Kittie Howard

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Birthday, Marines, and Connection to Tun Tavern

(Source: National Museum of the Marine Corps)

November 10, 1775 is the official birthday of the United States Marine Corps. When the War for Independence (also, Revolutionary War, 1775-1783) ignited, the Second Continental Congress gave the order to "raise two battalions of Marines" for the armed conflict between Great Britain and 13 of its North American colonies.

Legend has it, Samuel Nicholas, former Quaker and, later, the Marine Corps' first commandant, executed the order at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The tavern's manager, Robert Mullan, was the "chief Marine Recruiter." The first Continental Marine Company was comprised of 100 Rhode Islanders and commanded by Captain Nicholas.

Although some historians say the actual tavern where the historic event occurred was the nearby Conestoga Wagon tavern, owned by the Nicholas family, legend prevails and Tun Tavern is officially recognized as the birthplace of the Marine Corps. Among other events, the tavern, later adding a restaurant, "Peggy Mullan's Red Hot Beef Steak Sandwich," hosted a meeting of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the Continental Congress.

Tun Tavern stood at a location now occupied by Interstate-95, where it passes Penn's Landing, a waterfront area along the Delaware River, and Tun Alley, at the intersection of King (later called Water) Street. Although the original tavern burned down in 1781 and much of the area's historic flavor has been lost to subsequent development, a commemorative marker on the east side of Front Street indicates the site.

I am location specific for two reasons: (1) Wrapped in tradition from the day they enter the Corps, Marines know the Tun Tavern's location, often quoting it to each other on this historic day and (2) when my husband, a former Marine, and I visited the commemorative marker's site, it was a personally scared moment for him to feel the Corps' beginning and be as one in spirit with past and present Marines. It can't be overstated that this feeling of oneness is at the heart of the Marine Corps.

As such, wherever Marines serve, they celebrate the Corps' birthday and their unity as one in remembering the past and serving the future with various tributes, from quiet gatherings in remote locations to gala balls on bases and elsewhere.

Part of this observance involves the cutting of a birthday cake, with the oldest Marine present passing a slice to the youngest Marine present. Everyone then partakes of the cake, symbolizing the unity birthday's unity. Even when my husband was in Vietnam, the Corps found a way for combat Marines to have a slice of birthday cake, more accurately, pieces of cake that survived being dropped from a helicopter.

 The National Museum of the Marine Corps, located almost directly off I-95 in Triangle, Virginia, and about a half-hour south of Washington, D. C., has a Tun Tavern-themed restaurant for visitors. Approximately 500,000 visit the museum yearly. Built entirely from donations and maintained by volunteers, admission is free.

True to its linguistic heritage, tun from the Old English for a barrel or keg of beer, the museum's tavern serves beer (and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages), but also included on its menu is non-alcoholic bread pudding, a staple from Colonial times popular with Marines that's served in many of its mess halls and dining facilities. (Note: Along with interactive exhibits for kids, the museum has a kid-friendly place for families to eat.)

So, having shared in the cake ceremony at an earlier event, now, 240 years after the birth of the Marine Corps, my husband is either at the computer or using his iPad or on his iPhone, sharing birthday greetings with Marines of all ranks and ages, what Marines do on this special day. Tradition triumphs, even in a technological age.

And with Veterans' Day being celebrated tomorrow, a salute and a thank you to those past and present who've served our nation with honor, dedication and sacrifice, including my husband (USMC) in Vietnam, First Gulf War and Somalia; my father (Army) in World War II; and my grandfather (Army) in World War I.

Today's Tun Tavern at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. As much as things change, they stay the same. (Source: National Museum  of the Marine Corp)

Interior of National Museum of the Marine Corps (Source: Wikipedia)


William Kendall said...

I have to visit that museum someday!

Inger said...

It is so good to catch up with you again. I think of you often and hope all is well. During the Viet Nam era, I dated a US Marine who was a very special person and who loved the Marine Corps and the guys he served with in Viet Nam. So in a way I do understand that connection between the Marines. Interesting background on their history.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I want to visit it as well! Very cool your husband got to visit the spot where it all began for the Marines.

Denise Covey said...

Hi Kittie! Isn't this wonderful to celebrate the birth of the Marines. Today we celebrate Remembrance Day to remember all the war dead from WW1. Have already had our one minute silence at 11am.

I hope all goes well with you two and you're enjoying life!

Denise :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Kittie - yes certainly an interesting museum to visit - but what nostalgia and information re those centuries ago. I love learning the history ... today is Remembrance Day here ... and we had our Cenotaph Service in Whitehall, London on Sunday ... it's always special and reminds me of much ... Hilary

Julie Flanders said...

Wow, what an amazing tradition. I'd never heard of this before. Happy Veterans Day to your husband and all the other Marines.

Norma Beishir said...

I'm with William--I want to visit that museum!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

And who said history was boring. Wow, very informative and fascinating. Thanks for sharing this, Kittie. I'm passing it along.

Ms Sparrow said...

I would love to visit there someday!

Crystal Collier said...

So cool! I love that they kept it preserved.