OPINION – As I was describing some Marine Corps history to non-Marine colleagues on the Marine Corps Birthday last Wednesday, all were surprised when I told them the Marine Corps was born in a bar. The only service that can make that claim.
Most of my colleagues then said that they now understood how that explains a lot!
On November 10, 1775, as the colonists began organizing forces against the British crown, an innkeeper named Samuel Nicholas was assigned by the Continental Congress to raise the first two battalions of Marines.
Since Tun Tavern, founded just three years after the city of Philadelphia itself, in 1685, one of the colony’s first watering holes, had kept its reputation for the best beer in Philly for a century, Nicholas did his recruiting – where else? – Tun Tavern.
But Tun Tavern wasn’t just a great brew house, it had also become a well-regarded restaurant and an important meeting place for city and colonial officials and, eventually, for revolutionaries. As Military.com notes:
With its quality food and drink renowned across the colonies, when it came time for the Continental Congresses to meet in Philadelphia in the 1770s, they often found themselves at Tun Tavern, planning for the next steps in shaking off the yoke of the British crown in America. After all, Franklin had been organizing militias there to fight off American Indian tribes for decades by then. Why wouldn’t it work for pesky European regents?
In October 1775, a seven-person committee – led by John Adams – met at Tun Tavern to draft articles of war and commission a new naval fleet. But, as Military.com notes, “something was still missing from the colonies’ new armed forces: Marines.”
According to Military.com:
Nicholas was given the rank of captain and appointed commandant of the new Continental Marines. Robert Mullan, son of Peggy (of Red Hot Beef Steak fame), was the official proprietor of Tun Tavern and was dubbed “Chief Marine Recruiter.”
Nicholas and Mullan recruited skilled marksmen to become the first Marines from a Conestoga wagon outside of the tavern. The first-ever company of Marines consisted of 100 Rhode Islanders. They, like the rest of the new Marine Corps, were posted aboard Continental Navy ships.
Throughout the Revolutionary War, Philadelphia was a contested city. It was the second-largest port city in the British Empire (after London itself). As capital of the rebel country, it was the target of the British from early in the war. The British held the city until their defeat at Saratoga, New York.
Throughout the war Tun Tavern stood the whole time, even as fighting raged in the streets. However, sadly, in 1781, Tun Tavern burned down, a disastrous end to an illustrious 100 year history and historic site. It was never rebuilt.
Only a historical sign remains in its place now overtaken by the I-95 interstate highway.
However a replica of the Tavern can be seen at the U.S. National Museum of the Marine Corps‘ in Quantico, Virginia. Worth visiting and having a beer. Semper Fi! ADN