Archive by Author | Kater

Another Commandant, Another Court Martial

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The Battle of Baltimore, 1814. Marines under then Captain Gale man batteries in defense of Fort McHenry in a battle for which Gale received a brevet promotion to Major.  Image courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

The Third Commandant of the Marine Corps is probably my favorite out of all of them. His reign was so brief, no portraits of his likeness are known to exist and his burial location is still unknown. A bit of a rascal, he killed Navy Lieutenant Allen Mackenzie in a duel at the turn of the century. Major William Burrows gave his implicit endorsement of the killing, expressing hope that it would make Naval Officers respect Marines more.

archibald henderson

Archibald Henderson, Future Commandant. Image courtesy of Marine Corps History Division

After the death of the second commandant, the Marine Corps was in a lurch. The ambitious Brevet Major Archibald Henderson, who referred and prosecuted Franklin Wharton in a court-martial and Brevet Major Samuel Miller jockeyed for position for an appointment to the post. Henderson became acting commandant, but Anthony Gale was the senior Marine in the Marine Corps. President Monroe appointed Gale to the post to preserve the seniority rankings.

Gale faced problems straight away. Marine Commanders in the field faced new Navy regulations which diluted their power. Some speculation exists that Henderson, who had chafed at the leadership under Wharton, treated Gale poorly as well. Eventually, Major Samuel Miller brought charges against Gale and put him under arrest. Arrested officers were nominally bound by honor to stay under arrest and Gale decided to not remain arrested, wandering out and continuing his boorish behavior
Miller charged Gale with behavior that seems more appropriate for a trouble making lance corporal in the modern day Marine Corps. These charges included Habitual Drunkenness, Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer and a Gentleman, and signing a false statement. The first charge came because apparently, Gale spent the month of August in 1819 in a drunken stupor in and around Washington, visiting brothels and “common dram shops” to the point where performing his duties became impossible. The second charge accused the commandant of visiting a “house of ill repute” and of wandering in the streets shouting that he “did not care a damn for the president, Jesus Christ or God Almighty.” The third charge accused him of threatening his paymaster, calling him names and trying to engage him in a fistfight.

After nearly a year of charges being levied, Gale was found guilty on most of the charges against him and cashiered from the military. Gale would eventually receive a pension for his time in the Marine Corps, and by the late 1830s had the largest pension of any other Navy or Marine Corps officer at 25 dollars per month. By 1820, 2 out of three Commandants of the Marine Corps had been court-martialed and one of them had been convicted and kicked out. An auspicious beginning to be sure.

The Court-Martial of a Commandant

Commandant Franklin Wharton

Commandant Wharton’s Portrait

One of my favorite and most bizarre episodes in Marine Corps history was the court-martial of the second Commandant of the Marine Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Wharton for dereliction of duty. Future commandant Brevet Major Archibald Henderson filed the charges and prosecuted LtCol. Wharton.

Archibald Henderson was an ambitious young Marine during the time. He perceived Wharton as being an ineffective Commandant. To Henderson, Wharton had tarnished the reputation of the Marines Corps when as the British approached Washington DC in 1814 instead of fielding Marines and fighting the British, he fled the Marine Barracks, traveling to the Navy Yard, and ultimately evacuating as the British entered and burned the city. He referred two charges for trial: “Neglect of Duty” and “Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer and a Gentleman”. The specifics of the first charge contended that Wharton never inspected the troops, presided over parades, and never wore a full uniform. The second charge was that he called a former Marine major a Liar and never apologized, and refused to take the field as the British Army approached Washington prior to it being burned in 1814. The second charge was so outlandish, that it was eventually dropped.

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LtCol Wharton’s Sword, from the National Museum of the Marine Corps’s Collection

Upon being charged and facing a Naval Court Martial, immediately upon being charged, Wharton issue a jurisdictional challenge, arguing the July 11, 1798 order establishing the Marine Corps stated that Marines would operate under the control of the Army on Land. The Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin Crowninshield, declined to weigh in on the matter. He punted to George Graham, the Secretary of War, who in turn punted to Richard Rush, the Attorney General for a ruling. Rush gave control to the Army, who also claimed to not have jurisdiction over a member of the Marine Corps. President James Monroe ordered the army to hold the court-martial.

