A Brief Biography of

Sergeant John Henry Quick, Signalman

United States Marine Corps

Contributed by Robert Pendleton
The Grave of John Quick, 1st Marine Battalion, in Pennsylvania

The grave of John Henry Quick (courtesy of Connie Nisinger)

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Sergeant John Henry Quick was assigned as signalman to the First Marine Battalion (Reinforced), Company C, Captain George Frank Elliott, commanding, from Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Washington, District of Columbia, on April 19, 1898. He and Private John Fitzgerald, Signalman, Company C, were both awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor (in addition, Sergeant Quick also won the Navy Cross) for their actions, at what is today known as the Battle of Cuzco Well. The battle on the southeast coast of Cuba near Guantanamo Bay unfolded during the morning of Tuesday, June 14, 1898. Sergeant Quick was later promoted to 1st Sergeant, Company E, at Camp McCalla, Playa del Este, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on August 1, 1898. He was on duty with the battalion from April 19 through the morning of September 23, 1898 when the battalion was disbanded at the Marine Barracks, New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York.

The Biography:

John Henry Quick was born in Charlestown, West Virginia on June 20, 1870. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on August 10, 1892 and was assigned to the Marine Barracks, Philadelphia Navy Yard, League Island, Pennsylvania. From his first enlistment to his final retirement on September 15, 1920 he served continuously with Marine Corps' shipboard detachments and barracks ashore and overseas (through peace and war times).

Winning the Congressional Medal of Honor

The fight at the Battle of Cuzco Well began at 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, June 14, 1898, from the ridget of a high hill which was in the shape of a horseshoe. Two thirds of the ridge encircled Cuzco Valley and the well...a distance of about 800 yards...and half of the ridge came under the control of the Marines and Cuban rebels. It was on the crest of the hill where signalmen Sergeant Quick and Private Fitzgerald, both of Company C, performed actions for which each would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

In short, in midst of the battle, the force commander, Captain George F. Elliott called for a signalman (Private John Fitzgerald) to communicate with the U.S. Gunboat DOLPHIN in order to direct its fire on the enemy in position around a house, the well, and thicket at Cuzco Valley. Private Fitzgerald sent the required wig-wag signal while fully exposed to enemy rifle fire at the crest of the hill.

When an additional platoon of Company B, under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Lewis J. Magill, came up on the left flank the DOLPHIN was so far to the front, having mistaken the valley intended, that her fire was in Lieutenant Magill's direction, driving him to the reverse side of the ridge. Captain Elliott called again for a signalman and Sergeant Quick volunteered to signal the DOLPHIN to cease fire. Like Fitzgerald he was fully exposed to the Spanish fire on the ridge, but accomplished his task.

During the battle Sergeant Quick would perform his courageous signaling feats a total of three times and was never touched by Spanish bullets!

The battle drew to a close at 3:00 p.m. shortly after which Lieutenant Lewis Clarke Lucas of Company C along with forty Marines, left the crest of the hill and destroyed the well and burned the house.

Sergeant John Henry Quick was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor as well as the Navy Cross on the 13th of December 1898.

The Philippine Insurrection

First Sergeant John Henry Quick was once again assigned to the reconstituted First Marine Battalion under the command of Colonel Percival Clarence Pope. The battalion served in the Philippine Insurrection as part of the First Marine Regiment under Major Littleton W.T. Waller. Quick served in the Samoan campaign from October 26, 1901 to March 26, 1902.

In 1906 he served with the Marines in the Army of Cuban pacification. After serving in various enlisted grades, he was appointed to the rank of sergeant major on November 12, 1905, and continued in that rank throughout the remainder of his Marine Corps service.

During a period of quiet, Sergeant Major Quick served as First Sergeant at St. Julien’s Creek Annex, Norfolk Naval Shipyard; the Marine Barracks, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., and other stations in the United States. He was present at the battle of Vera Cruz, Mexico, in April 1914. The Secretary of the Navy commended Sergeant Major Quick for his gallantry during the occupation:

"He was continually exposed to fire during the first two days of the operation and showed coolness, bravery, and judgment in the prompt manner in which he performed his duties."
During the World War One or the Great War of 1914-1918, Sergeant-Major John Henry Quick of the Sixth Marine Regiment, Fourth Brigade, participated in every battle fought by the Marines in France until October 16, 1918. His gallantry in the Battle of Belleau Wood won him a second Navy Cross as well as the Distinguished Service Cross on June 6, 1918, when…“he volunteered and assisted in taking a truckload of ammunition and material into Bouresches, France, over a road swept by artillery and machine-gun fire, thereby relieving a critical situation.” In addition to the above citations, he was also awarded the Second Marine Division Citation and the French Forager ribbon in the colors of the Croix de Guerre.

After the Great War, he was placed on the retired list on November 20, 1918. After one year and eight months of retirement, he volunteered once more for active duty on July 26, 1920. He was assigned to the Marine Corps recruiting service at St. Louis, Missouri. Shortly thereafter, on September 15, 1920, he was again placed on the retired list due to ill health. His total service at that time was 26 years and two months.

Sergeant Major John Henry Quick expired at age 52 in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 9, 1922. He was interred at Memorial Park Cemetery, (Section 1, Grave 343) Jennings, St, Louis County, Missouri.

Sergeant Major Quick participated in all of the campaigns in which the Marine Corps took part during the entire period of his service. The campaigns were the West Indies Campaign, Spanish Campaign, Philippine Campaign, Cuban Campaign, Mexican Campaign, and then, he participated in every battle that was fought by the Marines in France during World War I. He was, indeed, a ‘war horse.’

Semper Fidelis
(Always Faithful)


1st MARINE BATTALION (Reinforced) ROSTER, Robert M. Pendleton, unpublished manuscript, 2006, Tampa, Florida. The roster’s transcription is based on the Muster Rolls of the Detachment of Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Corporals, Drummers, Trumpeters, and Privates of the United States Marine Corps unit records from April 1 through 31 August 1898.

The United States Marine Corps in the World War, Major Edwin N. McClellan, USMC. First printed 1920, facsimile printed 1968, Historical Branch, G-3 Division. Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C.

Wounds in the Rain; War Stories, Stephen Crane, New York: (original copyright, by S.S. McClure Company, 1899), Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York, 1900. Second Edition.

Diary of Private Wilfred Langley, of the 1st Marine Battalion (Reinforced) Company F (Artillery). His diary was transcribed by his granddaughter Mrs. Margaret Farrow Sacks. Private Langley wrote that the 1st Marine Battalion was disbanded at Marine Barracks, New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, on September 23, 1898 at 8:30 a.m. with all Marines present returning to their barracks and other posts of origin.  The 1st Marine Battalion would soon be reactivated for service in the Philippine insurrection under the command of Colonel Percival Clarence Pope.

Data concerning the exact location of Sergeant-Major John Henry Quick’s final resting place and digital photograph of his gravestone is provided courtesy of Mrs. Connie Nissinger.

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