America’s noblest institutions often have the humblest origins, a reflection of a nation whose true power lies not in its most powerful, but in its ordinary people.
This is the Forgotten History of the Tavernkeeper’s Mission.
Robert Mullan was always a popular figure in Philadelphia. The owner of the Tun Tavern, he was as quick with a joke as he was a refill of ale. He could spin a yarn as well as anyone, and his bar was a welcome place for patriots and loyalists alike.
Robert, himself, though was a patriot through and through and even before the Boston Massacre knew that the colonies needed to be free. War, he knew, was inevitable, and independence was the only acceptable outcome.
In April, British regulars had marched on the small town of Lexington seeking to suppress the burgeoning rebellion but were met with resistance from Massachusetts minute men. War was no longer inevitable, it was here.
The shot heard round the world reached the Tun Tavern almost immediately, and Robert braced for the fight to come to him. Conversations in his bar turned from lighthearted stories to the serious business of independence, and members of the Continental Congress were frequent visitors.
Robert wanted to do something, anything to help them in the fight against the hated British, and he knew that in his role he could recruit fellow patriots to join the fight. Everyone who came in to the Tun Tavern heard tales of the bravery of the minute men and of the need for them to sacrifice their own safety for the cause of liberty.
Robert, who could spin a yarn like no other, was as effective a recruiter for the rebel cause as existed in all of the colonies. Every new customer came out of the Tun Tavern a patriot swept up in revolutionary fervor.
The Second Contintental Congress took notice. A committee met at Robert’s tavern in the fall to create a resolution calling for two battalions of soldiers who would fight both at sea and on land against the advancing British forces.
The resolution passed on November 10th, 1775, and Robert became this new fighting force’s captain and chief recruiter. Together with its commandant Samuel Nicholas, Robert led his men from his Tun Tavern, its unofficial headquarters. Robert recruited hundreds of men, who, under Nicholas’ command, became one of the colonies’ elite fighting forces who eventually helped win America’s independence.
That fighting force’s name? The United States Marine Corps.