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The New International Encyclopædia/Marine Corps

MARINE CORPS (OF., Fr. marin, from Lat. marinus, pertaining to the sea, from mare, sea; connected with Goth, marei, AS. mere, OHG. marī, Ger. Meer, Ir. muir, OChurch Slav, morye, Lith. máres, sea; possibly connected with Gk. βρύξ, bryx, sea-depth). A body of soldiers enlisted for service in the navy, either on board ship or on shore at naval stations or elsewhere. Marines, as these soldiers are called in the United States and British navies, are a relic of the days when ships were manned by soldiers as their fighting complement. Instead of constituting the greater part of a ship's company, they now form usually less than 15 per cent. of it.

At the present time marines are used in the United States Navy on board ship and to guard naval stations at home and in the insular possessions; and when on board ship they constitute a quickly available infantry force for service abroad. Sailors are also drilled as infantry and artillery, but as their chief duties are connected with the ship, when they are landed the fighting efficiency of the ship is greatly reduced.

A small number of sea soldiers were permanently kept on men-of-war even in very ancient times, the number varying from 15 to 50, according to the size of the vessel. When the heavy guns of ships had gradually caused the employment of soldiers as the fighting complement of ships to be done away with, there ensued an interval in which there were no marines. In 1653 Admiral Blake embarked a number of soldiers on his ship to act as riflemen in his action against Van Tromp. The British marine corps was first established in 1664, but it was several times wholly or partly abolished.

In the United States Navy the provision for the enlistment of marines antedates the actual formation of the regular establishment of the navy, being authorized in an act of Congress dated November 10. 1775. This act, however, really intended to provide for a naval establishment under the designation of marines, as the enlisted men and officers were required to be “good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required.” The actual establishment of the corps dates from June 25, 1776, when a marine corps, consisting of 1 major (Samuel Nichols), 9 captains, 10 first lieutenants, and 7 second lieutenants, was provided for and the officers appointed. After the close of the Revolution the navy was practically abolished, and, with other branches, the marine corps disappeared. When the reorganization of the navy took place, in 1798, the marine corps was again established, with an authorized strength, officers and men, of 881, commanded by a major.

In 1899 the number of men and officers was greatly increased. In 1902 it consisted of 1 brigadier-general and commandant, 5 colonels of the line, 3 colonels, who are heads of staff departments, 6 lieutenant-colonels, 10 majors of the line, 4 majors of the staff, 56 captains of the line, 3 captains of the staff, 56 first lieutenants, 56 second lieutenants, and 6000 enlisted men. Consult Collum, The History of the Marine Corps (New York, 1902).