Boiled down, Wharton’s defense against the other charges was that there was no order requiring him to take marines into the field, preside over parades or wear uniforms. He also questioned what injury was done to public service by he not wearing his uniform. The court acquitted Wharton of the remaining charges and cleared him to resume his status as the Commandant of the Marine Corps. President Monroe pressured Wharton to resign, but he refused, dying in office the following year.

Commandants house

The Commandant of the Marine Corps’s residence. Wharton was the first to live there.

The prologue to the story is that the power of the Marine Corps was severely limited in the wake of the Wharton affair. Navy Yard commanders were given greater authority over the Marines stationed in the barracks in the Navy Yards, leaving the barracks commanders feeling impotent in their commands. Trial witness Brevet Major Samuel Miller and prosecutor Brevet Major Archibald Henderson jockeyed for appointment to the top spot, and both enjoyed the support and had petitioners asking President Monroe to appoint one or the other. Monroe demurred and appointed the senior Marine Anthony Gale, who was court-martialed and cashiered. So by the end of 1819, two out of the three commandants had been court-martialed and one kicked out of the service.

The historical note here is that Samuel Nicholas was never officially commandant, and takes his place in the pantheon of Marine Heroes in a celebratory status only.

Larson’s Gym and the End of an Era

Larson’s Gym is currently being demolished. When I first started working at the museum, this building housed the restoration staff on one side of the building and the Quantico Marine Corps Band on the other side. The building itself was old, with asbestos, lead paint and infested with small wildlife. It was not a great place to work in its final years standing, very hot and humid in summer and freezing in winter-but it had character.


I never had to work in Larson’s Gym and went to when I needed to confer with our top notch restoration crew. I always had fun going to the building to see them and their work.  They spent several years restoring an SBD Dive bomber rivet by rivet. Having the opportunity to see the plane, which spent 50 years at the bottom of Lake Michigan, come back to live is one of the neatest projects I’ve ever witnessed. The plane is now hanging in the National Museum of the Marine Corps


The SBD being reassembled in Larson’s Gym

Larson’s Gym started life as an aircraft hanger in the 1930s as the current Quantico Airfield was under construction. Sometime later in life, half of the hangar was converted into the base gym, until it started caving in. The museum’s restoration shop took over the other half. After Barber’s Gym opened, the Quantico Band used the site for practice until it was unsafe to use any more.

Larson's Gym Band

The Quantico Marine Band Practicing for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2013. DOD Photograph.

Larson’s Gym also had a profoundly bittersweet event too: the last flight of an H-34 Helicopter that is now on display in the museum as well. The group that donated the Vietnam serving helicopter flew it to the museum for a short program, then it flew over to hangar where it was prepared to go into Leatherneck Gallery. On the last flight of the old helicopter, it buzzed the museum’s spire and flew off into the sunset.

It is a neat building and I’m sad to watch its slow destruction as I drive by it every day to go to work.

Return to Blogging

I have not updated my blog in well over a year, so I thought I would do that. I do not care if anyone ever reads it or not, but I will use it to practice writing. I started this blog as a classroom assignment while in the Applied History Master’s program at George Mason University. I’m not going to get rid of these older posts, though they are the remnants of the class assignments. There are some dead links to a website that I made and allowed to wither of the vine. Perhaps I’ll get back into website design again someday. In the meantime, I’ll write about some of the fun things that I find at work or home that amuses me.


The first order of business is that I’ve been doing research on Marine Corps vehicles. After many years of looking for photos of a particularly rare truck built for the Marine Corps by the FWD Company, my co-worker and I hit paydirt at the National Archives. We found around two dozen, and were able to use the photos for research in the restoration that our museum owns that is likely the last one built for the Marine Corps that still exists. There will be more to come on this restoration progress as the Marine Depot Maintenance Command in Albany, GA is roughly 65% complete with the restoration process.

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Final Project

Here are my links to my website:



If anyone wants to keep in touch after the semester, my personal email address is and my  work email is


It has been a pleasure, good luck to those taking comps.

