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Keith Brownmiller

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All, 18 October marks the 194th anniversary of the cashiering of Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Wayne Gale, our fourth Commandant, from the Marine Corps. Lieutenant Colonel Gale left behind a legacy of brawling, public drunkenness, and cavorting with ladies of questionable moral fiber as well as the commission of several other specifications under the charge of conduct unbecoming an officer. While his activities on liberty are certainly not appropriate in today's society of political correctness, I suspect many of you, like me can't help but admire his thirst for adventure. I would go so far as to suggest that many of us could be similarly indicted for some of our own youthful indiscretions. Therefore, I ask that you pause for a moment to remember Commandant Gale and join me as I raise a glass in his memory.

Semper Fidelis,

Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Gale, fourth Commandant of the Marine Corps, was born in Dublin, Ireland, on 17 September 1782. Fewer records survive concerning him than any other Commandant but it is known that when he was commissioned a second lieutenant on 2 September 1798, he was one of the first officers commissioned after the reestablishment of the Marine Corps in 1798. Thereafter he fought, in fairly quick succession, the French, the Barbary pirates, the British, and one of his Navy shipmates.

The last encounter, involving an affront to the Corps, brought about the naval officer's sudden demise and Commandant of the Marine Corps William Ward Burrow's approval for Gale's defense of his Corps' honor. As the story goes, Gale was Ship's Company Commander aboard USS Ganges in November 1799 when Navy Lieutenant Allen McKenzie had one of the Marines put in irons without first consulting Gale. When Gale inquired about the incident, McKenzie called him a "rascal." The rest of the story is related in correspondence by Commandant Lieutenant Colonel Burrows: "The Captain took no notice of the business and Gale got no satisfaction on the cruise. The moment he arrived he called (McKenzie) out and shot him. Afterwards politeness was restored." McKenzie died of his wounds and Burrows went on to say, "It is hoped that this may be a lesson to the Navy Officers to treat the Marines, as well as their Officers, with more respect."

Unfortunately for Captain Gales, increasing rank brought other difficulties not resolved so directly. In 1815 Burrows successor as Commandant, Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Wharton, was charged by Congress with over-spending on the construction of Marine Barracks Philadelphia. He, in turn, accused the Commandant of the barracks, Anthony Gale, of building "extravagant" officers' quarters. Gale was ordered to stand before a Court of Inquiry, but was exonerated. It was shortly after this that Wharton was again called to account to Congress. This time he was accused of fleeing Washington rather than leading his Marines into the Battle of Bladensburg. When convened, his Court Martial consisted of three Navy Captains and one Captain of Marines, Captain Anthony Gale. The Court decided that Marines ashore were subject to Army, not Navy Courts under the Articles of War, and the charges were ultimately dropped. His duties on his Commandant's Court Martial complete, Gale was promoted to Major and transferred to command Marine Barracks New Orleans.

Soon afterwards a letter to the Secretary of the Navy reported that Naval officers had, "frequently seen Major Gale intoxicated at New Orleans and that his associates were of such a description and his habits of such a nature as to prevent the respectable officers of that station from having any social or friendly intercourse with him." Daniel T. Patterson, Commander of the New Orleans Naval Station, wrote to the Secretary, "It is reluctantly and with extreme regret that I have again to address you relative to the Marines of this station, but longer to remain silent would be to neglect my duty. The Non-Commissioned Officers and Privates are, without exception, the most depraved, abandoned, and drunken set of men ever collected together."

While Gale was preparing to go to Washington to answer the preceding charges, Commandant Wharton died. At his Court Martial, Gale was found not guilty and returned to duty. As he was the next senior officer in the Marine Corps, he was nominated to become Commandant. Despite the vigorous protests and political maneuvering of the Paymaster of the Marine Corps and Major Archibald Henderson (each of whom felt themselves better qualified for the position), on 5 March 1818 Gale was confirmed as the fourth Commandant of the Marine Corps. With it came promotion to Lieutenant Colonel.

His tenure was to be brief. Soon came troubles with Navy Secretary Thompson, who frequently countermanded LtCol Gale's orders in a humiliating manner. Finally, LtCol Gale courageously submitted a letter analyzing the proper division of function between himself and the Secretary, and respectfully pointed out the impossibility of his position. This official reaction to infringements of his authority, he paralleled by unofficial retreats to alcohol. On 18 September 1820 he was arrested and charged with offenses of alcoholic and related nature. The first charge was that he was publicly intoxicated in the city of Washington on six specified dates---during the month of August. There were also several specifications under the charge of "Conduct Unbecoming an Officer." First, that he had visited a house of prostitution near the barracks, "in an open and disgraceful manner" and second, that on 1 September he had, before witnesses, called the Paymaster of the Marine Corps, "a damned rascal, a liar, and a coward."

Other charges concerned his breaking house arrest and maintaining a Marine as a personal servant. Gale's unsuccessful defense was temporary insanity. He was cashiered from the Marine Corps on 18 October 1820, leaving 46 other officers on active duty in the Corps. Archibald Henderson succeeded him as Commandant. From Washington, Gale went first to Philadelphia where he spent several months in hospitals, then took up residence in Kentucky. Armed with proof that he had been under the strain of temporary mental derangement while Commandant, he spent 15 years attempting to have his court-martial decision reversed. Eventually, in 1835, the government partially cleared him and awarded him a stipend of $15 a month, which was later increased to $25, and continued until his death in 1843 in Stanford, Lincoln County, Kentucky. Today no trace of his grave exists and Anthony Wayne Gale is the only Commandant of whom the Marine Corps has no portrait.

Preceding account partially compiled from: The U.S. Marine Corps Story by J. Robert Muskin, and U.S. Marines: 1775-1975 by Brigadier General Edwin Simmons USMC (Retired)

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