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Two Corps of Colonial Marines were raised from former slaves as auxiliary units of the Royal Marines for service in the Americas:

Contents

The First Corps

The first Corps of Colonial Marines was raised in 1808 by Rear Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane while commander-in-chief of British naval forces on the Leeward Islands station during the Napoleonic Wars. The island of Marie Galante had been captured by the British earlier that year but the French Governor of Guadeloupe attacked the island on hearing that its British garrison had been depleted by illness. Marie Galante slaves assisted the British on being promised that they would not be returned to their proprietors and by this means the island was preserved until the arrival of three companies of the 1st West India Regiment. Cochrane embodied the ex-slaves as a Corps of Colonial Marines, which was subsequently enlarged with fugitive slaves who came over from Guadeloupe. The Corps was paid from Marie Galante revenues, clothed from Royal Navy stores and commanded by Royal Marine officers. Following the re-possession of Guadeloupe, Cochrane kept up the Corps, and on 12 October 1810 redistributed the men, 70 among the ships of the squadron, 20 to 30 to the battery at the Saintes (a group of small islands to the south of Guadeloupe), and 50 remaining in the Marie Galante garrison. They saw no further action as a distinct body but were subsequently listed in ships’ musters among the supernumeraries for wages and victuals, continuing individually under the description of Colonial Marine at least until mid-1815. This was well into the life of Cochrane’s second Corps of Colonial Marines, but spheres of service were mutually exclusive and paths did not cross.

The Second Corps

The second Corps of Colonial Marines was recruited by the British from among the four thousand Black refugees of the War of 1812 to serve as part of the British forces on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States during that war. The main part of the Corps was embodied in the Chesapeake on 18 May 1814, and on 3 September 1814 was joined with three companies of Royal Marines to make a new 3rd Battalion Royal and Colonial Marines, with further recruitment on the coast of Georgia in January, February and March 1815. Recruitment of the Colonial Marines was instigated by Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, as Commander-in-Chief of British forces on the North Atlantic Station, and implemented by his second in command on the Atlantic coast, Rear Admiral George Cockburn. After the end of the war, the battalion was reformed as the 3rd Battalion Colonial Marines to do garrison duty in the Royal Naval Dockyard then under construction on Ireland Island, Bermuda, and was finally disbanded in Trinidad in August 1816 to form a free Black farming community which still retains its identity, carrying the name of The Merikens. A detached company, recruited by Captain George Woodbine in the Gulf of Mexico under the direction of Colonel Edward Nicholls, remained at Apalachicola in Spanish East Florida after British left at the end of the war. Those members of the detached company who survived the destruction of the Negro Fort in July 1816 joined the southward migration of Seminoles and Blacks in the face of American advance, and probably were among the group that escaped to the Bahamas in 1822 and founded, on the west coast of the island of Andros, a community that similarly retains its identity.

References

  • WEISS, John McNish: The Merikens: Free Black American Settlers in Trinidad 1815-16 (London: 2002)
  • WEISS, John McNish: ‘The Corps of Colonial Marines 1814-16: a summary’ (Immigrants and Minorities, 15/1, April 1996) Note: this early article is amended by the book 'The Merikens' and by the web article linked in 'External links'.

See also

External links

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Two Corps of Colonial Marines were raised from former slaves as auxiliary units of the Royal Marines for service in the Americas:

Contents

The First Corps

The first Corps of Colonial Marines was raised in 1808 by Rear Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane while commander-in-chief of British naval forces on the Leeward Islands station during the Napoleonic Wars. The island of Marie Galante had been captured by the British earlier that year but the French Governor of Guadeloupe attacked the island on hearing that its British garrison had been depleted by illness. Marie Galante slaves assisted the British on being promised that they would not be returned to their proprietors and by this means the island was preserved until the arrival of three companies of the 1st West India Regiment. Cochrane embodied the ex-slaves as a Corps of Colonial Marines, which was subsequently enlarged with fugitive slaves who came over from Guadeloupe. The Corps was paid from Marie Galante revenues, clothed from Royal Navy stores and commanded by Royal Marine officers. Following the re-possession of Guadeloupe, Cochrane kept up the Corps, and on 12 October 1810 redistributed the men, 70 among the ships of the squadron, 20 to 30 to the battery at the Saintes (a group of small islands to the south of Guadeloupe), and 50 remaining in the Marie Galante garrison. They saw no further action as a distinct body but were subsequently listed in ships’ musters among the supernumeraries for wages and victuals, continuing individually under the description of Colonial Marine at least until mid-1815. This was well into the life of Cochrane’s second Corps of Colonial Marines, but spheres of service were mutually exclusive and paths did not cross.

The Second Corps

The British recruited the second Corps of Colonial Marines from among the four thousand Black refugees of the War of 1812 to serve as part of the British forces on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States during that war. The main part of the Corps was embodied in the Chesapeake on 18 May 1814, and on 3 September 1814 was joined with three companies of Royal Marines to make a new 3rd Battalion Royal and Colonial Marines, with further recruitment on the coast of Georgia in January, February and March 1815. Recruitment of the Colonial Marines was instigated by Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, as Commander-in-Chief of British forces on the North Atlantic Station, and implemented by his second in command on the Atlantic coast, Rear Admiral George Cockburn. In January 1815 three battalions of the Corps formed the bulk of the British land forces at the Battle of Fort Peter, which despite its name was little more than a skirmish. The land force also included the two flank companies of the 2nd West India Regiment, which too was a black unit.

After the end of the war, the 3rd battalion was reformed as the 3rd Battalion Colonial Marines to do garrison duty in the Royal Naval Dockyard then under construction on Ireland Island, Bermuda, and was finally disbanded in Trinidad in August 1816 to form a free Black farming community which still retains its identity, carrying the name of The Merikens. A detached company, recruited by Captain George Woodbine in the Gulf of Mexico under the direction of Colonel Edward Nicolls, remained at Apalachicola in Spanish East Florida after British left at the end of the war. Those members of the detached company who survived the destruction of Fort Gadsden (or the Negro Fort) in July 1816 joined the southward migration of Seminoles and Blacks in the face of American advance, and probably were among the group that escaped to the Bahamas in 1822 and founded, on the west coast of the island of Andros, a community that similarly retains its identity.

References

  • WEISS, John McNish: The Merikens: Free Black American Settlers in Trinidad 1815-16 (London: 2002)
  • WEISS, John McNish: ‘The Corps of Colonial Marines 1814-16: a summary’ (Immigrants and Minorities, 15/1, April 1996) Note: this early article is amended by the book 'The Merikens' and by the web article linked in 'External links'.

See also

External links


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