Marine Corps Legends: Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Wharton
Carl | October 5, 2012
Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Wharton, third Commandant of the Marine Corps, was born into a prominent Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, family on 23 July 1767. He had forsaken a successful business career to enter the Marine Corps and was commissioned a captain in August 1798.
Captain Wharton’s first duties as a Marine officer were performed at the Marine Barracks, Philadelphia. Within a few weeks, however, he was assigned to the frigate United States, where he served as officer in charge of the vessel’s Marine Detachment until the close of the undeclared sea war with France in 1801.
At age 36 and a Marine officer for only five years, he became Lieutenant Colonel Commandant on 6 March 1804. He was the first Commandant to occupy the Commandant’s House, Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.
As Commandant, LtCol Wharton ordered a detachment of Marines to Georgia and Florida in 1811 to cooperate with U.S. Army troops in an attempt to subdue an Indian uprising.
Also under LtCol Wharton, Marines participated in many important engagements during the War of 1812. They saw action at Annapolis, Fort McHenry, Portsmouth, Chaney Island, Bladensburg and New Orleans, and fought under General Henry Dearborn on the northern frontier. At sea they participated in virtually every important naval battle, serving aboard warships and privateers on the Great Lakes, the Atlantic, and the Pacific.
Marines fought under Commodore Oliver Perry on Lake Erie and under Commodore Isaac Chauncey on Lake Ontario. Aboard the frigate Constitution Marines were important factors in its victorious battles against the Guerriere, Java, Levant, and Cyane. Those aboard the Wasp saw action in the vessel’s engagements with the Frolic, Reindeer, and the Avon. Marines serving aboard the frigate United States were commended for their efficiency in its fight with the Macedonian.
Lieutenant Colonel Commandant Wharton died in office on 1 September 1818 in New York City and was buried in New York’s Old Trinity Church Yard.
Reprinted with the authorization of the Marine Corps History Division
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