Design Project

This week, I had more practical application of the skills I’ve learned in this class. Here is the final copy of the Light Armored Vehicle that I created the template for. A guy in Ladysmith picked up the vehicle on Friday and painted it all weekend. We should get it back tomorrow.

For my project, I am having more trouble putting it all together than I thought I would. I keep second guessing myself, mainly because so many people in this class have such great web designs. I am purposely keeping mine simple because I like cleaner design.

As far as templates, I’m pretty confused about how javascript works. I can easily incorporate it into my design, but I do not understand what the stylesheet is actually saying. One of the best parts about keeping a simple design is I know exactly what the website will do.

Another problem that I have had is I think I spent too much time collecting photographs that I will never be able to use for the scope of this project, but I hope to continue in the future.

I suppose I do not really have much else to add this week to my blog. Sorry for the shorter post.

Quantico as a topic

My project deals with the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, VA. I have run into some problems regarding relating the history, as it is an active military base. I wanted to talk about some of the unique features of the base and the area, just like all of Virginia, is imbued with interesting resources. The base archaeologist has uncovered everything from Clovis Points, items from the King’s Highway to unexploded ordnance from the American Revolution to modern day.

The unexploded ordnance is the main issue. Though the base has a really cool story to tell, I cannot tell most of it. The problem stems from the lack on knowledge of where things occurred, like the digging of trenches while Marines trained for WWI, to the fact that most of the base was an active firing range at one point or the other. And I don’t mean just lead projectiles. High energy explosive stuff.

I wanted to have maps and explain where some neat things happened. The entire Potomac Coast was a Confederate coastal defense battery on the Virginia side, and a Federal counter battery on the Maryland side. Known Civil War camps litter the area. However, relic hunters love to find unexplored areas like that. Obviously that is a security issue for the base and dangerous because of the amount of explosives that they might unearth and possibly detonate.

There is still a lot I can tell, so I’ll make sure to focus on that.

I just recently had the left hand cannon restored. Its twin has been on display on the base for 50 years. Crews building Turner Field in WWII dug it up, along with tons of explosive shells.

As far as design, I guess I am going to stay on the boring side. I think my colors look good and subdued, but aren’t too boring. I found a lot of templates that would be fun to use, but manipulating them would take more time than I can spend on them this close to the end of the semester. Here is the link to my website and my Design Page. It needs work as I try to fix the columns and some of the pictures that don’t show up.


I commented on Joshua’s Blog.



Using skills from class and Virtual History

Because of this class, I have been able to use some of my new skills for my job as a curator. Right now, we are about to have a combat vehicle, which is going on display in the National Museum of the Marine Corps painted. I chose to have the vehicle represent the 3d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, or 3d LAR, which fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I chose to make the vehicle appear as it did in March 2003.

At that time, the unit pained large wolf heads and chevrons on their vehicles to allow other units on the battlefield to see at a quick glance who they were. They used cardboard templates to paint the vehicles, but the cardboard templates have long been lost. So, to make up for the lost templates, I chose a photo from the time, traced the items that we want to recreate, and converted it to a vector drawing. Our exhibits shop printed the items on a vinyl printer so that the paint shop could paint the recreated markings on the vehicle. Our exhibits folks could have done it, but this was good practice for me to hone my new skills as well as to lessen their burden

This week, we also read about the Lost Museum digital display. I was immediately reminded of my childhood, playing the computer games. I played around soaking up the nostalgia of my adolescence. Even the Joshua Brown article mentioned that the games were the basis for the display style.

So the Lost museum ends up being a  nostolgic trip to the older digital formats which was representing a museum of the days of yore. Additionally, it was kind of fun. Museums don’t often represent a history of museums. This was a fun way to look at museums as a history professional.

I sure think that this kind of project would be really fun to see updated on a more modern style. Many museums offer virtual tours, but not like the Lost Museum. Further, the recreation of a museum that was lost is a novel idea.

The virtual tour needs to be continually updated too, if it is an active museum. For instance, our Museum’s virtual tour is now obsolete, as the helicopter represented has been replaced.


This week I commented on Mark’sTam’sKim’s,Pearl’s, and Amy’s blogs.

