga.

Obviously I have family bias but strongly believe that more attention and credit should be given to our Country's first Marines by the present USMC and its previously active duty members.

Nathan Billias, a noted naval historian, showed in his book "General John Glover and his Marblehead Mariners" that my Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather indeed led our first sea going amphibious force and was, at the very least, was the predecessor of the United States Marine Corps. And if you believe that our founding Fathers were Americans and the first citizens of the United States then they should be considered the actual founding of the Corps.

Thank you for listening.

John Glover Eastman
Vietnam '69-'70



My deepest thanks for your interest in my Ancestor's and his
unit's role in the founding of the United States Marine Corps.
Of course you have my permission to present my writings on the
list. If you can locate Nathan Billias' book it may greatly add to your
publication. I do possess a history of General Glover which contains some of the correspondence between him and Washington and the Continental Congress.

Not the brightest moment in then Colonel Glover's career but
maybe of some interest: When the Army was struggling at Valley Forge, Glover received word that his family was starving in Marblehead which I will guess was caused by the British blockade of Boston and loss of revenue. Keep in mind that before the war he was a very successful merchant marine owner and he and his family
lived a life style that coincided with his wealth. His house, which still
stands in Marblehead, attests to that wealth. During the war his fortunes diminished greatly which caused his family's hardship.

He left Valley Forge and headed for his family. He was either
over taken by a messenger or did arrive at Marblehead and shortly after received a personal letter form Washington. Washington was greatly displeased at Col. Glover leaving Valley Forge and used an interesting ploy and very historical phrase to get him to return.

In the letter Washington chastised him for (this is my remembrance of the letter. But it will give you the gist of it.)

" It is men like you who start an honorable endeavor and then
leave it that cause us the most harm. You are like a soldier who will only serve in the summer months and not stay through the harshness of winter." This passage resulting in the term "Summer Soldiers" and "Winter Soldiers".

The letter continued in my thoughts: " You have been with me since the beginning and have made yourself and your unit a most valuable
force in the conduct of the struggle before us. I am aware of the personal issues that confront you but you will do more for your family and all our families by returning to you post. To honor your accomplishments in pursuit of the dream of freedom you are hereby promoted to the rank of General".

The slap and the promotion worked and General Glover returned
immediately to duty. His family went on in a squalid living situation until the blockade was broken. Sadder yet is that when the war was over Glover was almost penniless and died as an impoverished cobbler. The last sentence may be found in Billias' book but I have no recollection of it in that work. This was family lore from generation to generation. I still use this in my work as a Director of a Veterans' Outreach Center in Hyannis, MA. When some one asks how can the country treat its veterans so poorly. I simply reply, "Tradition."

Again my thanks for interest. Any method of telling the story of
General Glover is most welcomed. Two other bits of information just
recalled; There is large statue of the General on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston and in 1969/70 the US Navy commissioned the USS John Glover, a missile frigate I believe. The Navy tracked down all the direct descendents to include my brother,my father and his eight brother and sisters. I, unfortunately was in I Corps with 101st at that time and missed out on the Christening.

John Glover Eastman
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By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis