top of page

Celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday in Alexandria: A Historical Connection

On November 10, 2023, the United States Marine Corps celebrates its 248th birthday. The Corps is fast approaching its Quarter Millennial celebration in 2025. The Marine Corps has endured due to its proud heritage, strong traditions, and the professional men and women, who have proudly borne the title Marine.

I am proud to have served in uniform as a United States Marine Corps infantry officer. I joined the Marine Corps in January 2011. I will never forget standing on the parade deck in the biting cold every morning during Officer Candidate School (OCS). Drill Instructors screamed commands as my fingers froze to my rifle. Like so many Marines, I was introduced to the Marine Corps way of doing things. This included short haircuts, early mornings, and a close shave among many other basic habits. My desire to be a Marine carried me through the trials and tribulations of OCS. After ten weeks, I was commissioned a 2nd Lt on March 18, 2011 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, VA.

My service continued until 2021. I deployed overseas on a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from 2013-2014 and as part of a Unit Deployment Program (UDP) to Darwin, Australia in 2015. My last active duty billet was at Camp Pendleton, CA where I served as a Company Commander at an infantry school. After eight years on active duty and two and a half years in the Marine Reserves, I made the decision to exit the Corps to focus on business school and work in the private sector. It was a hard decision, but I believe it was the right one.

Since that time, I started a business in Old Town Alexandria. As I currently run Alexandria History Tours, I integrate a lot of important lessons that I learned in the Marine Corps. Some of those lessons include attention to details, being on time, and diligent planning. Additionally, Marine Corps leaders are taught to put a high priority on the welfare of their Marines. I apply the same mentality with the guests that join me at Alexandria History Tours. My goal is to give them a first class experience and help them feel good about their time in Alexandria.

It is also fun to talk about my service. Guests will mention to me, "You seem like a Marine" or "You look like a Marine." That is a nice compliment. I still get my hair cut short and shave every morning. I doubt that I will ever break these firmly ingrained habits. I do "hike" a lot every day. This keeps me from getting too far out of height and weight standards! If I am giving three tours in a day, I might walk 8-10 miles throughout the day. I do joke with my guests that giving tours in Alexandria is much easier than climbing the hills of Camp Pendleton with an 80lb rucksack on my back. Now I carry a small backpack that has a first aid kit, water, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and a protein bar. This is my new "field kit."

Overall, I am excited to be building a veteran owned and operated business in Alexandria, Virginia. On the Revolutionary War tour, I always talk about veterans of America's war for independence. I love discussing how they came to Alexandria and ran businesses both before and after the war. For example, I talk about Revolutionary War veteran, George Gilpin, who helped make George Washington's whiskey business profitable. I also talk about Dr. James Craik, who served with George Washington in the French and Indian War and during the American Revolution. Craik moved to Alexandria where he lived and worked as a doctor.

I have a strong sense of civic pride and patriotism following in the footsteps of these amazing veterans. As Veterans Day approaches, I feel especially connected to a tradition that is greater than myself.

With the Revolutionary War tour, I also talk about the history of the Marine Corps. Since the Tall Ship Providence arrived in Alexandria in 2023, it has offered an outstanding opportunity to provide guests with an overview of both Navy and Marine Corps history.

History of the Providence

The sloop Providence was one of the first commissioned ships in the United States Navy. The Navy was officially created on October 13, 1775 by an act of the Second Continental Congress. The legislation passed on that date authorized the purchase of a Rhode Island navy ship known as the Katy. In June 1775, the Rhode Island General Assembly commissioned the Katy to protect Rhode Island shipping from search and seizure by the British Royal Navy. After purchasing the Katy on October 31, 1775, the Congress renamed her Providence.

The Providence deployed in January 1776. The ship fell under the command of Captain John Hazard and was placed under the overall command of Commodore Esek Hopkins. In 1776, Hopkins led a naval squadron which included the Providence. Commodore Hopkins decided to take the squadron away from bad weather around the Chesapeake Bay and sail south toward the Bahamas. The mission was to find supplies especially gunpowder, which the American Continental and militia forces desperately needed. At that time, Washington's army was camped outside of British occupied Boston, and holding the city under siege.

The newly created Continental Marines were deployed on the Providence as well as the other ships under Commodore Hopkins' command. This campaign to the Bahamas is considered the first deployment in Marine Corps history. It culminated in the Marines' first amphibious landing against Fort Montagu on March 3, 1776 followed by Fort Nassau on March 4. The Marines' landing was mostly unopposed. However, it was a success and an auspicious start for the Marine Corps.

After the successful campaign in the Bahamas, the Providence was placed under the command of John Paul Jones. Captain Jones successfully commanded the Providence for six months. He took many British "prizes" while evading capture and harassing much larger British ships.

The Providence made another return to Fort Nassau in 1778. Finally, in 1779, the Providence was a casualty of the Penobscot Expedition in modern day Maine. Unfortunately, the ship had to be burned by her own sailors to prevent her from falling into British hands. The Tall Ship Providence in Alexandria is a rebuilt version of the first sloop-of-war that sailed from 1775-1779. Thus, a permanent replica of the Providence is now docked in port in Alexandria and is available for dockside tours. Additionally, the ship will go underway for sunset sails in the evenings.

Tall Ship Providence
The Tall Ship Providence sits dockside in Alexandria, VA

Marine Corps History

Historically the Marines have been considered "soldiers of the sea." Their purpose has been to serve alongside the Navy. In this capacity, they will guard ships, conduct raids on other ships, or execute ship to shore operations. The Marines will be the first boots on the ground to secure a beachhead and gain a foothold on enemy soil. In fact, World War II was one of the major wars in which the Marines conducted a significant amount of amphibious landings. This was during the "island hopping" campaigns of the Pacific.

Throughout Marine Corps history, Marines have fulfilled a variety of functions outside of their maritime capabilities. During the Vietnam War as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marines were used as a conventional land force in much of the same way as the Army. Moreover, during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Marines augmented General Washington's army during crucial Battles at Trenton and Princeton from December 25, 1776- January 3, 1777.

The Marines have always thrived on the principle of "adapt and overcome." Meanwhile, Marine Corps leadership constantly looks to ensure that Marines are ready to fulfill their historic role of being integrated with the US Navy. Marines are also described as a "force in readiness" with a mindset to be "most ready when the Nation is least ready."

As a Marine veteran, it is exciting to be able to show guests the rebuilt version of the Providence and tell them about the history of the Marine Corps. I also mention that the Marine Corps was officially established at a public house called Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, PA. This was one of the first locations where Marines were recruited. It is also where some of the first missions were planned.

Most people do not know much about Marine Corps history. But, as Marines, our history was pounded into our heads from either Boot Camp or Officer Candidate School. For me, I still have flashbacks of being cold and wet on the parade ground in Quantico, VA. I still remember shouting "Tun Tavern!" and "Samuel Nicholas" (first Commandant of the Marine Corps) at a screaming Drill Instructor.

If you take a tour with me, please know that I don't shout "Tun Tavern" at guests. I have kept many habits like professional appearance, punctuality, and hard work. Shouting at the top of my lungs at five in the morning is one that I am happy to have left on the parade grounds of Quantico!

To all my fellow Marines, Semper Fi! Enjoy this year's birthday. Read the Commandant of the Marine Corps 248th Birthday Message. We are fast approaching 250!

If you are in the Washington D.C. area, there are several ways to learn more about the Marine Corps. Of course, taking our Revolutionary War tour is a great place to start. After taking one of our guided walking tours, there are several other places and events. Here is a partial list of some notable ones:

  • The Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, VA

  • The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, VA. This is approximately 45 minutes south of Washington D.C. It is an impressive museum that contains exhibits, which showcase the Marine Corps' rich history from 1775 to the present.

  • Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA. There are many heroes of the United States Marine Corps buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

  • 8th and I. "The Oldest Post of the Corps". The Marine Barracks in Washington D.C. hosts Friday evening parades featuring the Marine Band, the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, and the Silent Drill Platoon. Check the schedule on their website to find out specific times and dates as they may be seasonally dependent. Additionally, there are Sunset Parades featured around the D.C. area. Check online to see when and where these parades will take place.

  • As previously mentioned, the Tall Ship Providence, which is docked in Alexandria, VA.

Marine Corps Memorial
Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, VA
John Basilone
Medal of Honor recipient Gy Sgt John Basilone
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery


bottom of page