11.10.17 Semper Fi

My wife was born on this date. Which made her father very happy. But long before that…

Samuel Nicholas was born in 1744. His father was a blacksmith and his uncle was the mayor of Philadephia. He attended the College of Philadelphia (now Penn) and became a Freemason.

Tun Tavern used to sit at the corner of King (Water) Street and Tun Alley. It was built by a Quaker merchant who had made a fortune in Barbados. The “Tun” in the name is a synonym for keg or barrel, and the Tun Tavern also had a secondary name, “Peggy Mullan’s Red Hot Beef Steak Club.” Wow, sounds like quite a place. It was commonly used to host large groups of people, like Freemasons.

As well as soldiers. On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress had taken Nicholas’ recommendation to raise two battalions of soldiers to serve as amphibious infantry aboard naval vessels, with a resolution that declared, “That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates as with other battalions, that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve for and during the present war with Great Britain and the Colonies; unless dismissed by Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the First and Second Battalions of Marines.”

Thus began – under Nicholas’ direction, within Tun Tavern – the Continental Marines.

The Marines served as a critical part of America’s forces throughout the Revolution, starting with their capture of Nassau, Bahamas, in March 1776, and including their participation in the critical Battles of Trenton and Princeton. After the war, the Continental Marines were disbanded, but in 1798, by an act of Congress, they were reformed as the United States Marine Corps.

Skip ahead to 1921. In the wake of World War 1, the Marines developed a historical section, with the goal of preserving and celebrating their origins and successes. On November 2 of that year, Commandant John A. LeJeune declared that thenceforth November 10 should be denoted as the birthday of the Marines, and celebrated throughout the Corps. Since that time, the day has been commemorated by various dances, mock battles, pageants and sporting events, and by a formal ball (begun in 1925), and a formal cake cutting ceremony (begun in 1952 and integrated into the Marine Drill Manual in 1956).

To every Marine around the world, November 10 is a glorious day. And no more so than for one particular Marine, Samuel Rea Low of Roanoke, Virginia, in one particular year, 1960. On that day, Rea and his wife Betty celebrated the birth of the United State Marine Corps, with a birth of their own: a daughter that they named Sara Marie.

For as long as I knew him, you could see how much that little twist of timing warmed his heart.

So here’s to November 10.

Happy Birthday Sara. Happy Birthday Marines.

Semper Fi, Rea.

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