Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Gale

Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Gale, fourth Commandant of the Marine Corps and the only one ever fired, was born in Dublin, Ireland, on 17 September 1782. Fewer records survive concerning him than any other Commandant but it is known that he was commissioned a second lieutenant on 2 September 1798. Thereafter he fought, in fairly quick succession, the French, the Barbary pirates, the British, and one of his Navy mess-mates. The last encounter, involving an affront to the Corps, brought about the naval officer’s sudden demise and Commandant William Burrow’s approval for Gale’s defense of his Corps’ honor.

Unfortunately for him, increasing rank brought other difficulties not resolved so directly. In 1815, while commanding at Philadelphia, he fell out with Commandant Franklin Wharton over construction of barracks. A court of inquiry cleared him, but he was banished to a less desirable post, where he nursed a feeling of persecution and resumed duelling – this time with John Barleycorn.

As a consequence of these and other alleged shortcomings, Capt Gale, although next senior at the time of Wharton’s death, had to battle for the job. Capt Archibald Henderson, second in line, was characteristically blunt in assessing Capt Gale’s qualifications, or lack of them, to the Secretary of the Navy. After a court of inquiry, which exonerated him, Capt Gale, with 21 years of service, became Lieutenant Colonel Commandant 3 March 1819. By then, the Corps had been without a leader for six months.

Soon came troubles with Navy Secretary Smith 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. Three weeks later (18 September 1820) he was under arrest, charged with offenses of alcoholic and related nature. By 8 October 1820, the court had found him guilty, the President had approved, and LtCol Gale was removed from office and the Marine Corps.

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.

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