About John Harris, MD, USMC
John Harris (May 20, 1793–May 12, 1864) was the sixth Commandant of the Marine Corps. He served in the Marine Corps for over 50 years, attaining the rank of colonel.
Harris was born in East Whiteland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, to an established local family that produced a number of military officers. His father, William Harris, was an officer in the American Revolutionary War. His older brother, Thomas, was a naval surgeon and became head of the navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. His youngest brother, Stephen, married a granddaughter of Persifor Frazer; Stephen's sons Stephen and Joseph both served in the Coast Survey before and during the American Civil War.
Harris' term as Commandant included a serious unfortunate incident shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War. At that time nearly half of his officers resigned to serve the Confederate States and he labored to reconstitute the weakened Corps. Also, during the early days of the Civil War, when contraband traffic began to flow from Maryland, Colonel Harris detailed an entire battalion of Marines to serve as United States Secret Service operators in the troubled area, with the result that the situation was well in hand within a brief period.
-------------------- John Harris entered the United States Marine Service during the war with Great Britain, his commission as lieutenant bearing date April 23, 1814. He served during the summer of that year in the force which opposed the British advance on Washington.
In May, 1815, he sailed under Commodore Decatur in the expedition which punished the Barbary piratical powers, and was present in the action which resulted in the captiire by the United States frigate Guerriere of the Algerine flagship Mashouda.
He was in active sea service for a large part of the next twenty years, visiting in that time most parts of the world in which the United States then maintained a fleet.
In 1836 he was engaged in the Creek war in Alabama, and in the Seminole war in Florida, and received a brevet as major "for gallantry and good conduct in that war, particularly in the affair of 'Hatchee Lustee.' "
In 1848 he was in command of a battalion of marines that was stationed at Alvarado, near Vera Cruz, Mexico, during the latter part of the Mexican war, and January 7, 1859, he was appointed colonel commandant of the United States Marine Corps, which position he held till his death.
He married at Erie, Pennsylvania, while stationed at that post, Mary Forster, daughter of Colonel Thomas Forster and Sarah Montgomery. She was,born August 16, 1795, and died September 22, 1820.
His second wife, Mary Gilliat Gray, was the daughter of William Gray, who, for many years, held the position of British consul at Norfolk, Virginia. She was born in 1811, and died February 16th, 1883.
John Harris had no children by either marriage.