May 8, 1861
"From the Halls of Montezuma
To the Shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
of United States Marine."
Marine Corps Hymn
The Marine Corps Hymn was well known by the middle of the 19th Century, less than a decade after the Mexican War. The hymn's first line refers to that war, and the capture of Mexico City on September 13, 1847. The battle featured a North Yarmouth-born Marine Lieutenant, Jabez Rich, as a member of a quick strike force that charged up San Cosme causeway to the city.
During the battle for the city, 90 percent of the Marine officers and non-commissioned officers who fought were killed. After the Mexican War, commissioned and non-commissioned Marine officers added scarlet stripes to their blue dress trousers to commemorate the Marines’ blood shed at Chapultepec.
The heroics of that battle wound up incorporated into the hymn. And Rich, a Bowdoin College graduate of 1832, wound up committing the rest of his life to the military.
That career did not turn out the way he may have envisioned. Troubled by a strained marriage, Rich, then a captain, resigned from the United States Marines in May, 1861, and joined the Virginia Marine Corps at the same rank. In October of 1861, he was commissioned as a captain in the Confederate States Marine Corps.
Seven months later, upon learning that his mother was ailing, Rich left the Confederate Army without permission and returned to his parent's home in Gorham, only to learn that his mother had already died.
His presence in Maine discovered, Rich was arrested and confined to Fort Preble, in South Portland. Due to his unauthorized absence, he was dismissed from the Confederate Marines Corps.
Rich, his own health failing, was released from Fort Preble in 1864. He returned to Gorham, where he died in 1865 at the age of 52.
His first-born son, John, was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1862. Thomas, the younger son, enlisted in the 14th Maine Infantry Regiment in 1862 and served as an officer in the regular Army after the Civil War.