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"US marines mid-19th century quality?" Topic

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American Civil War

778 hits since 23 Dec 2017
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Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 11:37 a.m. PST

I am working on a ACW game that involves a naval landing party. It will contain some US Marines. At the time of the Civil War were marines as elite as they are now?

Would their morale be Better than a regular army soldier. Would they be better marksman? I am asking for a comparison to regular army, not any elite type, if there were any of those days other than Berdan's sharpshooters.

In game terms, would they be plus one or two in morale, combat and/or shooting. Any negative aspects?


ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 12:07 p.m. PST

Well, keep in mind that at that time the US Marines were doing their traditional role as ship-board troops. I.e. they were there for internal security and to fight in the event of a boarding action in the 0ld Style. They might go ashore in a landing party, but they'd have limited training in acting like 'line' infantry. Their whole amphibious specialists and elite ground troop role was almost a century in the future. There's no doubt they would have good morale and consider themselves elite troops, but how that would affect their performance on a battlefield is questionable.

KhivaJoe Inactive Member23 Dec 2017 12:11 p.m. PST

I am the first to observe that it is a period and a subject that I know absolutely nothing about but were the US Marines not present at Harpers Ferry? How did they do there? (Admittedly the opposition might not have been tops…)

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 12:20 p.m. PST

KhivaJoe I believe you are correct that the Marines were at Harpers Ferry & did well but as you say opposition was pretty poor.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 1:18 p.m. PST

Also at 1st Bull Run

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 1:44 p.m. PST

In the early days of the war – particularly at Bull Run their ranks were full of raw recruits. At the outbreak of hostilities, many of the small force went with the Confederates, others too old for field actions.

Additionally during the fist part of the war, because of the small size and mission the majority of their contributions were on ship board actions.

For land battles I rate them green or regular – but

For landing actions after 1863 I rate them as elite – Their small force was awarded 5 or 6 medals of honor at Ft Fisher as one example

RudyNelson23 Dec 2017 2:26 p.m. PST

An evaluation of the Marine actions at the Union forts in Virginia, Florida and SC are needed to provide them with a reasonable rating.

Also what were the marine level of performance in riverine operations?

BW195923 Dec 2017 4:49 p.m. PST

Did they use Marines for river operations, I thought they used Army volunteers, or at least on the Mississippi

Dn Jackson23 Dec 2017 7:00 p.m. PST

Coming down the Mississippi were all volunteers, no Marines. Coming up the river from New Orleans there were Marines on the ships.

They did fairly well on land operations, Honey Hill, Fort Fisher, etc. At Manassas there were only a handful, less than 10 I believe, who were not raw recruits, and one of those was a musician. They did break and run at Manassas, but they rallied and re-entered the fight several times. In fact one Confederate observer noted that the bodies of Marines marked the deepest penetration of Jackson's line on Henry Hill. Although the 300 man battalion was raw, the highest ranking officers were long service regulars who drilled the battalion at every stop between Washington and Manassas. It paid off and the troops reacted well in combat.

For the rest of the war I rate them the equivalent of the Army regulars. Above average, but not elite.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 7:21 p.m. PST

Ellet's Mississippi Marine Brigade was used for river operations, but they were not part of the USMC. Like everyone else, they were raw/green at the beginning of the war and, as the war progressed got better at their craft. Admiral Dahlgren's marine battalion in the Summer of 1863 was composed of raw recruits unable and unprepared to engage in amphibious operations. Personally, I wouldn't rate the marines at Fort Fischer as elite. I would rate them as regulars. They did solid service which, compared to a lot of their actions, may have made them seem elite.

Bill N24 Dec 2017 4:32 a.m. PST

I would not rank U.S. Marines in the ACW as highly as the motivated veteran infantry on either side. Man for man they may have been better than the soldiers, but the nature of their service kept them from acquiring experience in larger unit fighting. They were as units probably comparable to the Heavy Artillery regiments that were called into field service as infantry in 1864.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP24 Dec 2017 7:31 a.m. PST

Yep. The battalions assembled from the fleet were ad-hoc units from the ships' companies; the amount of time spent actually drilling as a battalion was pretty close to zero.

Dn Jackson26 Dec 2017 7:55 p.m. PST

79th, I would disagree with you a bit. Dalghren had a battalion that he put together and used pretty heavily. It started as an ad hoc formation, but became quite proficient. He was very upset when he was ordered to disband it and send the Marines back to the ships they came from.

Royal Marine29 Dec 2017 4:53 a.m. PST

A rule of thumb for all Marines is that if they are part of a ships crew then they are trained and prepared for maritime operations; if they are formed up into larger units for land operations then they will begin a 'well-motivated' but 'poorly trained' in terms of drill and larger formation moves. As they progress in campaigns then they will quickly become better trained and may even become amongst the better troops in any land formation.

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