Photo projects

Here is the link to my website image page

I am having a lot of fun with this class, and these photo projects. I have learned a lot from the research that I have done to color these photos. My office is literally meters away from the beaches where the Marine Corps developed the doctrine that it used throughout WWII.Finding my office building from 1930s photographs has been a real treat. And taking the photographs down to the areas where Marines operated 100 years ago brings the history to life in a really powerful way to me. I hope that I will be able to convert that into a website.

For one of my engravings, I chose a recruiting poster that came out in late 1918. I found the poster in a classroom full of Marines who had returned to Quantico after WWI. There are several indicators that they are mostly combat veterans who probably put up the poster out of pride.

I also did another colorization of Marines storming the beach outside of my office. It was pretty fun.

I found a pretty neat way to get the detail on trees too. Used the same technique that Dr. Petrik showed us for the engraving. Essentially, for small details, I used blending options to isolate small details and saved the selections. After I put the whole picture back together, I could load selections that were parts of the small details such as trees and rocks and color them. Also, I created separate curve layers on selections to make distant objects more sharp compared to the background.

Here is my vignetted photograph. It is of then Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler, who is one of two Marines to be awarded two medals of honor. He was in charge of the Base at Quantico in the 1920s before becoming the Philadelphia Police Chief while on active duty. This was certainly unconstitutional. To keep up their fitness, Marines from Quantico would hike to Civil War battlefields and stage reenactments as far away as Gettysburg.

Marines at Gettysburg

The Marines are using bolt action rifles and a M1917 Browning Machine Gun at the 1922 Gettysburg reenactment.

Here, Butler is leading his Marines to the Wilderness. It was an odd sight, as the Marines would wear their contemporary gear and fire modern rifles and artillery pieces.

According to legend, Butler did not believe the story about General Thomas Jackson’s arm being buried at Chancellorsville Battlefield, and made a bet that Marines would not find the arm buried there. Marines dug it up, supposedly found the arm and reburied it (the legend is not true.)


Revisiting last week, here is some more detail about my seaplane from last week. There were originally two seaplane hangars that went straight down to the water, ande a plane could be put on a dolly and rolled to the water. One still stands, the other was damaged and razed several decades ago.

In the end, I think I have a lot of raw material  to work with for the project. I hope that the work I am doing translates into a project that people enjoy.

I commented on Joshua’s, Mark’sDanielle’s, and Jenna’s Blogs this week.



colorizing photographs

This week I tried my hand at a few different photographs to see how it went and what I needed to improve on. Coloring the foreground is getting easier, but realistic backgrounds are very tough for me.

Case study one:

I tried to colorize and “hydroplane” that was taken about 300 feet from my office 100 years ago. The The plane was a treated fabric that would have been a shiny grey. Getting the aircraft into that color was pretty hard, an I do not feel like I nailed it.

The second problem is that the photograph’s background was the Potomac river and the Maryland Shore. The detail of the water was almost gone in the photograph, and just painting it blue did not work. Also, the trees on the shore looked goofy and cartoonish. So I took a photograph of mine at that spot and used the color, texture and trees to restore that part of the photograph. I did make the water a little more blue than my photo just to reinforce the water look.

Case study two.

I found another photograph that had a lot of components, Including Marines, civilians, cars and a cannon being drug through the street. Again, the background seemed to be the hardest part. I think I got the color of the clothing correct and the vehicles, but the dirt street and trees in the background still seem off. I played with gradients and opacity, but I’m still not happy. It looks like one of those colorized postcards from the 1940s.

I am trying to practice, and this is still a lot of fun. I probably should spend less time on this and more time on my project site.

For the second photo, I don’t think I did too much to hurt historical accuracy. The hydroplane has made me ponder if what I did was okay. I think I would need to be honest about what I did before I tried to publish it as historical evidence for anything. I tried to make sure that the conditions were the same, and I don’t think the river environment in Maryland has changed so much that I was introducing a terribly new shoreline. I felt that the trees and water was too important to not introduce.

I would love to know what everyone else thinks about the hydroplane. From last week’s discussion I get the feeling that it might be a good topic for debate, if anybody even reads this this week.


I posted comments on the following blogs: Claire’sPearl’sTheana’s, and Kim’s.