The Biography of

Capt. Charles Laurie McCawley

Battalion Quartermaster, U.S.M.C., First Marine Battalion

Contributed by Robert Pendleton

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Captain Charles Laurie McCawley, Assistant Quartermaster, U.S.M.C., was assigned to the Headquarters Staff, First Marine Battalion (Reinforced), as the battalion quartermaster on April 19, 1898.

The Biography:

Charles Laurie McCawley was born in Massachusetts on August 24,1865.  At Marine Corps Headquarters, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, District of Columbia he served as the civilian Chief Clerk in the Office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps from October 4, 1881 to July 22, 1897. On July 23, 1897, he accepted appointment as Assistant Quartermaster in the Marine Corps with the rank of Captain (to rank from June 27, 1897) and was assigned to duty at Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, Washington Navy Yard.

Captain McCawley was assigned as quartermaster of the newly forming First Marine Battalion on April 19, 1898 at New York Navy Yard, New York City, New York.  On that day, he reported to Lt. Colonel Robert W. Huntington, commander of the Marine Barracks and the First Marine Battalion.  The First Marine Battalion (Reinforced) was transferred to the North Atlantic Squadron on April 22, 1898 and during the afternoon boarded U.S.S. PANTHER for transport to Key West, Florida. As the battalion's quartermaster, he was on duty with the First Marine Battalion (Reinforced) from April 19, 1898 through September 23, 1898. During that time he participated in the combat engagements with Spanish infantry and Cuban irregulars on June 11, 12, and 13 at and near Camp McCalla, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He also participated with the First Marine Battalion, on board U.S.S. RESOLUTE, in the bombardment of Manzanillo, Cuba, on August 12, 1898 and what was anticipated to be an invasion of Manzanillo. The planned invasion did not occur as  expected on the morning of August 13 because the senior naval officer had received a dispatch stating that President McKinley had signed the protocol of peace and had proclaimed an armistice with Spain.

On  September 23, 1898, Captain McCawley, Assistant Quartermaster, was transferred to Marine Corps Headquarters, Navy Yard, Washington, District of Columbia. On March 3 of the following year, he was promoted to Major, Assistant Quartermaster. Shortly afterwards, on April 1, 1899, he was detached for duty in the Philippines arriving at Manila on  May 23, 1899. He was again detached this time from his duty in the Philippines on  and ordered to inspect the public buildings at Mare Island, California, and Puget Sound, Washington State on October 4, 1899. After completion of that duty he reported directly to the Commandant of the Corps on November 20, 1899. On March 18, 1900 McCawley was appointed Brevet Major for distinguished conduct and public services in the presence of the enemy at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on  June 11, 1898.

Again detached from Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps on July 1, 1900, he reported as ordered at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, League Island, Pennsylvania. On July 25, 1901 he was detached on temporary duty in the Office of the Quartermaster, Headquarters, Marine Corps, Washington Navy Yard a duty for which he was again detached on  December 31, 1901. On November 17, 1902 he was ordered to report to Colonel Theodore A. Bingham, United States Army, Office of Public Buildings and Grounds, Washington, D.C., for duty in connection with the functions of the winter season at the White House, in addition to other duties.

On  July 24, 1906, Major McCawley married Mrs. Sarah Helen Frelinghuysen Davis at Washington, D.C.

Major McCawley was appointed Assistant Quartermaster in the Marine Corps, on May 23, 1908, with the rank of lieutenant colonel (to rank from
May 13, 1908). On July 19, 1910 he assumed charge of the Quartermaster’s Department of the Marine Corps during the absence of Colonel F. L. Denny, Quartermaster, a position he held until Denny's return on April 17, 1913. On  June 24, 1913, Lieutenant Colonel McCawley was promoted to Quartermaster, with the rank of colonel (to rank from June  2,1913). On  September 8, 1916 he was appointed as The Quartermaster of the Marine Corps, with the rank of Brigadier General (to rank from August 29, 1916).

On September 27, 1918, McCawley accompanied Major General Commandant George Barnett (USNA Class of 1881) to France on a tour of inspection before resuming his duty on December 16, 1918 as The Quartermaster of the Marine Corps at Headquarters, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

On November 11, 1920, Brig. Gen McCawley was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal by the President for “Exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility in the organization and administration of the Quartermaster’s Department of the Marine Corps. Through his energy and efficient management this Department was able successfully to meet the various emergencies and difficulties connected with the transportation, subsistence, housing and clothing of personnel of the Marine Corps throughout the period of the war.”

On August 24, 1929, Brigadier General  McCawley, having attained the age of 64, retired from the Marine Corps. He died at age 69, on April 29, 1935 at his residence in Washington, D.C., and was interred on May 1, 1935 at Arlington National Cemetery (Section South, Site 3888). His wife, Sarah Helen Frelinghuysen (Davis) McCawley, rests beside her husand.


The First Marine Battalion (Reinforced) Muster Rolls of the Detachment of Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Corporals, Drummers, Trumpeters, and Privates of the United States Marine Corps from April 1 through 31 August 1898.

National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63132, March 9, 2006, provided the following records:

“Synopsis of Military History of Brigadier General Charles L. McCawley,   The Quartermaster, U.S. Marine Corps,” Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps  Washington, December 22, 1928.

“Military History of Brigadier General Charles L. McCawley, U.S.M.C.,  (For Navy Mutual Aid Association),” J.M. Arthur, Major, Asst. Adjutant  & Inspector, U.S. Marine Corps 30 April 1935.

“Records of McCawley, Charles Laurie, U.S. Marine Corps,” 5 sheets,   This particular document has no identification other than (Government  Printing Office, N.M.C. 545 ).   I presume the 5 sheets [pages] are official U.S.Marine Corps personnel  records in use prior to 1935,  R. Pendleton., contributor).

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