The proud history of the United States Marine Corps has been told many times and in many ways. Naturally, the emphasis is usually on the courage, valor, resourcefulness, and heroism Marines have exhibited in the many battles in which the Corps has engaged in defense of our nation. And rightly so.

However, very little has been written about Marine participation and activities in what is probably the most studied and written about war in history; the American Civil War. There is a reason for this. There was limited Marine Corps action in many battles fought during the four years that took so many lives of Americans on both sides of the conflict.

The Marine Corps at that time was spread around the world on the United States Navy’s growing fleet. Sea duty in those days of sailing ships was long and difficult. Marines played an important role in maintaining order aboard ships. They were not loved by the sailors as this historical novel points out through descriptions of their duties written by noted authors who, in pre-Civil War days, had cruised oceans of the world on our men-of-war.

The Civil War led to expansion of the Marine Corps just when Congress was seriously considering disbanding it. The rebellion, as many call the Civil War, was unpopular with a large percentage of the people in the north. When President Lincoln ordered conscription to fill the ranks of the Army, many young men joined the Navy. This was not out of love of the sea or experience, but to avoid duty in the Army where disease in camps and horribly crowded prisons claimed as many lives as combat. It soon became apparent that more Marines were needed to maintain order on the new steam-powered ironclad ships being manned by inexperienced and often reluctant sailors.

Admiral John A. Dahlgren, Commander, South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, was a forward-thinking officer who realized Marines had far more potential than acting as guards and policemen aboard ships. His effort in creating a Marine Battalion to support his operations along the coast and on inland waterways was a significant step in Marine Corps operations. A young U. S. Marine’s detailed letters to his

family has given birth to this look into daily life in the Corps during this significant period. Private Charles Leaman has recorded what has often been overlooked in Marine Corps history. His letters, written from his unique vantage point of serving with Admiral Dahlgren as a marine guard and orderly, show life aboard ships could be dangerous and dull. His 93 letters led author Donald Collins on extensive research to expand on Private Leaman’s many mentions of significant events. Don, who shares my pride in our always-patriotic hometown of Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, brings the Charles Leaman letters to life through accounts of many facets of the war that Charles Leaman witnessed and shared with his family.

Major General Robert E. Haebel

    United States Marine Corps (Retired)




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