Private Luke Quinn, USMC, Was He The First Casualty of The American Civil War?

When did the War begin and who was the first casualty?

The majority of historians will be able to answer these without hesitation, but, now I am going to throw, yet, another name into the mix!! Luke Quinn may be a name unfamiliar to many, but it deserves to be remembered along with the many other Irish that gave “the last full measure” between 1861-1865.

Luke Quinn was born in, Co. Meath Ireland in 1835 and immigrated to the United States at the age of 9. I have been unable to discover anything about his life, until November 23, 1855, when he enlisted in the Marine Corps, aged 20.

He was described as being 5feet 6 1/2 inches tall, fair complexion, dark hair, and hazel eyes with his profession being a “labourer”. Some interesting facts, I noted on his enlistment sheet was that he appeared to sign his name with an “X” and, also, the line “And further, that I am of the full age of twenty-one years” has the number “one” crossed out!

His career with the Marines began in Washington DC the next month, with a transfer to Gosport, Virginia in September 1856 where he was ordered to serve aboard the frigate, “St. Laurence” until 1858, when he was transferred to the brig “Perry” until his return to his previous vessel in March 1859. Again his transfer was short as Quinn was sent to Washington DC within 2 months.

In October 1859, the abolitionist John Brown and his followers seized the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry and Quinn was part of the military detachment sent there to retake the armoury. While storming the engine house, where Brown and his party had barricaded themselves, Private Quinn was the third Marine to enter the building but, unfortunately, he never had the chance to fire his weapon or use the bayonet as he was, immediately, wounded in the abdomen and fell to the ground.

Private Luke Quinn died later the same day, October 18, 1859, and was buried in the cemetery of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in a ceremony conducted by fellow immigrant, Fr M. Costello.

Private Quinn’s grave was, initially, unmarked and his father came to bring his body back to New York but was told that it was the intention of the Corps to place a monument to the
Irishman, Quinn’s body was allowed to remain in St Peter’s.

In the 1920s, a group of historians found his remains and placed a marker over the young Irishman. Private Quinn’s grave was, again, marked in 2011 with a large stone monument along with the flags of the United States and Marine Corps, over his final resting place.

While the Civil War began in April 1861, could we count Private Quinn’s death as part of the official figures and, therefore, may I ask:
Was Private Luke Quinn, the first of the 600,000?”
Private Luke Quinn, USMC
Born; 1835, Ireland
Died; October 18, 1859, Harpers Ferry, Virginia, USA

Views: 928

Comment by Michael H.J. Kane on November 23, 2020 at 6:12pm

There were many Irishmen in the U.S. Marines......remember the Marines were organized in a tavern in Philadelphia. In fact before Fort Sumpter the Marines sent a recruiting party across the Allegheny mountains to Pittsburgh where they picked up forty-three recruits who were used at first Bull Run.......

Founding Member
Comment by Nollaig 2016 on February 14, 2021 at 10:42pm


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